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Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 05:28 AM EDT

Microsoft is not happy about Massachusetts' decision to choose OpenDocument Format over its own MS XML, and it contacted ZDNET's David Berlind, asking to tell him their side of the story, a tale of conspiracies. In a not-to-be-missed article, Berlind carefully sets forth all their arguments:
"We were railroaded."

Those were not Microsoft's exact words, but if you were a fly on the wall during my recent series of correspondences with Microsoft's Alan Yates regarding how Microsoft's XML-based Office file formats ended up off of Massachusetts' list of approved file formats (essentially pulling the state's plug on future usage of Microsoft Office), it would be difficult to summarize his opinion in any other way. . . .

On the heels of such a stunning blow and with so much at stake, Microsoft is still looking to shape public opinion in hopes of containing and perhaps even reversing the damage. Since I've devoted a fair amount of coverage to the MA ETRM deliberations (What ever happened to 'The customer is always right?' and Did MS send the wrong guy to Mass' ODF hearing?), Yates asked if I'd be open to hearing Microsoft's side of the story.

But just as Microsoft failed to persuade Massachusetts, it also fails to persuade Berlind in the end. Despite the strong spin from a wounded Microsoft -- they allege a lack of due process, that they were allegedly "surprised" by the decision, not given equal opportunity to qualify, blah blah -- Berlind understands perfectly that Microsoft exiled itself by refusing to support OpenDocument Format, despite being told how to qualify for inclusion by simply deciding to meet Massachusetts' requirements.

This article on Massachusetts and the ETRM explains the Massachusetts definition of open format:

As presented in the ETRM Version 3.5 Introduction and Information Domain final documents of September 21, 2005, the Commonwealth defines open formats as "specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, affirmed and maintained by a standards body and are fully documented and publicly available. It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that all official records of the Commonwealth be created and saved in an acceptable format."

There you go, Microsoft. That is all you need to do.

What I find absolutely fascinating in Berlind's article is the back and forth between Microsoft and attorney Larry Rosen about the right to sub-license, something Microsoft's license does not allow. Microsoft tries again, just as it did in the Sendmail controversy, to say that even if their license isn't compatible with the GPL, it doesn't matter because it is compatible with other Open Source licenses. Rosen rebuts by providing a list of licenses that require sub-licensing rights, and says, "Open source depends on the right to sub-license."

You will also enjoy Adobe's statement, explaining its position on openness, and you can see clearly why it was included and Microsoft was not.

Contrast Microsoft's intransigence with the Sun Patent Non-Assertion Covenant for OpenDocument Offers Model for Open Standards. I wish everyone would use this covenant, actually. As the article says, "This irrevocable, blanket non-assertion covenant is being praised as a creative mechanism for patent management. It offers protection to Sun and the OpenDocument developer community, using a model that has no required patent disclosures and carries zero bureaucratic overhead."

Berlind responds to Microsoft's allegations of being shut out by pointing out that he heard with his own ears that Microsoft was told what to do to be included in Dan Bricklin's audio of the public meeting:

When Massachusetts put the ball in Microsoft's court so openly and publicly by giving it multiple ways to address the states' needs and continuing to leave those doors open, any and all claims of impropriety became non-issues. In addition to exposing the true colors of all parties involved, the audio from the Sept.16 makes it clear that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is clearly at the forefront of the open world.

Not only has Massachusetts developed a modern and virtually unassailable test (particularly for its requirements since virtually every part of the test can be connected to the state's need for sovereignty), it has fully leveraged the democratizing forces of government and technology to arrive at an informed decision that serves the best interests of its public.

Given the way this decision will be repeated in other halls of government, I think it can be said that Massachusetts has once again delivered a shot heard round the world. That Microsoft's biggest competitors were standing by the Commonwealth's side to help it pull the trigger is evidence of why Massachusetts ETRM 3.5 truly was ground zero in one of this industry's biggest and most important battles.

That public meeting audio is now available in Ogg format, as promised.


Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument | 289 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corektions go hear.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 05:32 AM EDT
if needed ...

the smelling pistakes are all mine!

[ Reply to This | # ]

One battle does not win the war ..
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 05:37 AM EDT
OK, so one US state decided to use an open format ... but I see no real sign of
a massive wave of public opinion forcing the hand of other agencies to follow a
similar tack ... the MA requirements is an excellent and concise test that
could be championed and pushed forward to become a world standard for all
governments and similar agencies to follow in the future .. but that will need a
popular groundswell of pressure, otherwise, as usual, nothing will happen.

When all is said and done, a lot more is said, than done.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic here
Authored by: irtza on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 05:46 AM EDT
off topic here

off topic here

on topic there.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Defensive patents
Authored by: irtza on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 06:07 AM EDT
Sun Patent Non-Assertion Covenant for OpenDocument sounds a lot like the apache
foundations patent rules. It seems that this is becoming a standard way of
letting people know you are operating with defensive patents and protecting
yourself against the patent mess. Personally, i think corps operating like this
would be better off making a public push for patent reforms.

This entire patent problem with software makes me want to file 20 seperate
patents under 20 different companies, get some investors and lawyers and have
each one of these companies pull a sco against corporations with powerful
lobbists (sp). Somehow I think that would be the only way to get any kind of
reform. Only problem is that I don't think I could get myself to stoop low
enough to actually do it

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 07:01 AM EDT
Isn't it odd that when MS gets a dose of its own medicine it starts whining like
a spoilt brat ;)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: jplatt39 on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 07:12 AM EDT
A non-anonymous thread.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 07:34 AM EDT
While it is desirable, i don't see why other US or European states would follow
Most politicians are corrupt enough to follow the money.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Independence day
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 09:25 AM EDT
Microsoft ran into something it doesn't very often - The courage to stand by
principles of fairness, evenhandedness, openness, honesty, and integrity. and a
will to deliver free access to information to taxpayers, and the freedom from a
state imposed monopoly tax on it's citizens.

It is interesting that one of the things that first precipitated US rebellion
was a tax on paper imposed by the then colonial government a little over 200
years ago. It seems history is repeating itself with the "colonists"
throwing out the 21st century equivalent - office file formats with a hefty
Microsoft monopoly tax levy imposed (by virtue of legal exclution of free
alternatives) simply in order to access government information which should be
freely available.

The next step was a rebellion against the tea monopoly of the East India
Company - The Microsoft monopoly of it's day. Are we going to see a repeat of
the Boston Tea Party next? Citizens dumping boxes of MS Windows and MS Office
CDs into Boston harbour as a protest against a Microsoft monopoly tax imposed
on them by the inaction of the DOJ?.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft was not really railroaded ... (form vs substance)
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 09:43 AM EDT
Once they thought the train was on the right
tracks, they fell asleep.

Microsoft has a long history of doing
the minimum of what is needed to maintain
their monopoly.

They pay a lot more attention to form rather
than substance. Thats why they thought that
having the right form (an XML wrapper) would
be enough rather than the substance (actually
having unfettered access to your doc info).

This also applies to the form of saying you
listen to your customers versus the actual
substance of joint stewardship. The form
of saying your customers using your product
is peer review versus the substance of
developers having access to an actual detailed
specification. The form of having a perpetual
and royalty-free license being adequate, as
opposed to the substance of also having free
sublicensing and ability to transfer rights.
The form of end-users having the ability to
only read in order to not violate a license
versus the substance of having users be able
to both read and write and whatever else without
any issues. The form of buying or appropriating
or misappropriating innovations from other
sources, versus the substance of actually having
your own innovations. There are many more
examples of this tendency on Microsofts part.

Yes, Microsoft has a long history of caring
more about form than substance. This is why
their offerings will never be adequate for
those who care more about substance than form.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Authored by: blacklight on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 09:45 AM EDT
As a good government liberal, I say that the MA decision is a "good government" decision. The phrase "government by the people, of the people and by the people" cannot have content if government's documents are not preserved in a format that all can access using whatever method without restriction or encumbrances of any kind from anyone. MA's decision is simple, straightforward and clearly explained. In addition, MA took every step to make sure that its process of arriving at its decision was thoroughly transparent.

If the monopolist Microsoft does not understand MA's decision, it is because the monopolist Microsoft does not want to understand it. If the monopolist Microsoft does not agree with MA's decision, it is because the monopolist Microsoft has no regard for the priorities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If the monopolist Microsoft takes issue with the decision process of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is because it has no respect for this process and cares about the process only to the extent that it can participate in it with the intention of highjacking it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 10:43 AM EDT
I cannot imagine any other industry where something this would happen.

If I want X, I find a supplier who will give me X. If a supplier is intent to
sell me Y, I find a different supplier.

Microsoft seems to think that it is the customer's job to accept what the
supplier has to offer, rather than the supplier to offer what the customer

Boo-hoo, microsoft. Boo-frickin'-hoo.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does Microsoft Need "Real" Lawyers?
Authored by: sk43 on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 11:54 AM EDT
In a comment following this article, AllParadox, in describing IBM as having "real" lawyers, states:
There are times when the lawyer must take control, evaluate the situation, and do things that are simply outside the game plan, outside the expected. It is what distinguishes the outstanding lawyer from the merely "adequate" representation.
IBM did this when they gave SCO its own copy of the CMVC source code repository. IBM did this when they dropped their patent claims. Sun did this when they came up with their Patent Non-Assertion Covenant.

Microsoft ???

[ Reply to This | # ]

Office Revenue
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 11:56 AM EDT
I can't recall where I read it but wasn't it once stated that Office has a hefty
return on investment unseen by other products and services in business?

If that is the case then I can understand why Micro$oft is whining but they
would rather shoot themselves in the foot than adapt.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why MS is crying foul.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 12:53 PM EDT
It is all about the money.
MS has not just lost the state of MA software business they have lost a link in
a chain of mandatory standards and now MA will save a lot of money and others
states will notice that. IF other states don't notice it I'm sure that thier
citizens will point it out to them.

But here is what make MS' blood run cold. Every vendor to the state of MA will
now be required to conduct all business in an open standard file format. Ooops
.. MS does not produce a single product that supports that. Thus these
businesses will have to have at least one suite of open standards software just
to sell thier products or serivces to MA. These people will start to save a lot
of money as well and in business that is called competitive advantage. It will

MS are no fools they know this could get out of hand - as it is the inverse of
the game they have played so well for so long. No doubt thier best minds are
trying to come up with a way to flip this to thier advantage.

If they can't whine thier way out of it and they can't trick thier way out of it
, look for a restraining order to soon follow. They won't fear making MA mad
because they know they will lose that business anyway. But they can use the FUD
generated by a long expensive lawsuit to delay uptake of the same open standards
by other states. Thus giving them time to find a way to flip this to their
advantage. Sound outlandish? just consider who we are talking about here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

'Shaping public opinion'
Authored by: DWitt_nyc on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 01:41 PM EDT
Microsoft is still looking to shape public opinion in hopes of containing and perhaps even reversing the damage.

This sort of thing sets my teeth on edge--I'm fed up with big corporations and government officials who operate on the principle that public opinion can be 'shaped' by some smooth PR to bend to their wishes.

This is the sort of overweening arrogance that permeates much of the corporate culture, and the media, and it seeps through in their dealings with the public, viz Microsoft's reaction to the Mass decision, and Dan Lyon's corporate-approved viewpoint.

It's funny how they try to make Groklaw appear to be the biased and uncredible, that it's just the flip side of the coin from their spinmeisters, as if PJ were some Senior VP of Public Relations.

As we all know, however, the truth is that this is a community of individual voices, and opinions are shaped collectively--sure it can get messy, and is no doubt 'biased,' much like a democracy (or even better, meritocracy) in action. This is a foreign concept to corporate honchos, who like a military-style organization of commands and a single 'sanctioned' opinion, which is necessary, in their opinion, to most effectively 'shape' our opinions for us.

Well, the worm is turning--Microsoft has been living on hype and empty performance for many years. There are limits to PR and spin, and MS is approaching that limit--like justice, the wheels of truth spin slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.

Microsoft--blindsided by the truth.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why Whine?
Authored by: Sunny Penguin on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 02:43 PM EDT
Microsoft just needs to add support for the open document format to word and or
office; but then there is no "lock-in".
Microsoft will just have to suck it up and develop a product that stands on it's
own merits, not just needed so everyone can read the propriatary format.

"Numerical superiority is of no consequence. In battle, victory will go to the
best tactician."
~ George Custer (1839-1876)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Simple question for MS
Authored by: overshoot on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 03:25 PM EDT
Assume that Arizona decides that they want to use the MSXML format for all of their internal documents -- basically the ETRM with MSXML instead of ODF.

Sounds like what MS is asking for, no?

OK, here's the question: how does the State of Arizona word the system requirement in such a way that it won't be shot down immediately when IBM, Sun, Corel, or the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest challenges it as violating statutory requirements for competitive bidding on State purchases?

The fundamental problem is this: governments are waking up to the fact that (to paraphrase) "It's about the data, Stupid!" and that they need to actually specify data formats in their IT planning and purchasing. However, once they do that open-bidding laws kick in.

Microsoft's best hope in the government sector, it seems to me, is to hope that government IT directors continue to totally ignore the entire question of data formats.

IMHO, no matter how things work out in Massachusetts, that genie is out of the bottle.

[ Reply to This | # ]

link for MDAA statement?
Authored by: Matt C on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 04:17 PM EDT
I'm positively intrigued by the section toward the end of the audio where they
refer to the MDAA's statement of opposition to the new recommendation. This
statement was also used in the Pendergrast excuse-for-an-article and I can't
find the full text online anywhere?

Help a guy out?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thank you Massachusetts
Authored by: Nick Bridge on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 04:38 PM EDT
I would like to stand up and thank Massachusetts, and everyone involved in the
final decision for putting the needs of the public first.

I am so used to seeing large organizations pushing the government around
(lobbying, copyright extensions, etc.) that this actually comes as a big
surprise. Huge.

So thankyou Massachusetts, and thankyou everyone who made it possible.

Oh - and quit whining Microsoft - you brought it on yourself.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Public Information - Public Format !
Authored by: CypherOz on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 07:08 PM EDT
Public information should not be locked into proprietory formats.

BC (before computers) public information was written down and anyone could read
that information (or if blind have a any sighted person have it read to them).

Now, if all other Government on the planet get the idea we could have a big step
forward for genuine freedom of information (and access to that information).

The GPL is enduring, not viral

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Correct! nt - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:24 AM EDT
Microsoft Doesn't have any good options
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 10:12 PM EDT
They have to do what is good for their stock price. Being a monopoly is very
lucrative. Supporting open document, or opening their format opens them up to
competition. Not doing anything will send people to their competition. Whining
was their only shot, only it doesn't seem to be working.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Railroading MS
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, October 15 2005 @ 11:52 PM EDT

I'm still reading the article but have just had a curious thought. I wonder if MS railroaded itself. Consider:

  1. MS sends Peons (effectively) to the meetings for discussion.
  2. Along with the orders to attend the meetings, the Peons have to avoid informing the actual decision makers (whether through middle-management, whatever)
  3. MS decision makers then claim later that the process happened so "fast" they were caught off-guard and improperly informed.
Things that make you go hmmmm....


[ Reply to This | # ]

Who cares if BetaMax was a better format than VHS?
Authored by: crythias on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 05:28 AM EDT
Some perspective, people. Get critical mass. Stop being critical masses.

Force the issue by providing the content. And the viewer. Make it easy AND OBVIOUS how to get both. Don't bore the populace about patents and posterity. Make OpenDocument intuitive and painless, relevant and real time accessible.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Technical Comparison?
Authored by: Observer on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 06:59 PM EDT
I'm no expert in word processor file formats, but has anyone actually done a side by side comparison of the Open Document format and Microsoft's XML schema? Let's suppose that, in some strange alternate universe, MS suddenly Saw The Light, and decided to do all the things that MA is asking. Suppose they did open up their specification (including patent and licensing restrictions, and community review). Would one of the formats really be stronger than the other?

What I have heard (and can't confirm) is that the MS XML format, though backed by a huge development effort, isn't even finished yet. So, OD has the advantage of a significant head start.

What I suspect is that the MS format is more tightly coupled with their other software offerings, so there would probably be many architectural decisions made that would lend a better fit to their own vision of how documents might be used in a Microsoft world.

Of course, Microsoft says that their format is technically superior and more extensible, but has any independent group actually sat down and done a technical comparison of the two?

The Observer

[ Reply to This | # ]

Through the looking glass
Authored by: Chaosd on Monday, October 17 2005 @ 06:57 AM EDT

I read the ZDNet piece through, seemed very well balanced. What was more interesting, though, were the comments of one Anton Philidor, and responses.

Sorry if this masterclass in spin has received attention already, but it is worth reading. Anton takes a very balanced article, and makes it look like a hatchet job that backfired.

I have to admire his dogged persistance, even though he didn't get flamed. Indeed, you can almost hear him crying out for a decent flame response with the ever popular

Receiving payment is a normal expectation in business, so an argument that MA should set standards which do not allow for payment is more open source dogma than practicality.

You have to admire the brilliance of a statement like that. It states exactly what a CIO/CEO is expecting to hear (no free lunch) while pre-positioning any responder as a dogmatic zealot.

However, my favorite has to be

We've tacitly agreed that the MA officials must have made a decision based on philosophy rather than legal mandate.

'Tacitly agreed' - amazing. Mr Philidor takes a complete lack of discussion on a subject, and claims victory for his position.

No question is stupid || All questions are stupid

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 17 2005 @ 08:34 AM EDT
" we think the world owes them a big debt in terms of what they've done in
terms of innovation"

now we don't - the world owes nothing to microsoft. the real innovation going
on is with open source.

microsoft's only defense is with patents against open source and they will use
them whenever possible. they know migrations to linux are coming and they are
getting their patent arsenal together for that day.

look at the fat patent - they supposedly invented something in 1976 and didn't
patent it till now - just because of open source.

the world does not need microsoft - businesses think they need microsoft because
ballmer and gates have sold them that line. microsoft needs the world more
than we need them. innovation would be rejunivated without microsoft. they
started all the IP crap and patent crap because they have no other fight against
open source.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Whines About MA's Decision to Support OpenDocument
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 17 2005 @ 05:07 PM EDT
You know it is a funny thing. Used to be that when you developed software you
met with the customer to find out what the customer wanted. The customer said I
want thus and such, that complies with this set of standards. At that point you
had a choice. You could say that complying with that particular standard will
take x amount of effort. In order to make a profit, I wlll need to charge x
plus y. However if you will take our product that does almost the same thing,
but is better, but doesn't comply with your requested standard, then we can give
it to you for w. If the customer said, no, we require this standard, then you
had to make a business decision of either complying with the standard, or
declining the business. It used to be the customer who was the nine hundred
pound gorilla who decided what standard was to be followed. Ask Ford, Chrysler
or General Motors which EDI standard they use. If you want to do business with
them, then you use the standard they specify! Why should it be any different
for MA?

[ Reply to This | # ]

It might be time to send Steve Ballmer packing ...
Authored by: clark_kent on Wednesday, October 19 2005 @ 01:17 PM EDT
Looks like Steve Ballmer can't sell his snake oil anymore. Profits are going to
drop. Promises are going to be broken, and not kept. Microsoft will have to cook
their books. And Steve will be out of a job (or he will take Microsoft down with

[ Reply to This | # ]

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