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.

Europe ahead of the US in OSS adoption

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Interesting research on the pace of open source adoption in different territories was recently conducted by Forrester, the upshot of which seems to be that European IT professionals are ahead of their American counterparts on the adoption curve. Conducted by analysts by Jeffrey Hammond and Diego Lo Giudice, the report finds that open source adoption in most European organisations initially focused on the operating system and Web server tiers of the application platform stack, but soon widened to include development tools, infrastructure components such as application servers and databases, and higher-level components such as portal servers and content management systems.

What gets me is that the tone of the report – or at least the executive summary – seem to imply that the findings were a surprise. Hammond and Lo Giudice write that the professionals they spoke to said that their firms are interested in expanding open source adoption even further and indicated that their firms are less concerned than their North American counterparts about open source security and intellectual property issues.

I guess not living in a litigious society has its benefits.

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


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.

Opera farts against thunder

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Norwegian firm, Opera, developer of the alternative web browser of the same name, has filed a complaint with the European Commission. The company has objected to non-conformance by convicted monopolist, Microsoft, to standards it doesn’t own or control. Opera CTO,Håkon Wium Lie, has penned an open letter about the complaint which can be found here and Financial Mail’s Duncan McLeod has blogged it here.

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.

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