Becta refers its interoperability complaint to the European Commission

Oh goody!

Becta are once again proving to be a particularly spiky thorn in the side of Microshaft.

You may recall that they reported the evil empire to our OFT (Office of Fair Trading) back in October last year. We’ll today they have announced the following further development:

Following discussions with the OFT, Becta has now referred its interoperability complaint and related evidence to the European Commission in support of the Commission’s wider investigation. At a recent meeting with the Commission Becta set out its key areas of concern and their impact on the UK education system.

Becta believes that impediments to interoperability limit choice. In the context of the education system this can result in higher prices and a range of other unsatisfactory effects which have a negative impact on wider policy initiatives, including improving educational outcomes, facilitating home school links and addressing the digital divide.

Commenting after the recent meeting with the Commission to discuss Becta’s detailed concerns, Dr Stephen Lucey, Becta’s Executive Director of Strategic Technologies, said:

“It is not just the interests of competitors and the wider marketplace that are damaged when barriers to effective interoperability are created. Such barriers can also damage the interests of education and training organisations, learners, teachers and parents.

I therefore very much welcome the decision by the Commission to conduct a wide ranging investigation.”

Basically they are helping the EU Commission in their investigations of anti-competitive practices and particularly their awful and proprietary OOXML file format. It is so good to hear a respected and influential publicly funded body actually articulating the real problems with proprietary software and especially when it is used to support and extend an existing monopoly position.

And in a rather nicely worded conclusion that would work really well in a thriller movie…

Dr Lucey confirmed that the other aspect of Becta’s complaint, which relates to Microsoft’s School Agreement licensing model, remains under active consideration by the OFT.

This is in relation to the terrible contract Microshaft have managed to tie our schools into where they will be purchasing subscription licenses for software that they could never use… Here’s the original piece.

At least there are some public organisations in the UK which seem to have understood the threat that M$ poses to all of us. Shame that the current Government and our Standards Institute haven’t.

Roll on the next election…

Petition for ODF at the National Archive

Thanks to Russell Ossendryver for pointing this out.

Recently it was announced that National Archives are converting their stock of electronic documents into Microsoft Open XML format. This format is not supported outside of Microsoft’s own products and ties the public to purchasing Microsoft Office should they wish to view the products, which is a cost of around £80-£120 depending on version. It also ties a user to purchasing Microsoft Windows which is a cost of roughly £150 for the Basic edition or purchasing a new PC with Windows which is a cost of at around £200 for a new machine. Instead Open Document Format which is an accepted ISO standard unlike Open XML should be used. Open Document Format is supported on many major platforms and is freely available at no charge. It includes all the necessary features for documents otherwise it would not be the ISO standard. There should not be a £250 charge to use Microsoft for accessing the National Archives electronically especially in light of the companies ongoing litigation with the EU regarding its anti-competitive actions.

Since the recent vote by the ISO, the bit about OOXML not being a standard is now obsolete unless there is a formal complaint made within 2 months. Also, M$ Office can cost a great deal more than £120 if you want any of the (more useful) enterprise features. Of course, Open Source offers them for free.

Nevertheless, although I doubt it will make much difference to the choice of document format used by the UK’s publicly owned National Archive, as it seems to have been infiltrated by Microsoft’s puppets at senior levels, it may well help to raise the profile of ODF and to the UK government.

And of course, it’s just fun to be able to make your point somewhere.

OOXML: Canada SAYS what everyone else thinks


Damming, direct and demeaning…

ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML Fast Track
Canadian Final Position Statement

Canada has carefully reviewed the results of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML Fast Track Ballot
Resolution Meeting and determined after detailed analysis that Canada will maintain its
Disapprove vote.

Canada notes that major enhancements had been made to ISO/IEC 29500 during the Ballot
Resolution Meeting, but the general quality of the standard was not yet what was expected of
an ISO/IEC Standard, and that there were still too many unknowns.

Canada states that the inappropriate use of the fast track process for this DIS has rendered it
impossible to ascertain whether in fact 29500 meets the standard of quality and correctness
required in an International Standard.

Canada further recommends that the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Fast Track procedures and processes be
reviewed and enhanced to ensure that this situation does not arise again in the future, and
bring disrepute to the whole ISO and IEC International Standards process.

Finally, Canada recommends that the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML Fast Track documents and
materials, plus the enhancements made at the Ballot Resolution Meeting be submitted to
ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 as a New Work Item for processing via the normal standards
development processes.

OOXML (DIS29500) Result: Approved

It’s been leaked…

Voting Status for DIS29500

ISO is furthermore an irrelevance in technology standardisation.

Here’s the full file with the votes for DIS29500

Update: Hello Slashdot, and thanks Bytemark for helping us cope with the traffic!

This isn’t an April fools,  there is a PGP signed confirmation here. If you are desperate to see an April Fools article we did one of them too.We just didn’t expect to follow it so quickly with the real thing.

OOXML Fails ISO Approval!

After several late nights in Geneva consuming too much melted cheese and garlic infused bread, the ISO have decided that their bank account balances are just not that important to risk their organisations’ total ruin.

Listening to the hails of protest from around the globe about the skulduggery and corruption that is Microsoft, they decided, after the barrel of grappa was finally emptied, that DIS29500 should be consigned to the cesspit of excrement that already contains Microsoft and their cronies.

Only kidding! April Fool

The Results of the Vote

After many allegations of corruption, vote rigging, ballot stuffing and rule changing the votes have been cast and all that remains is the counting. The official results are arriving in dribs and drabs, prompting more suspicions of irregularities. It seemed neck and neck at first, but then as more results are announced it seems that the the efforts of the community to preserve the last shreds of democratic process may not have been enough. The stakes are high and the world media is watching closely, or as closely as they can since they are barred from entry. Freedom is at stake here, and the future of an entity with $28 billion turnover.

Hang on, world media? But that can’t be OOXML? And why $28 billion? Wikipedia puts Microsoft’s turnover at $51.12 billion.

No, the $28 billion is the GDP of Zimbabwe, who, just for the record, abstained on the OOXML vote. I hope Microsoft are happy they seem to be doing even better than Mugabe. They seem likely to be the proud owners of the worst international standard money can buy. Not sure how Zimbabwe is going to turn out, but I suspect it won’t be peaceful.

When campaigning against a planning decision about a local supermarket people march about with hand painted banners. When campaigning against a new road people build tree houses and don’t wash. When campaigning against animal testing it is traditional to handcuff yourself to the laboratory gates and be dragged away screaming. When campaigning against a redundant and commercially motivated market distorting international standard we wrote words. We held a conference. We wore suits. We handed out information to people who asked for it. Some people waved a few flags. We got branded as disorganised and unprofessional.

I hope that Microsoft won’t lobby governments to use OOXML.

I hope Governments won’t send OOXML documents to their citizens, effectively mandating the purchase of Microsoft software.

I hope the OLPC XO laptop and other Linux based pervasive low cost, low footprint computing devices won’t find themselves locked out of markets where they just don’t have the computing muscle and storage to support OOXML.

I hope that Microsoft won’t exploit the fact that their software is a definitive implementation of the standard (not a reference implementation, because it is closed and you can’t refer to it).

I hope that the Open Source community won’t divert too much effort into supporting this standard.

I hope that Microsoft actually write ODF filters to allow their software to load and save ODF documents demonstrating their belief in “choice in standards”.

I hope the Fast Track process never happens again.

I hope ISO survives, the world needs good standards and an impartial curator of them.

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