Who really owns YOUR computer documents?

The further along the road the MS-OOXML standardisation initiative goes the further into the badlands M$ is taking itself. As far as I can imagine, this whole process must be a complete PR nightmare for them. For a number of reasons (not all listed here):

  • The more rigorous technical inspections of their proposal have found it wanting in many, many areas (especially from the guys at the BSi),
  • the more committee baiting they do, just makes them look like some kind of gangland-mob whose power and control relies purely on brute-force,
  • the more weasel-words they use to try and convince us of their sincerity, the less people believe them,
  • and the more pompous and self-righteous answers to sensible questions they give, just makes them look plain stupid and naive.

I really, really hope that the ISO are actually following what is going here, and will act in a responsible manner when the time comes to make their decision on Ecma-376. It really is a sham and Microsoft should be disgraced with themselves.

PJ at Groklaw did an excellent summing up in this post:

Now, I don’t care how proprietary Microsoft wishes to be itself. It can DRM itself up to its eyeballs for all I care. I don’t use the stuff, so it doesn’t affect me. And when I read about their latest patent application, the one that proposes riffling through all our personal papers on all our computers so as to report to advertisers what we are interested in, I note it with alarm for my friends and loved ones who still use Microsoft software and make a mental note not to let a company that can come up with that idea anywhere near my computer, but other than that, I just laugh.

But when you proprietize standards, you touch me. And that is precisely what is happening with OOXML. Microsoft’s own expert at the Portugal meeting said so pointblank: Microsoft will add proprietary extensions, he said, to do things ODF can’t do. Now, as someone else on the committee pointed out, proprietary extensions are not the only choice. Microsoft could open up so we can all interoperate on a level playing field. I believe that is the EU Commission’s goal. Proprietary anything isn’t appropriate in a standard, because it forces those of us who are not interested in proprietary software to use it or deal with it anyway. It compels those of us who wish to avoid that vendor to have a relationship with it against our will. And it gives the vendor control and a head start in the market, which is exactly what standards are supposed to prevent. It’s Microsoft saying, “I’ve got mine. I can open my documents fine. Too bad about you. Your solution is to limp along in Linux or buy our products or pay for our patents. One way or another, you have to pay us.” That, to me, is a subversion of the standards process.

This gargantuan proposal, and their efforts to force it through, should be a clear enough warning to everyone. If you believe in the free market, fair competition and honesty in business please do not buy, nor indeed just use any more Microsoft products (even if they’re pirated1); switch to something else…

… anything else.

1” … about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
— Bill Gates, pusher, Money Magazine 1998

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