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A Report from LinuxForum 2006 - Updated 2Xs
Friday, March 03 2006 @ 11:05 PM EST

LinuxForum began today in Copenhagen at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, and Groklaw's elhaard was there to be our eyes and ears. He took photographs for us, too.

The day included a panel, vs. Microsoft - the battle for document standards of the future. Who will control the choice of office software in the future - Microsoft or a common open document standard?

The panel consisted of the following:

* Simon Phipps, Chief Open Source Officer, Sun Microsystems
* Louis Suarez-Potts, Project Manager,
* Anders Nørskov, Director of politics and strategy, Microsoft Denmark
* Anne Grete Holmsgaard, Member of The Danish Parliament
* Søren Thing Pedersen, Project Manager, Denmark

The panel discussion was moderated by Rolf Ask Clausen, editor-in-chief of the Danish weekly paper, Ingeniøren. More details here. There was an audio tape made, but I need to seek permission first to share it with you. Check back here tomorrow. I will if I can. Meanwhile, I did listen to it.

UPDATE: Here you go. Enjoy!

Elhaard remarks that the representative from Microsoft was outdebated, and he feels that perhaps Microsoft sent the wrong person, just like in Massachusetts. I disagree. The man did very well with what he had to work with. The problem isn't that Microsoft keeps sending the wrong guy. The problem is they are in an untenable position. They are refusing to support the only standard currently, ODF, and he had the unhappy task of telling the crowd that competing standards are a good thing. That isn't the case, as you know perfectly well if you've ever tried to bring an electric appliance to Europe from the US or vice versa.

The whole point of having a standard is so that everyone can use it. The goal is interoperability. That's what the world would like. It isn't Microsoft's goal, however, judging from its pig-headed determination not to join the rest of the world in supporting ODF. Microsoft seems always to be trying to beat the competition down, and by insisting on their own extendable standard, if it ever gets to be one, we see them still in the compete-on-standards road, and that is mighty hard to make sound quite right at a conference.

2d UPDATE: Video can now be found here or here.


A Report from LinuxForum 2006
~by elhaard

Today was the first day of LinuxForum 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark. LinuxForum is far from the biggest Linux venue in the world, but they do attract some very interesting speakers. Of special interest to me this year is Simon Phipps from Sun, Wietse Venema (author of the Postfix mail server and many security-related tools) and Alan Cox, one of the most famous Linux kernel maintainers besides Linus. Of special interest to you, today's program also featured a discussion session about office document format standards -- with participants from both Sun, and Microsoft.

LinuxForum runs over two days: Friday (today) is more business-minded and Saturday is for the geeks... er... I mean... the more technically minded. Thus, today's program was definitely of more interest to the wider Groklaw audience. Tomorrow will be exciting too, but only for some Groklawians. Also, it will be harder to report, so you will have to make do with my report from today.

Louis Suarez-Potts,, on Migration to OO.o --

Today began beautifully with a nice, snowy weather outside, and Louis Suarez-Potts (Community Manager for speaking on "Migration to" on the inside. His presentation did not bring much news for the informed Groklawian, but he did make some interesting points, and that in a very straightforward way.

Image of LSP
Louis Suarez-Potts

First of all, he stated that ODF will create wealth and will ensure that the intellectual riches of a nation are not lost, a point, he said, that Pamela Jones and Peter Quinn have already made. In Louis Suarez-Potts' opinion, all digital documents will be lost if written with "Microsoft ink". Because of that, we need open standards like ODF that makes your content yours -- and we need Free Open Source Software (FOSS) whose licenses "eliminates nasty EULAs". Not that open standards means that we have to use FOSS, but it gives us the option.

He also spoke about the main obstacles for adoption of by government organizations and big corporations. Often, they fear that they have to enter a new form of support and licensing -- they have simply gotten used to dealing with Microsoft and others with the same business model. But nowadays, he said, there are many companies that offers similar support on similar terms for FOSS. And for governments there is yet another reason to migrate to or other FOSS: money spent on support will be spent with local companies that pay taxes in the country they live in, as opposed to the world of proprietary software, where your money end up going abroad, to Redmond [or Ireland, I guess].

But the world is changing. Now it is not only left to FOSS to ensure interoperability with Microsoft products. Now it is also Microsoft that needs to change their ways to ensure interoperability if they want to compete in the European market. Also, local governments now have a global interest: What if you have to use ODF when communicating with, say, the EU?

After his presentation, Louis Suarez-Potts was asked from the audience what the future might bring for He answered that there are plans for improvements to Calc, for better localisation support, and perhaps a mail client, since many Microsoft Office users ask about that when considering migration to

Simon Phipps, Sun, on Open Source Philosophy

The next speaker was Simon Phipps, Chief Open Source Officer for Sun Microsystems. He spoke on "The Zen of Free -- The Virtous Cycle of Open Source". This was truly the highlight of the day. He was funny, well-spoken and brought several pieces of good news, most notable that Sun is planning to open source all their software in approximately two years!

Image of SP
Simon Phipps

He said that much has changed over the last decade; we have gone from the Information Age with uni-directional information into the Participation Age with blogging and many other ways of multi-directional information and collaboration. Realizing that, he started, because Sun's greatest assets are smart people. And he has worked internally in Sun to get them to open up. One of his arguments as been that closed room development (where you put a bunch of smart people in a room with pizza until they have come up with something) does not work anymore because everyone else is collaborating. That means that it is no longer you against some other company; it is you against the world. Smart people are often working at the same thing as you. And they are faster than you, because they are more, and because they are not hindered by marketing, legalese and so on.

Then, he spoke on the virtous circle of open source. The idea is simply that everyone gains with open source. An author who gives his software to the commons gains by having others improving on it. Anyone improving on it and giving the improvements to the commons gains not only the original code but also further improvements. Anyone just using the software obviously gains the use of the software. The only one who does not gain is the one who does a fork and does not give back to the commons. For that person, the fork will mean greater maintenance costs, and thus no benefit.

What matters is not so much which license is chosen for a project as the project governance, Simon Phipps said, especially how easy it is for people to participate. When evaluating open source efforts in Sun, he always asks: "How long before anyone outside Sun is involved?".

His next topic was software patents. According to him, software patents are a huge threat, mainly because they mean that everybody needs lawyers in order to do anything. Even small Open Source projects need lawyers. He described the software patent situation in the US as "an arms race": All have to play the patent game so that they can use patents defensively. And software patents do not help innovation -- they are rather a shadow of innovation. Patent applications never contain sample code, at most a simplified flow chart made by a lawyer. That means that even if you read a patent description, you will have no idea on how to implement it. He strongly hoped that software patents will not make it into EU legislation. If they do (or in countries where they have), the main weapons against them should be non-assert covenants, especially regarding standards, and compulsory licensing.

At the end of his presentation, he said Sun is "the only complete, enterprise-class, open alternative to Microsoft". Then, he announced the ODF Alliance (which I guess you have heard about by now) and invited everyone to join: "We need a posse".

After his presentation, he took questions from the audience, and I asked him why they invented the CDDL. He said that it was mainly due to the fact that they could not completely open source Solaris, because they did not own it all, even if they had licenses to use it. Evidently, it took five years of research to find out who owned all the different code lines. And still, not all core things are free. Amongst others, a certain video chip manufacturer (whose name he could not mention) refused them to Open Source some code. When they reviewed different licenses, they skipped BSD-style licenses because they did not want people to freeload. And GPL was out because they did not own all the code. Then they looked at the Mozilla License, but discovered that it contained company names and jurisdictions. They already had their own "vanity license" (the Sun Public License) made from the Mozilla License by replacing company names and jurisdictions , but they wanted a more general, once-and-for-all Mozilla License with the "bugs fixed", as he put it. That became the CDDL. He felt that the CDDL was only blown up to a big issue because it was Sun who wrote it. Anyway, they are not against GPL when they own all the code - e.g. Glassfish (their Open Source Java project) will be released under the GPL.

Overall, Simon Phipps' presentation left me with an altogether more positive view on Sun. I like to think it is because I now understand a little bit more of what they are trying to do -- on the other hand I might just have been lulled into happiness by a gifted speaker. But assuming that Sun means what Simon Phipps was saying, it actually seems that Sun is more of a good guy than IBM. As I reported November 9th Bob Sutor said that IBM was not entirely against software patents. Also, I guess it will be more than two years before IBM open sources all their software :-)

Discussion on the Future Document Format Standards

The last session I attended today was the one I had looked forward to the most, but it turned out to be the least interesting of them all. It was the panel discussion titled " vs. Microsoft - the Battle for Document Standards of the Future". I can best describe it as an unbalanced fight. The outcome was less than surprising.

Image of the panel
The Panel

On the ODF side we had Simon Phipps from Sun and Louis Suarez-Potts from as well as Søren Thing Pedersen from in Denmark. On the other side was Director of Politics and Strategy, Anders Nørskov, from Microsoft Denmark. And in between, or rather outside that, we had Member of The Danish Parliament, Anne Grete Holmsgaard.

The latter is a member of the Socialistisk Folkeparti, which is very much against multinational capitalist corporations. So of course she is against Microsoft and supports ODF, but since her party is not anywhere near running the government, she really does not have much power to push it through alone. On the other hand, she is a clever politician and might actually succeed in getting politicians from other parties on her side in this. She is clearly not into the technical details but gets the freedom bit right on.

As for the unfair fight: It was three (and an audience) against one, it was two highly skilled and knowing international leaders against a local salesman, and it was an accepted, implemented standard against a distrusted work-in-progress. And then there was the language barrier. Simon Phipps and Louis Suarez-Potts spoke their mother tongue while Anders Nørskov was struggling with his English. There was no way for the Microsoft man to win this discussion.

During most of the discussion, Simon Phipps asked why Microsoft did not join the ODF work, and Anders Nørskov said it was because of backwards compability issues. All the ODF guys pointed out that XMLRS was not a standard yet, and even though ECMA is likely to rubberstamp it, ISO is not. And since Microsoft is at least 18 months behind with the standardization procedure, they might even end up with a Microsoft implementation that does not follow the might-not-even-be future ISO standard based on XMLRS. Anders Nørskov had no reply to this.

I kept the feeling that like in Massachusetts, Microsoft had sent the wrong guy. Anders Nørskov was simply no match for Simon Phipps and Louis Suarez-Potts. As I said, the outcome was obvious.


A Report from LinuxForum 2006 - Updated 2Xs | 207 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections ?
Authored by: hardmath on Friday, March 03 2006 @ 11:17 PM EST
Should there be any needed...

"We are a leadership brand. We don't copy anyone." Intel VP Ann Lewnes on
sponsoring BMW to compete with AMD/Ferrari

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ole, Ole in free!
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 03 2006 @ 11:25 PM EST

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Ole, Ole in free! - Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 12:10 AM EST
Authored by: mtew on Friday, March 03 2006 @ 11:36 PM EST
Please make links clickable...


[ Reply to This | # ]

A Report from LinuxForum 2006
Authored by: kozmcrae on Friday, March 03 2006 @ 11:56 PM EST
Thanks so much elhaard.

When I read about Microsoft in situations like this, I keep hearing the prase
"death by a thousand cuts" in my head. I must have seen it writen
here some where.


Darl, have you been lying to us? I'm a frayed knot.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Has Sun overcome its schizophrenia?
Authored by: Altair_IV on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 03:05 AM EST
For a long time many of us have felt that Sun was rather schizophrenic about
FOSS; sometimes the seemed to be in support of it, and sometimes they seemed to
be fighting it. Some even suspected them of joining forces with the dark side.

But over the last few months, I, at least, have gotten the impression that Sun
has become much more supportive of FOSS than before. As the report above
mentioned, they GPL'd Glassfish, and they've recently GPL'd the specs for their
Sparc Niagara chip as well. They've been very active in promoting open
source/open standards in venues such as this one and the ODF alliance, and I
also haven't seen any of the trash-talking that's come out of them in the past.

So what's going on here? Has Sun actually decided to get behind FOSS fully? Or
is this just another one of their mood swings and the pendulum will eventually
swing back to the other side?

Although the speaker here seems to downplay it, I personally think the backlash
from the community over the CDDL had a big effect on them. I think it shocked
them into seeing just how important it is to keep on the good side of the FOSS
community, and it may have been just what they needed to clarify their position.
I believe they have finally truly seen the light and, unlike some other
companies, recognize which way the tech wind is blowing.

Monsters from the id!!
m(_ _)m

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 03:39 AM EST
ODF is really good, but i wish OO on Windows become a bit faster, in fact, much
faster, especially on load.

If that is done, probably more people would use it, regardless of the
incompatibilities with the old M$ office suite.

Afterall, the macros are not so important as speed.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The pictures are clearly fakes
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 04:12 AM EST
No pony tails or bristling manbeards.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft is NOT pig-headed
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 05:23 AM EST
Microsoft's goal, however, judging from its pig-headed determination not to join the rest of the world

PJ tells the world "stay polite" and then calls Microsoft names.

In fact, Microsoft's goal is perfectly rational. It wants to control what document formats people use, so that it can continue, and extend, its monopoly. If it succeeds, that will be very bad for most people on the planet; it may quite possibly violate anti-trust laws, because it is using a monopoly in one area to establish a monopoly in other areas; but as long as it has a chance of success - and as long as Microsoft is a company driven by the desire to increase its profits, without any regard for ethics or law - it is rational, not "pig-headed".

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Report from LinuxForum 2006
Authored by: kneth on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 05:26 AM EST
You can download a recording of the panel discussion at Bliv Klogere.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Poor name?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 04 2006 @ 07:23 AM EST
Shouldn't that have been OpenDocument vs Microsoft?

This is a standards battle, not a my-word-processor vs your-word-processor battle.

[ Reply to This | # ]

LinuxForum 2006 - open standards and (Danish) politics
Authored by: Kim Bach on Sunday, March 05 2006 @ 05:22 PM EST
The panel debate was interesting, unfortunately it was mostly Microsoft bashing,
and not very constructive.

The most interesting theme was the "technology" part, and this is
really where the ODF and the Microsoft camps disagrees. Microsoft arguees that
it's mostly about "technology", and the possiblity (for Microsoft) to
innovate, the ODF camp arguees that it's mostly about "ownership" of
the data.

According to the Microsoft representive in the panel (Anders Nørskov), Microsoft
is planning to make their own XML format the default format in Office 2007 (12).
I really don't think Microsoft should be allowed to get away with that, to me it
sounds like a clear case of "lock-in".

Regarding the Danish politics. It's true that Socialistisk Folkeparti has very
little influence, but right now it looks like there's a good chance that
legislation in favour of "open standards", can gain a majority vote.
I, for one, will keep my fingers crossed, but not sit idle. I'm optimistic, but
this really is a matter for "The Feds" (EU, US, UN...etc).

[ Reply to This | # ]

I disagree...I believe Microsoft has gotten exactly what it wanted
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 06 2006 @ 10:54 AM EST
I don't follow this case as closely as I like but I have been following it for a
while now. As far as I can see, by what Pamela and others have said in the
Massachusetts case, Microsoft has been trying it's best to confuse the issue
about open standards. Pamela has said several times that this is not about
openoffice vs. microsoft office but instead opendocument is a standard that
EVERYONE including microsoft could and should implement for the future of
everyone. With the opendocument standard, everyone would still be able to open
all of their documents no matter what happens to any individual company later
on. Microsoft keeps trying to confuse the issue by saying it's these opensource
fanatics that are against good ol american competition. They do this so they
can keep the whole world in vendor lock-in as a convicted monopolist (since the
american justice system did not teach them being a monopolist was a bad thing
with only a slap on the wrist). So they cast the opensource group as
anti-everything american...(anti-legal => you will get sued if you use
opensource; anti-secure => if they are behind SCO's actions then remember
Darl's threat to national security letter to congress; anti-competition =>
the opensource peeps just want to force openoffice down everyone's throat). So
I don't think that microsoft sent the wrong guy. They have the "opensource
commies" (sorry but i do see microsoft as underhanded as to say this) in
another country beat up a guy they know would lose by two very smart
individuals. Now they can point to the "LinuxForum" and say 'see...we
told you so...this isn't about open document standards...this is about forcing
openoffice down everyones throat so no one can ever use microsoft office
again...just look at how they titled their focus of the entire linux
forum...' vs. Microsoft - the battle for document standards of the
future'. Openoffice should not have even been in the name of the event. Now it
looks like a fight between openoffice and microsoft office. Not a battle for
mindshare against vendor lock-in in our document formats. It doesn't even
matter what was said...the title says enough for microsoft to use against the
open document standard. With the way SCO and microsoft manipulate the media and
their public image even in the face of overwhelming evidence against
do you think they will use this now??? I don't think they will say...big oops
on our part...we sure messed up this time. I think they knew who to send and Pamela says, 'it's all about trust'...and i would not trust microsoft
as far as I could throw them. Now I'm not a lawyer at all...just a system admin
at my job...but this is how I see it. I been reading everyone's comments here
for a long time and there are some really brillant people maybe you
guys could point out some other explanation here. [also...sorry for any
gramatical fingers...8P ]

[ Reply to This | # ]

Competing Standards are Good
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Tuesday, March 07 2006 @ 01:31 PM EST
A robust competition in any marketplace, including the standards marketplace, is
a benefit to everyone. It prevents stagnation, encourages innovation and
promotes freedom. Sometimes competing standards evolve to some specific uses or
niches better than a seemingly similar standard resulting in different
communities adopting different approaches better suited for their needs. No
standard is perfect nor suited to every application. ASTM publishes 12,000+
standards including hundreds relating to steel and iron alone. ISO publishes
more that 15,000 standards.

Open Standards can provide that if the standards are truly open. The problem
with Microsoft is not that they are proposing competing standards but that
Microsoft cannot be trusted not to subvert the standard to continue their
illegal monopoly.

Your average Linux distribution has several different applications in almost
every category from file systems to Productivity Applications. This serves to
keep everyone on their toes.

Where one approach becomes dominate there is a tendency for that approach to
become stagnant and begin to prescribe "the correct way" rather than
following the needs of the customers.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

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