Microsoft's Jason Matusow has posted a blog entry that I suggest epitomizes his company's style in trying to force the world to swallow Microsoft's OOXML. I'd call it a FUDsicle. First, Matusow attacks Google because it said yesterday that "OOXML doesn't meet the criteria required for a globally-accepted standard." He casts aspersions on their motives, as usual.
Then, surprise, surprise, he suggests we all should read Patrick Durasau, whose rather sudden turnabout on OOXML has some jaws dropping, tongues wagging and lips curling. Mine for sure. Despite the mysterious sudden change, did you know he *still* says that he prefers ODF and considers it superior? He just wants us all to help Microsoft get its act together and "co-evolve". You know what's wrong with that idea, the two-track, may-the-best-standard-win idea? Many things, but one is because Microsoft is a monopoly, and it will cut off ODF's air supply.
Durasau didn't however endorse OOXML. He just says Microsoft has improved as to openness and should be given credit. You think the EU Commission might have something to do with that new "openness"? Let's credit the correct entity. I guess you saw that the EU Commission just fined Microsoft ... again... over interoperability. Here's video [registration required] of Neelie Kroes, and here's the EU Commission press release. If this is what it takes to get Microsoft to open up a tiny bit -- and I believe it is still treating the GPL as unworthy to interoperate equally in its OSP and its recent patent pledge -- how much do you trust it to fix things in OOXML? Should you put faith in such a pledge and vote Yes on the basis of a Microsoft promise to fix it all later? Consider the source. Consider the history.
And let's define the word "openness" a bit more carefully. Can you think of any way to make the ISO BRM now going on in Geneva any *more* closed and private and cut off from public scrutiny or input? If this ISO BRM process is openness incarnate, how do you define that word 'open'? We have no way to know what is going on in that closed and sealed room. The process seems as closed as Microsoft's software, particularly when you contrast it with the earlier ODF process.
A snip from the Eu Commission's press release:
Today’s Decision concludes that the royalties that Microsoft charged for the information licence – i.e. access to the interoperability information - prior to 22 October 2007 were unreasonable. Microsoft therefore failed to comply with the March 2004 Decision for three years, thereby continuing the behaviour confirmed as illegal by the Court of First Instance. Today's Decision concerns a period of non-compliance not covered by the penalty payment decision of 12 July 2006 (see IP/06/979) starting on 21 June 2006 and ending on 21 October 2007. The Decision does not cover the royalties for a distinct patent licence.
The Commission has based its conclusions as to the unreasonableness of Microsoft's royalties prior to 22 October 2007 on the lack of innovation in a very large proportion of the unpatented interoperability information and a comparison with the pricing of similar interoperability technology.
Microsoft's problem isn't technical or financial or a matter of skill. It's attitudinal. Microsoft, from what I see, doesn't want to be interoperable with the GPL, their principal competition, or with ODF unless someone forces them. And that's not a problem we can fix for them. If they desired true interoperability, not customer lock in, they'd embrace ODF and work out one standard we could all use, no matter what operating system we use. Think about the obvious goal of Microsoft's current patent strategy. It's the same song, to me. The GPL is being squeezed out, if Microsoft gets its way, and we all get squeezed for money whether we use Microsoft software or not.
There's an ECIS statement [PDF] that sums it up nicely:
Commissioner Kroes is to be commended for her perseverance over the last three years in the face of Microsoft's footdragging and appeals to the Court of First Instance.
Responding to continuing scrutiny by competition authorities and the September judgement by the EU's Court of First Instance, Microsoft announced last week new promises to promote interoperability with its products. As the Commissioner said, similar statements in the past have proven to be empty gestures with no real impact on competition and consumer choice.
In response to complaints from ECIS and others, the European Commission and other competition authorities are continuing to investigate Microsoft's ongoing anticompetitive practices regarding a range of products including Vista, Office 2007, Internet Explorer, e-mail and collaboration software and the .NET framework.
Ongoing means ongoing. I consider this the complete answer to Durasau's call for credit to go to Microsoft.
Getting back to the Matusow blog, note
this touch, and tell me that it was inadvertent:
Google has decided to join the OpenDocument Foundation and has announced that they are of the opinion that ODF should be the only format and that national standards bodies should vote no to Open XML.
Google joined the ODF *Alliance* in July of 2006, not yesterday, and not the OpenDocument *Foundation*. It said it joined the ODF Alliance "and many other experts in our belief that OOXML doesn't meet the criteria required for a globally-accepted standard." Isn't it Matusow's job to know things like this? Even if he doesn't, shouldn't he fact check? Or does he do it on purpose? I don't know, but in the interests of truth and so no one is misled, here's precisely what Zaheda Bhorat, Open Source Programs Manager at Google, wrote on the Official Google Blog yesterday:
The subject of open document standards grows in importance not only for the technically-minded, but for anyone who uses a computer to work on editable documents. Across the board, standards are crucial. They ensure that the devices and technology you use today will continue to work tomorrow, that your DVDs will play in your player, that your calls will go through to any network, and that your documents will be accessible from whichever system you choose today and in the future.
Google supports open document standards and the Open Document Format - ODF, the recognized international standard (ISO 26300). ODF is supported and implemented across the globe, and its communal creation and iteration has helped ensure the transparency, consistency and interoperability necessary in a workable standard.
Currently, the technology industry is evaluating a proposed ISO standard for document formats. Given the importance of a workable standard, Microsoft's submission of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an additional international standard has caught the attention of many. In September 2007, the original request to ISO was defeated. After further technical analysis of the specification along with all the additional data available on OOXML, Google believes OOXML would be an insufficient and unnecessary standard, designed purely around the needs of Microsoft Office.
We join the ODF Alliance and many other experts in our belief that OOXML doesn't meet the criteria required for a globally-accepted standard. (An overview of our findings and sample technical issues unresolved are posted here.)
As ISO Member bodies around the world work on possible revisions of their vote previously submitted, the deadline of March 30th approaches fast. I invite you to pay close attention, and heed the call of many for unification of OOXML into ODF. A document standards decision may not matter to you today, but as someone who relies on constant access to editable documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it may matter immensely in the near future.
As you can see, Matusow mangled it.
It would be rather difficult to join the OpenDocument Foundation, since after that "organization" of three did their sudden turnabout on ODF that had tongues wagging and lips curling -- and Microsoft quoting, now that I think of it -- they shut down and disappeared into the mists. Now, Matusow knows the difference between the ODF Alliance and the OpenDocument Foundation, since he used to highlight the Foundation quite a lot on his blog pretty much the same way he now pushes Patrick Durasau's NewThink. And when Google made its statement yesterday, taking a firm stand that OOXML is not worthy to be made a standard, when it mentioned the ODF Alliance, it provided a link, so I'd say, being a blogger myself, that Matusow has absolutely no excuse. That's why I wanted to reproduce it here, for his benefit and in the interests of truth. As opposed to truthiness and marketing.
By the way, here are all the members of the ODF Alliance. It's quite impressive, don't you think? They started with only 36 members. Now there are so many, I couldn't count them accurately by hand because I kept losing my place, so I had to copy and paste the list into my text editor, so I could get it to count them accurately for me. The ODF Alliance now lists 506 members. Yes. From all over the world, and they are by no means all vendors. You see cities and libraries and LUGs and nonprofit organizations, all of whom care about openness and true interoperability and accessibility a hundred years from now. Microsoft tries to spin this as a market share battle between IBM, and now Google, and Microsoft, but it's not. The ODF Alliance reflects a much broader and deeper international interest in ODF. I don't care about market share or about who uses Microsoft products. I just don't want to have to. But I care about ODF. At the end of this article, I will reproduce the ODF Alliance list of all members by country, so you can see how broad its membership is and how varied.
The world cares about ODF. And no one pays us to care or offers us perks if we will show up and join organizations or vote a certain way. Do you really think the City of Largo cares about market share? The Jaspal Kaur Public School in India? OLPC Nepal? They are ODF Alliance members. Why? Certainly not because of market share. That is, I think, the principal difference between OOXML and ODF. There are important reasons to want ODF, to comprehend the value of a single standard, that have nothing at all to do with money, for those whose minds have more than one track.
You know why I care? I want to be able to share documents with my mom, and I know my mom can't figure out any of the translators, so it's hopeless unless people take into consideration us little people and not just the wishes of a certain large US vendor in the Northwest. Someone left a comment on Groklaw once about a family that experienced a death in the family, and they tried to quickly work up a document to notify everyone and to plan the funeral. One family member wrote up a draft, and then sent it to everyone for input. They couldn't get their software to interoperate, and everything ended up messed up, and it was simply impossible to get the job done quickly enough. That shouldn't happen. It doesn't need to happen.
So I care about the world not being locked in because I've experienced those types of struggles myself. I'm tired of being locked out, too, because I don't use Microsoft products. If I want to visit the BBC or the US Library of Congress, I shouldn't have to buy Microsoft's proprietary products. No government entity should tell citizens what software vendor they have to use as a condition for access, I don't think. And I care about being able to use GNU/Linux and my Mac without all the hassles. I should have a free choice to use whatever software I enjoy and prefer without a penalty. We can all use the Internet successfully, despite using a wide variety of operating systems, so it certainly can be done.
I'm tired of Microsoft's dirty tricks too, actually. Why can't Microsoft compete fairly, with decency? What place do smears have in a standards process? Did you read the News Picks item by Tim Bray on what Microsoft did to him and his wife years ago because he dared to support Netscape?
...[I]n 1997, I was sitting on the XML Working Group and co-editing the spec, on a pro bono basis as an indie consultant. Netscape hired me to represent their interests, and when I announced this, controversy ensued. Which is a nice way of saying that Microsoft went berserk; tried unsuccessfully to get me fired as co-editor, and then launched a vicious, deeply personal extended attack in which they tried to destroy my career and took lethal action against a small struggling company because my wife worked there. It was a sideshow of a sideshow of the great campaign to bury Netscape and I’m sure the executives have forgotten; but I haven’t.
Why is Microsoft allowed to do things like that, assuming it's true? What effect does it have on the marketplace? Do you imagine I don't think about consequences to me when I write an article like this? Is that right? Should I have to worry about what they might do to me in retaliation? I've already met my life's quota of smears and intimidation from SCO, thank you very much, so I have a basis to measure just how bad it can get. Is that how it's supposed to be? Seriously. And just what role, if any, did Microsoft play in the SCO story? If regulators wish to open up the marketplace to competition, how about starting with intimidation and the smear campaigns? I know it's wrong, and you know it's wrong, and yet it happens over and over and over. Remember Peter Quinn in Massachusetts? How many CIOs decided it was too dangerous personally after that to choose anything but Microsoft? Have you seen the personal attacks lately on Rob Weir? On Andy Updegrove? And now it's Google's turn to be slimed. And so, tired as I am and poor as I am and scared as I am and unconnected to the powers-that-be as I am, with nothing to gain and so much to lose, here I am still with my little antiFUD arrows, because I deeply care about ODF and openness, enough that I continue to speak in spite of everything.
Durasau's pretense that Microsoft has become a poster child for open standards development [PDF] doesn't pass the laugh test. It's embarrassing. I remember everything Microsoft pulled to try to get OOXML approved the first time. Microsoft's behavior has been unusual in the standards world, I've read, and it was so Microsoft. Of course, Durasau may be using a different ruler to measure by, since it was he who wrote a letter to Standards Australia recommending Rick Jelliffe, who is regularly hired by Microsoft for various tasks, and writing, "I think any national body would welcome Rick's informed and balanced approach over the 'any answer so long as it is no' one that some have advocated with regard to DIS 29500." Balanced is the last word that would spring to my mind. What is this? The Stockholm syndrome or something? Lightning struck Patrick On the Road to Geneva? What bothers me a lot about that is that Australia abstained in the first vote, because, they claimed, there was no consensus. Now, for the BRM, who do they send? Folks who represent the full spectrum of views? Pardon me for concluding that this means the fix is in. At a minimum, it shows a disregard for the appearance of fairness.
By the way, I hear Durasau's the one who started the new trend of calling OOXML 'Open XML', which is a travesty worthy of 1984. Up is down, and black is white, and closed is open. But what is so odd is that he is the guy who wrote not that long ago that the name Office Open XML was "misleading". He added, "The use of 'Open' is deeply problematic as every ISO standard is as 'open' as any other ISO standard. It is a marketing buzz word and does not belong in the title of a proposal that may become an ISO standard. An alternative name, one that accurately reflects the purpose of the standard, would reflect the rules that are applied to all other ISO standards."
What happened to those rules? If "Office Open XML" is misleading, is "Open XML" better? Yet he calls his latest paper "Confusion, Standards and OpenXML." I'll say. Confusion indeed. NewSpeak, where everything Microsoft does is "good enough". Here. Read it for yourself [PDF]. Maybe you can figure out such a flipflop.
That reminds me, speaking of a lack of openness, did you see that Microsoft now is redefining what an "open source project" is? Their patent pledge is deeply, deeply offensive to me, and watch out for the tilted OSP. The laughable OSP. Without a public pledge from Microsoft that the GPL is also covered, how do you know if it is or not? I'd guess not. So, is it a "standard" if an entire swath of vendors, who happen to be the only real competition Microsoft has left who are still standing, can't safely use it? Why doesn't Microsoft make such a pledge? Just tell us straight up if the GPL is covered or not.
I got some spam today, as I do every day, invariably written with Microsoft software I can't help but mention, and the opening words sum up the whole MSOOXML saga:
Although the internet is a very hard place to meet people because you don't know who to trust, what to believe and what not to.
I have an obscured business suggestion for you. An obscured business suggestion. That's it. OOXML in a nutshell.
Current Members of the Alliance: