Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft DRM Lock-in and OOXML Lock-in in Britain

At risk of touching an off-topic story, we will briefly mention another form of Microsoft lock-in that requires industry deals and partnerships. This post focuses on the United Kingdom.

As you may or may not know, National Archives, the British Library, and the BBC are all victims (if not promoters) of OOXML and the nasty stack of so-called 'standards' which accompany OOXML (the XML du jour). Each of these standards has patents as an umbilical cord, which is enough to guarantee and secure cashflow, even from rivals.

Silverlight (.NET) on the BBC Web site is something which is being considered at the moment. It is a case of taxpayers paying the BBC, which then hands over that money for Microsoft to establish more lock-in with and discriminate against rival software (Web browsers, platforms, Web services, and beyond). Needless to say, this is unacceptable. The UK seems to have become a fertile ground for lock-in and it is truly worrisome. Gordon Brown, much like Ashley Highfield, truly seem to be deep in Microsoft's pocket (or simply careless and ignorant).

A couple of days ago, the MSBBC's iPlayer was released to the public. The initial reviews were very negative. Even those who were actually able to review the player said that much was left to be desired. The quality of the software aside, it is restricted to work only if you have Windows XP SP2 and Internet Explorer with the latest Media Player from Microsoft. So much choice, eh? This piece of shitoftware has been in the works for a long, long time, but given Microsoft's history of delivering very little, very slowly, and at well above budget (think about Windows Vista), this is hardly surprising.

The iPlayer is controversial for two main reasons. In our actions against the BBC, ORG are focusing on the DRM aspects. The Open Source Consortium is focusing on cross-platform and anti-trust aspects.

The FSF are going to join these actions as well. This will happen fairly soon. Peter Brown is coming to the UK from the 7th to the 15th of August and bringing the 'Defective by design' campaign with him. A protest will be organised (probably 14th or 15th) at the BBC Television Center. When this goes public, we should do our very best to give it wide visibility, and to get as many people to come along as possible.

Now that the iPlayer concern has been set aside (and I duly apologise if it was off topic), here is where Novell's involvement becomes more pronounced. Novell has been behind the key push whereby Microsoft strives to achieve stronger vendor lock-in. It does this in order to save its franchise. With Silverlight and OOXML, for instance, the two companies -- now assisted by Xandros, Turbolinux and Linspire as well -- help Microsoft dominate the Web and the office. Based on what is happening in Britain, one could argue that another story of political manipulation has already emerged. Have a look:

By trying to slam through a 6000-page specification on a "fast track" measured in weeks, that opponent appears to seek to turn a technical debate to a political one.


Watch the PDF cited in this short post from Lars. It won't be long before we hear stories about manipulation (maybe even corporate bullying) in Britain. Stories from Australia will probably precede these.

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