It’s not patently obvious

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If you want to know what the current patent battle is about the answer is simple: money. The bottom line is that Apple and Microsoft’s litigation against Google are nothing more that attempts to undermine the Android mobile operating system, which, for those who don’t know, the search giant gives away free, gratis and for nothing to mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola. This is unacceptable behaviour in Cupertino and Redmond, where serious cash is generated by “selling” operating systems – but I digress.

The bottom line is that I applaud Google’s acquisition of Motorola’s mobile phone business because has potential to defuse the ridiculous patent litigation from Apple and extortionate license fees demanded by Microsoft. You see, Motorola has been around a lot longer than either of those two and has a portfolio of over 17 000 patents. That gives Google the option to threaten litigation of its own and, thereby, keep Android free-of-charge and unburdened by unreasonable licensing.

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Same old Microsoft

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and that’s most certainly true when it comes to the dog named Microsoft. Unless you’ve been living on another planet for a while, you will remember the furore over the Borg’s application to have its proprietary XML format recognised by ISO as an international standard last year.

Just to refresh your memory, Microsoft tried to sneak an extremely dodgy version of its file standard through the ISO system. Fortunately, we thought, the checks and balances came into play and the monopolists from Redmond were sent back to the drawing board to address many of the objections raised by participants in the ISO process. Some months later, the Borg was back with a greatly revised standard that made it through the process. All well and good except for the fact that Microsoft has just released its Orifice 2010 suite featuring, you guessed it, the originally rejected version of the so-called OOXML standard. You read the whole sordid tale here.

And then there were four…

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At the beginning of the month I blogged about appeals lodged with ISO over its ratification of Microsoft’s crippled file format, OOXML. At the time, South Africa, Brazil and then India had all appealed the decision. Well now, it seems that Venezuela also lodged an appeal before the deadline passed.

I’ve just stumbled over a piece posted to ZDNet the day after my blog that offers a fairly comprehensive analysis of where the process is at present. Unfortunately, it’s beginning to look like ISO is going to pass the buck (pun intended) in perpetuity. The article ends thus:

“We maintain that the process is open and transparent,” said [Jonathan] Buck [director of communications for IEC]. “We do have specific directives under Joint Technical Committee 1 and at no time were processes not followed.”

The whole process is looks about as free and fair as the Zimbabwe elections.

It ain’t over till it’s over

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The good news started flowing last week when I received an embargoed (at the time) press release informing me that the South African Bureau of Standards has objected to Microsoft’s gerrymandering of the ISO approval process by lodging an appeal. Ok. It doesn’t say it in those words but that’s my interpretation

That was on 28 May 2008. Tectonic reported two days later, last Friday, that Brazil had entered the fray by lodging its appeal and then on Saturday (31 May) that India had also weighed in. So, at the time of writing, three leading developing nations had objected to the ratification of Microsoft’s OOXML format via ISO’s fast-track process, alleging the due process was not followed – or words to that effect. All three appeals have been received by ISO so it’ll be interesting to see what happens next. Watch this space.

UPDATE: Mark Shuttleworth was a guest on the weekly ZA Tech show and had some interesting things to say about this and other tech-related issues. Check it out here.

Microsoft corrupts ISO processes

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It was always predictable but Microsoft has managed to corrupt the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and its processes to the extent that the convicted monopolist’s clumsy and far-from-open document standard (PDF 235kB), OOXML, has been approved as an ISO standard. To say the process has been fraught with irregularity and downright dirty tricks would be an understatement but if you want to read the whole sorry tale, Groklaw has a fairly comprehensive account.

{Health warning: it’s long and thoroughly depressing if you care about open standards.}

I only wish I could say it was an April Fool’s joke.

SA shuns Microsoft file formats

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Excellent news emanating from the corridors of power: the SA government has endorsed OasisODF in preference to the abomination Microsoft is trying to force-feed the world. Financial Mail’s Duncan McLeod is reporting on it here – although not quite in such colourful terms. 😉

But the real question is whether or not public service & administration minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi will stand her ground against the inevitable assault from Redmond. Time will tell.

Microsoft is own worst enemy

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It seems that the FFII ( Förderverein für eine Freie Informationelle Infrastruktur or, in English, Promotion Association for a Free Information Infrastructure) has awarded Microsoft its “Best Campaigner against OOXML Standardization (sic)” prize.
Dubbed the “Kayak Prize 2007” the award recognises Microsoft’s tireless efforts to aid the rejection of OOXML by ISO (International Standards Organisation). FFII president Pieter Hintjens explains: “By pushing so hard to get OOXML endorsed, even to the point of loading the standards boards in Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, and beyond, Microsoft showed to the world how poor their format is.

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