Microsoft’s “big” announcement: blah, blah, blah…

Everyone is simply buzzing with excitement – well O.K. maybe not.

Microsoft have today, made a “big” announcement on interoperability.

Here’s the press release.

Most commentators I have had chance to read so far on the ‘net, having re-read it a couple of times themselves are now getting the gist of it: ‘Nothing new here, nothing to see, just move along…’

The best remark for me so far is the highly damming comment from the EU commission as reported on the BBC’s website.

“The Commission would welcome any move towards genuine interoperability,” it said.

“Nonetheless, the Commission notes that today’s announcement follows at least four similar statements by Microsoft in the past on the importance of interoperability.”

Basically, all they have done today is to “announce” what the EU told them “do” to last September. Clearly the EU would like to see actions rather than words…

The timing of this announcement, so soon before the – oh-so-important – BRM in Geneva for their OOXML specification review is rather suspicious to say the least. Don’t let anyone have enough time to read it properly before meeting on Monday (25th Feb) but just in time so they get some nice PR to help them along.

Watch out everyone – this may well just be another part of their Jihad.

Should ISO throw out OOXML?

According to several reports this morning, the EU (god bless ‘em) are digging deeply into Microsoft’s attempts to steamroller OOXML through the ISO last September.

As part of its battle against proponents of ODF – which was approved as the ISO standard last year – Redmond swelled the ranks of standards bodies with Microsoft allies in the hope of ratifying its Office file format as the default standard for international use.

Microsoft had tried to fast-track OOXML via Ecma International, the group which originally rubber-stamped the format. However, a vote of the draft (DIS 29500) failed to gain sufficient approval last September.

According to the Wall Street Journal, EU officials are now considering if Microsoft’s actions – which came under fire from critics who accused the firm of underhand tactics and even vote-rigging – were illegal.

The timing of this release couldn’t really be better for the “no campaign“. Just a few weeks before the NBs (National Standards Bodies) meet to discuss the proposed resolutions to the 3522 comments raised against the specification, this can only help to fuel the concern of many that Microsoft are endeavouring to push through not just simply a flawed standard, but one whose sole intention is to prolong their lock-in of customers (and so maintain their Office cash cow) with proprietary and binary storage methods and Intellectual Monopoly.

Please let your national body know that the EU obviously has some serious concerns about Microsoft’s intentions with their OOXML proposition.

Personally, I think enough is enough. The ISO should drop this whole fiasco like a ton of bricks, throw out dis29500 and force Microsoft, and their puppet ECMA, to go through the normal processes and abide by the normal rules. Just like Adobe did with PDF

Thanks to Matt Assay’s blog where I first read about this.

[Update] Here’s something I found quite amusing whilst getting the urls for this item. If you search Google for “no ooxml” see what the ad is that crops up? I’m not going to spoil your fun, but please click on it! ;-)

A REALLY BIG day for OOXML [Updated (or is it deprecated?)]

Today the 14th January 2008 is actually quite a BIG day. Two things have happened that are not directly related but may well, ultimately, have a very positive cumulative effect for us all.

The first thing is ECMA must present, to the voting bodies (NBs) of ISO that will decide the fate of DIS29500, their deliberations and suggested alterations on the 3522 comments which were given during the fast track review period last year.

Update: It has come to my attention that ECMA has issued the dispositions for all 3522 comments. As they are password protected and not for public consumption I couldn’t possibly have seen them but from what I can gather, large parts of the OOXML specification have been moved into a deprecated annex. How long before Office 2007 supports what is effectively a new DIS29500 remains to be seen. If of course, Microshaft decide to bother that is.

That the proposed specification should never have been fast-tracked (it was not ready, full of errors and inconsistencies and worse), or that Microsoft tried to bribe and corrupt their way through the ISO processes to ensure that it passed (and it still failed because it was so bad), is now neither here nor there.

There is to be a meeting in Geneva next month called a BRM (Ballot Resolution Meeting) where members will participate in the review of ECMA’s suggestions for amendments and changes to DIS29500. After the meeting (which only lasts 5 days) the members will have 30 days to decide if they should change their September vote.

One can only begin to imagine what will be going on in the countries that have been Microsoft’s puppet before and those which have so far resisted the borg’s influence. There are already stories of high skulduggery appearing.

The blogosphere is already starting to hot up again for this topic. Here’s a few good links to get you in the mood for what is to come.

Rob Weir (An Antic Disposition),
No OOXML
Groklaw
Open Forum Europe

The second event to have occurred today which may well have a bearing is the EU’s decision to start two more investigations into Microsoft’s anti-competitive practises and more specifically:

The European Commission has decided to initiate two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft Corp concerning two separate categories of alleged infringements of EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant market position (Article 82). The first case where proceedings have been opened is in the field of interoperability in relation to a complaint by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS). The second area where proceedings have been opened is in the field of tying of separate software products following inter alia a complaint by Opera.

The Interoperability investigation is explained thus:

In the complaint by ECIS, Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework. The Commission’s examination will therefore focus on all these areas, including the question whether Microsoft’s new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors’ products.

So they want to find out if their new file format (OOXML) is actually implementable by anyone else or is just a smokescreen to make them appear to be playing ball. As usual Groklaw does some in-depth analysis of these issues (where you will always get a good read).

Oh Goody. This will keep us all busy for a while…

And who knows, the EU and the ISO might just both get it right :-)

Microsoft vs. EU all over again – but it gets better!

This is just great. It seems our friends in Brussels are at it again:

New antitrust investigation against Microsoft

The new case involves three main aspects. First, Microsoft allegedly barred providers of other text document formats access to information that would them allow to make their products fully compatible with computers running on Microsoft’s operating systems. “You may have experienced that sometimes open office documents can be received by Microsoft users, sometimes not.”

Second, for email and collaboration software Microsoft also may have privileged their own products like Outlook with regard to interfacing with Microsoft’s Exchange servers. The third, and according to Vinje, most relevant to the Internet and work done at the IGF, was the problem of growing .NET-dependency for web applications. .NET is Microsoft’s platform for web applications software development. “It is a sort of an effort to ‘proprietise’ the Internet,” said Vinje.

Finally someone is standing up to them. I guess this may well take some time to actually materialise as a case but something to watch for at least.

Ooooh, that makes me happy.

M$ vs. EU (Open Source): Samba Wins!

This story has been back and forth like a long stroke piston engine, but it now seems as though for a one-time payment of €10k, the Samba team get the necessary stuff they need without prejudice and ongoing royalty commitments.

Microsoft, which has decided not to appeal the Court of First Instance’s September 17 ruling in favor of the European Commission and its 2004 antitrust order against the company, has also agreed to bend its terms to the open source business model and slash the price of its server communication protocols – just like the Samba Project wanted.

I know it isn’t quite free – but come on, €10k, they have already had two “donations”. I should think Redhat and Ubuntu could find that between them in spare change…

Samba always said it could deal with a one-time payment. It just couldn’t abide a royalty stream or a patent agreement. Kroes went to bat for the project and got Microsoft to agree to either a one-time payment of EUR 10,000, roughly $14,300, or a royalty structure, including a worldwide patent license, of 0.4%, down from 5.95% – less than 7% of its original price, the EC preened.

I think this is good news, but as I said it has been back and forth so perhaps this may change again…

Kudos to Glyn Moody

Glyn Moody’s blog is a source – no a font – no a fountain – of information and commentary regarding all things Open (& Source).

In the last day or so he’s posted three articles (among several others) that have really grabbed my attention:

First this one: I would not have believed it had I not gone to Tesco’s web site and verified it myself.

Tesco may not be a name that means much outside the UK, but the fact that this huge retailer is selling GNU/Linux-based systems – some for as little as £140 (without a screen) – is pretty significant.

PRETTY SIGNIFICANT? It’s nothing short of amazing in my book. I can understand how Dell and Lenovo can do it. But Tesco? They must have a very strong conviction in Linux to sell it to what I imagine to be their “typical” customer. I notice they are supplying the LTS (Long Term Support) version of Ubuntu (6.06) so I wonder if they have a support arrangement directly with Canonical? Does anyone know anything more about this?

Then this on the EU vs. Microsoft case:

I worry that there’s some wiggle room here – just what exactly is “the open source business model”? – but given the soundness of its thrashing, maybe Microsoft really has given up fighting the EU. Let’s hope.

I love a damn good thrashing don’t you? (Bit of an English Public School joke in there somewhere). I tried to get the detail on this yesterday via Groklaw but PJ’s analysis seemed a little dour. But maybe that’s just because of the stupid IP/Patenting laws in the USA.

And then to cap it all this from Mozilla:

It’s also doing rather well on just about every other metric, as Mitchell’s post “Beyond Sustainability” explains. Recommended reading.

Which I hadn’t seen. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Mitchell’s post is indeed great reading. Mozilla is a true powerhouse in the Open Source ecosystem, and seems for the most part, to be successfully juggling the twin balls of making money and keeping a strong public community behind it. Some of the statistics are incredible… Go and have a read.

And stick Glyn’s blog on your RSS feed reader while you’re there.

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