Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Uses Position of Power to Impose OOXML on National Assets

It is truly astonishing to find that many government bodies actually have their key positions occupied by Microsoft employees. I am intimately familiar with quite a few examples and I will name only two.

The first one is very recent. It comes from New York where Microsoft muscled the legislature and lobbied to pass a so-called 'Microsoft amendment' that is discriminative towards Open Source.

Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless - and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.


An older example involved changing of an important report by a Microsoft employee.

That agreement was nearly imperiled last weekend, though. Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft's Worldwide Public Sector division, sent an e-mail message to fellow commissioners Friday evening saying that she "vigorously" objected to a paragraph in which the panel embraced and encouraged the development of open source software and open content projects in higher education.


So much for independent assessment for the benefit of the citizens, eh? Welfare and greed are mutually exclusive and even contradictory.

Here comes the latest finding, which is concerned with Microsoft's OOXML -- the very effective venom that Linux 'partners' are forced to digest. Another discussion with Mark Kent led to another example where public money is being used to promote Microsoft's agenda by locking vital data to this monopoly. The BBC is not the only Linux-hostile establishment over here.

Watch this discussion in an article about archiving data using suitable formats

Open-source advocates claim that the Microsoft-championed format is not as open as it should be and doesn't compare well to rival formats such as the community-developed OpenDocument Format (ODF).

"If it were, Microsoft wouldn't need to make Novell and Xandros and Linspire sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) and then write translators for them," Pamela Jones, an open-source expert and editor of the Groklaw blog, wrote recently.

But the National Archives said that it is not wedded to any particular data format and that all technology options are being considered at this time.


Mark did a little legwork and found out a little bit more about National Archives, which seemingly chose to sidle with Microsoft and even gleefully talked about OOXML in a recent BBC article.

Mark wrote:

Look at this, from the *joint* National Archives and /Microsoft/ press release:

Adam Farquhar, Head of eArchitecture at the British Library and co-chair of the Office OpenXML standards committee said: ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ | | So this guy, paid for by *our* taxes, is working for Microsoft to promote their proprietary formats. Now look at this:

"Microsoft has shown considerable initiative working with The National Archives, The British Library and others to increase our ability to ensure access to today's digital information tomorrow. This announcement represents an important step and shows the sort of value that effective collaboration between public and private organisations can bring to the challenge of preserving our nation's heritage."
Which you can sum up as:
"we're putting national heritage, at tax-payer's expense, into the hands of the world's greatest monopolist, to ensure access to data in the future".
So we, the taxpayer, have to *pay* to have *our* data locked into a proprietary format which will never be readable on standard platforms, supplied by a company which cannot even manage to add a proper ODF format to its office suite, and pushed by a guy, Adam Farquhar, who *we* pay for, who chairs an OOXML "standards" committee.

This is just beyond anything you could imagine. Can we get this guy moved to a more suitable job - in Microsoft, say?


So there you go. Apparently, lock-in is about 'politics', not rational choices. Microsoft has always loved escaping discussions about technical merits and turning them into a political debate. It is easier. It's diversion.

We could probably just learn from continental Europe. It understands better than most that open standards are essential. OOXML is not open, even though the acronym contains the word "open" within it. OOXML goes against the existing unified standard. On the other hand:

EU backs standard for mobile TV

[...]

David McQueen, principle analyst with research firm Informa, is not surprised that the EU has come down in favour of DVB-H.

"It is the most open standard and there are more players in the market. Finland has networks already and in France there is a satellite hybrid solution," he said.

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