Help Me Go Mano a Mano with Microsoft

Next week, I'm taking part in a debate with a Microsoft representative about the passage of the OOXML file format through the ISO process last year. Since said Microsoftie can draw on the not inconsiderable resources of his organisation to provide him with a little back-up, I thought I'd try to even the odds by putting out a call for help to the unmatched resource that is the Linux Journal community. Here's the background to the meeting, and the kind of info I hope people might be able to provide.

Not surprisingly, the meeting is neither for my nor Microsoft's benefit, but for that of Richard Steel, who is CIO of the London Borough of Newham. Those with good memories may recall that back in 2003 it looked like Newham was going to switch to open source, in what could have been a real breakthrough for free software in the UK, but that it then changed its mind and signed a long-term - and secret - deal with Microsoft. Winning Newham was so important to Microsoft that it helped set up a competitive trial:

Using open source-based software in desktop and server packages offers no short-term savings.

That was the initial finding of a trial at Newham Council in East London, which pitted open source products against proprietary rivals.

As part of the trial, first reported by Computer Weekly on 14 October, Microsoft provided the council with consultancy services from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in an effort to prove its products offered better value than open source options being tested at Newham.

Newham Council IT director Richard Steel said, "The tests we conducted with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young were very helpful as they substantiated many of the views we already held about open source. We have yet to come to a conclusion for the longer term."

Newham was crucial for Microsoft, because had it taken the open source route, Microsoft risked losing other UK local government bodies in a kind of domino effect. In the wake of Newham's decision to stick with Microsoft it has become one of the company's key case studies for this area:

Originally, Newham officers were considering Linux/open source software (OSS) to update the borough’s desktop and server infrastructure, especially because some of its existing Microsoft products needed to be replaced. Richard Steel, Chief Information Officer, London Borough of Newham, says: “Since 2004, we have been engaged in an upgrade of the whole infrastructure. Identity management, communication, and collaboration technology—and other solutions that support mobile working—are central to this.”

Newham agreed on a 10-year partnership with Microsoft using a low-cost volume licensing Enterprise Agreement with technical support from Microsoft Services through an Enterprise Strategy Consultant (ESC). ESCs combine in-depth knowledge of local government with a detailed understanding of Microsoft technologies to help build, implement, and deploy leading-edge Microsoft technologies and solutions.

Obviously, much has happened in the open source world since 2003; in particular, enterprise offerings have improved enormously. Against that background, I and Mark Taylor from the UK open source consultancy Sirius Corporation been talking to Richard Steel directly, encouraging him to explore open source again, and to consider using it where appropriate. Here's what he wrote following our last meeting:

When chatting to Glyn Moody and Mark Taylor during their visit to Newham Dockside last Tuesday, I was again struck by their level-headedness, knowledge and courtesy as well, of course, their passion for Open Source - or rather, as I think they see it, breaking the establishment’s fixation with proprietary software. I think it was Mark who said that Open Source zealots do their cause a disservice - or words to that effect.

For Glyn, a particular complaint about Microsoft was the way it “bought votes” at the International Standards Organisation to get its OXML ratified as a standard. Now this was all news to me (although if I had followed his blog as I now intend to do, I bet I’d have known all about it) so I asked a colleague from Microsoft for its perspective, which was quite different.

In fact, Microsoft saw another major supplier as the villain of the piece. I therefore suggested a meeting to discuss either viewpoint, which both “sides” would be free to report as they see fit, although it would be great if we were able to achieve, and report, consensus.

So, to summarise: this meeting is about some of the messy goings-on during the OOXML standardisation process last year. Where I'd appreciate your help is in providing links to information of any kind about underhand activities *on both sides* - note that in Steel's post above he writes: “Microsoft saw another major supplier as the villain of the piece.” I presume this is a reference to IBM (or maybe Google?), and it would be helpful for me to be better-informed about accusations of misconduct here as well as on the other side. Rebuttals to accusations are also useful.

You can either post links in a comment below, so that others can expand on your information, or if you prefer to contact me privately, my email is Either way, I'd be really grateful for any help that you can provide. I'll report back how well – or badly – things go in due course.

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It still needs a bit of

Matthew Bryant's picture

I think this may be the first time Im listed first on anything alphabetical. The S in my surname usually puts me near the back of the aphabetical bus; but with Weinberger and Zittrains help, Im listed first. Cool. I also love the early-60s design and typeface.That title So Hows Utopia Working Out For Ya?

A condemned prisoner gives up his

Anika Johnson's picture

In the Apache world, you might be familiar with tweaking your config file(s) and then running $ apachectl configtest to see if the config parses. We've been discussing this on the drizzle mailing list and talking in general about configuration handling and management. Well, it turns out that you can fake it in MySQL and Drizzle too. If you have a new configuration in /tmp/new.cnf, try this: $ mysqld --defaults-file=/tmp/new.cnf --verbose --help And it'll run mysqld (or drizzled), parse the...

Gary Edwards 2005 Interview Encapsulates XML Debate

Anonymous's picture

Provided is a link to the 2005 Mad Penguin interview with Gary Edwards (then OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee member) whose discussion encapsulates the ongoing truly open vs. proprietary XML issue:


Glyn Moody's picture


Get over it

Svyatoslav Pidgorny's picture

So OOXML is now an ISO standard? Big deal!

I believe that the goal for open source software and file specifications should be becoming a de-facto standard. That is, a standard accepted by the people, not something ratified by the bureaucracies.

Why do they do it?

Mike Brown's picture

One has to ask why Microsoft feels the needs (not to mention the God-given rights it thinks it has) to stoop to all these dishonest tactics in the first place.

The only conclusion I can come to - and I think this is point worth making next week - is that none of their stuff is any damn good and they know it. If their products were reliable, secure and actually useful then they wouldn't need to pulling stunts like this, IMHO. Their stuff would sell itself. As it is they're just too scared to let the market decide for itself.

I'm sure your au fait with the numerous shortcomings of Windows. It's a product that seems to get worse and worse. And what exactly are the users going to get from upgrades to Vista and Windows 7, which will be forced on them eventually, apart from a huge bill - both for the software itself and the new hardware required to run it? What's in Windows 7 that's actually worth having? Not much that I can see. "It's better than Vista" is only relevant if the company/council is using Vista in the first place, and companies have decided overwhelmingly to steer clear of it.

And as for sticking with Office... well, last week was my first exposure to Office 2007, and Jeez, what a mess! The Ribbon is an abortion. It's in the wrong place (at the top) and you can't move it to where you really need it (down the sides). See Lotus Symphony for how to do it right. Word 2007 is a slow, slow, slow pig. Saving a file takes 20 seconds on my reasonably new Core 2 Duo. It doesn't matter if it's saving to the network or to the hard drive either. OpenOffice is far closer in look and feel to Word 2003 than Word 2007 is. If the Microsoft side brings up retraining costs for FOSS, which they will, you can tell them that's coming with Windows 7 and Office 2007 anyway, so why not cut your losses now? Make the break now and that's an annual expense that's off your back FOR EVER!!!!


Glyn Moody's picture

I think it's that, plus a completely disproportionate need to "win" everything, using dodgy tactics if necessary.

More 'info' and 'old links'

Hans Kwint's picture

Microsoft ODF-smear campaign in Malaysia:

Microsoft has been running an anti-ODF campaign in favour of OOXML for a long long time now. In Malaysia, their campaign started with opposition to Malaysia's proposed adoption of ODF ISO26300:2006 as a voluntary standard by invoking Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt on the ODF standard. The campaign continued on by personally attacking members of the technical committee who were in favour of ODF

South Africa, Brazil and four smaller countries not trusting ISO anymore after OOXML:

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement.

In Germany, DIN made voting instructions in such a manner that instead of casting a vote to make DIN "ABSTAIN", members abstained to vote in DIN at all. Rather techinically, though worthwile to read.

7 countries became new voting members in ISO, voted in favour of OOXML, and didn't vote in ISO after that.

Here's how Steve Ballmer was involved in the vote in the US, and some misinfo Microsoft spread about OOXML:

On to Sweden:
23 new members showed up before the vote, of which 18 were Microsoft Partners, some Gold Partners.
Before those 23 new members were added, both Microsoft was a member of SIS, as well as IAMCP; and they both voted in favour of OOXML as ISO-standard. IAMCP is the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners.

Here the list of the votings in Sweden:
here in English, without the full list:

Here how Microsoft offered to compensate the $2500 that were involved for the 18 Microsoft partners to join SIS and vote in favour of OOXML:

On to Norway. The majority was against adopting OOXML as ISO standard, though Microsoft was the only one in favour of adopting it. The majority was however unimportant, because Norways standard body decided to listen to Microsoft only, and not to the majority. Details here:

and here:

Here's how Microsoft on its own stopped reaching an unanimous decision in the Netherlands:

Of course, the EU doesn't trust all this, and added the OOXML-saga to their investigation of Microsoft:

Before the whole OOXML thing started, back when Massachusetts started all this by choosing ODF; there's this:

great links

Glyn Moody's picture

many thanks for all the work you've put into this.

Open Malaysia

Mike Brown's picture

The Open Malaysia blog was already referenced in an earlier comment, but this post is an absolute hoot:

It tells of how Microsoft's Doug Mahugh tried to elbow his may into a Malaysian standards meeting (concerned with OOXML) using what looked to be a Photoshopped business card. Said card claimed that he was from a Malaysian standards body rather than from Microsoft! I mean, how low can you go?

Here's Mahugh's response posted on his own blog:

Includes a number of ironic questions (from myself, amongst others) about his new "role" in Malaysia!


Glyn Moody's picture

malaysia was a classic - thanks.

Expect the debate to be stacked and stuffed ...

GreyGeek's picture

Until the emails and documents released after the Combs vs Microsoft trial were made public, we were unaware that Microsoft organized and released a digital terrorist gang called "Technical Evangelists" on to an unsuspecting public.

The first "teacher" of its unethical and/or illegal methods was James Plamondon, who did a mea culpa when the documents were revealed. These documents describe the "Slog", the "Stacked Panel", and other unethical and unscrupulous methods of "competing" Microsoft used against its competitors. You can add another technique to those, call it "The Stuffed Committee". Not only was the ISO committees stuffed by MS 3rd party vendors, they promptly ignored their committee duties and by failing to attend subsequent meeting after the vote brought its work to a stand still. In another case an "independent citizens group" stuffed the European Open Source Strategy Document committee, and twisted that document into supporting Microsoft and against FOSS. That author of that subversion was Jonathan Zuck, head of ACT, whom Orcle proved to be a Microsoft sock-puppet.

So, fully expect anyone and everyone who is introduced as being "independent" or any who will "evaluate" the debate, moderate it or judge it, to be Microsoft plants.!37F174267DC274C!155.entry
Here is a text summary:

I have mentioned before the "stacked panel". Panel discussions naturally favor alliances of relatively weak partners - our usual opposition. For example, an "unbiased" panel on OLE vs. OpenDoc would contain representatives of the backers of OLE (Microsoft) and the backers of OpenDoc (Apple, IBM, Novell, WordPerfect, OMG, etc.). Thus we find ourselves outnumbered in almost every "naturally occurring" panel debate.

A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select the panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can't expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only "independent ISVs" on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed – just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the "real world." Sounds marvelously independent doesn't it? In fact, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the "independent" panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you've got a major win on your hands.

Finding a moderator is key to setting up a stacked panel. The best sources of pliable moderators are:

-- Analysts: Analysts sell out - that's their business model. But they are very concerned that they never look like they are selling out, so that makes them very prickly to work with.

-- Consultants: These guys are your best bets as moderators. Get a well-known consultant on your side early, but don't let him publish anything blatantly pro-Microsoft. Then, get him to propose himself to the conference organizers as a moderator, whenever a panel opportunity comes up. Since he's well- known, but apparently independent, he'll be accepted – one less thing for the constantly-overworked conference organizer to worry about, right?

Choosing the "moderator" is how Microsoft subverted the evaluation process that led the London Borough of Newham to go with proprietary solutions. In this case, I suspect, the "independent moderator" was the IT director himself. He will be working with Microsoft again, and against you.

Here is a copy of the pre-release of the European Open Source Strategy Document, showing the modifications by the president of ACT, a Microsoft sock-puppet.
Notice how the intent of the document has been hijacked by a supposedly "independent" individual. People take Jonathan Zuck at his word. He is not what he says he is or what he pretends to be.,9171,49039,00.html
Oracle found out otherwise: Our corporate espionage is to find out that Microsoft has hired all these companies, these front organizations, and while they pretend to be independent, publishing all sorts of things that are anti-Oracle and pro-Microsoft.

If only, at the time, had Oracle known of Microsoft's "Technical Evangelists", they would have been able to reveal Microsoft's "indignation" as the hypocrisy it is.

A history of many dirty tricks Microsoft used down through the years.

thanks for reminding me

Glyn Moody's picture

about those "confessions"


Glyn Moody's picture


Far before the whole OOXML

Hans Kwint's picture

Far before the whole OOXML thing started, look at Peter Quinn, Boston Globe, ODF and Massachussets:

Peter Quinn, one of the proponents of ODF, had to step down because Boston Globe - out of the blue - started questioning his travel expenses. Afterwards the charges were disproved. Nobody knows why the Boston Globe started to go after Peter Quinn, some say it was Microsoft.

When it comes to favouring IBM/SUN:

Of particular interest is the objections the Kenya standard body had against OOXML. People favouring OOXML say this was written by IBM/SUN, and not by Kenya. I saw it, it was one of the longest comments filed by any country. Used to be here:, look for 8530 here: maybe the links do work for you.

Also, look here: for Microsoft alleged to having threatened Kenya in return.

When it comes to Sweden:
During the vote,
1) Microsoft casted a vote,
2) The association of Microsoft Gold members casted a vote,
3) Microsoft gold members seperately casted a vote.

Both Microsoft and many of their gold members voting happened in many countries. Just ask them how many Microsoft Gold Members voted in favour of OOXML in national bodies (probably more than 100 worldwide).

Gold members were promised 'benefits'. (there's an English translation somewhere; if you can't find it:

Here, second page:

(Mircosoft) Robertson admitted that Microsoft has lobbied federal officials (standard bodies are ought to be independent of the government I believe, not sure at that).

I also argued OOXML costs Microsoft customers millions of dollars, and Brian Jones (from Microsoft) didn't reply.


Apart from that, and probably much more interesting:

There have been many case studies of open source based software in municipalities in Europe; and how these saved costs.
Zeeuws Vlaanderen:
Municipalities Groningen:

When you want to talk to an authority in the field of open source in municipalities, contact Bouke Koelstra. He has written stories about over 40 municipalities and how they use open source software, and lots of them saved costs. He's not working for government anymore.

glad to see it posted

Glyn Moody's picture

thanks again

You will have

Mark_w's picture

You will have seen:

I assume?

More seriously, I don't quite see how this works. You and the guy from the evil empire have a debate. You both make some points, you both score in some areas. What changes? How does it make Newham bahave in some way that wasn't the way that they were going to behave before?

If you were going to debate 'Would Open Source have advantages for Newham in future?' or 'To what extent can OS and proprietary software co-exist in an enterprise context' or 'To what extent does the use of proprietary software priohibit/inhibit the council from fully meeting its obligations under freedom of information' (a bit of a strectch, that last one, but still worth some thought), then I could see how it would be a stepping between where we are now and where we want to get to.

As it is set up at the moment, I think there is a danger that Newham can conclude 'MS are/have been underhand/disreputable/pointy elbowed, but we don't see any reason to change our current course of action, because:
a) a bit of pointy-elbowedness is to be expected from a commercial organisation, and we just have to be aware of that
b) there is no proof (in spite of there being a track record) that the future will be the same as the past

So, even if you do succesfully make the case that Microsoft's behaviour has been close to illegal/out-and-out illegitimate, I'm not sure how you translate that into a win in anything that is important. Yes, you might get a bit more of a 'warm 'n fuzzy' and MS may get less, but unless you are playing a very long game, does that actually change anything?

thanks for the link

Glyn Moody's picture

Probably a bit too detailed for the time I have, but very useful background.

Yes, you're right, I see this as a long-term game: nothing will change overnight, but if we don't at least try to convince people nothing will ever change...

The nature of the problem

Charlie Page's picture

You need to ask yourself, what is the real nature of the problem here. And bring this question forward in the debate(there in lies the rub).

In a strictly subject matter this seems to be a blame game, who is telling the truth and who acted in a an underhanded way. And the official gets to choose a winner(ah the rush of power). Really, what effect will the morality of the competitors have on your long term data solutions etc? None.

The important short answer is that ODF offers neutral compatibility where ISO rules the roost, and OOXML offers the MS standard at the MS price. i.e. do what MS says or you fail the MS test and what ISO says really doesn't matter.
So at a certain point, especially in government, you have to ask yourself, what is your data worth? What is making your data democratically available worth, what is guaranteeing you data is available 10 years later worth?
If all you are asking, what is most popular now? OOXML is your answer. Just be sure to point out that is the marketing "open", not the free as in free beer "open".

Good luck.

Compare OOXML and ODF sizes

Paul Johnson's picture

How about taking a copy of the ODF, and this picture

The important thing to get over is that OOXML is only pseudo-open; nobody is going to actually implement everything in that 5k-page document. Not even Microsoft; they are not fully compliant with the spec.



Glyn Moody's picture

for those points.


David Bowen's picture

Hi Glyn

There were many dodgy things going on during the process, rules enforced when it suited, ignored when it didn't. I think it was Spain?? where they chose to use a small room for the meeting, so that many wishing to attend could not be accommodated. There was a larger room available. Malaysia where a Microsoft person was pretending to be a local so he could attend their standards meeting. Sweden where Microsoft had to admit to bribing its local partners, with offers of rebates and marketing money, to join the standards body to push this through to a yes vote. They finally abstained. This and much more.

Take a look here, buried back in the archives are lots of details, and yes he is open that he works for IBM. But at least you get to hear the other side of the story for balance :-)

Andy has no such ties and also has good coverage.

There was comment here as well

There is much more on this site too of course.

Regards David

many thanks

Glyn Moody's picture

for the links

ODF, open source, competition, and rewarding good behavior

Jose_X's picture

Some comments:

I think it is important not to get lost arguing about formats exclusively and forget the important role played by open vs closed source. Open source speaks for itself. Closed source allows the vendor to get away with murder.

A product that implements an open standard (even if not 100%) and then adds a bunch of closed proprietary extensions is useless for interop purposes because everything valuable can likely be implemented through the proprietary extensions and not the open standard. The argument here is to avoid proprietary products (no matter the document standard) especially if important documents created through those closed product cannot be opened with other products, notably, with some open source product.

It's important to find an open source product that supports a standard well. We can then use that open source product as a baseline for the standard (in price and for interop purposes) and as a hedge against closed products that decide to implement too much functionality outside of the standard through undocumented extensions.

Microsoft has made no attempt to open up the entirety of their past formats (what exists is largely due to tedious and imperfect reverse engineering efforts). As stated above, it's straightforward to create lock-in when you have proprietary extensions. We should not expect them to open up their future closed lock-in extensions if they won't open up their existing or past closed lock-in formats.

Microsoft has a history of antitrust abuses and purposely breaking interop. Microsoft should be forced to meet the competitive market on the terms of competition rather than have that market try to catch up to Microsoft on Microsoft's terms. [Note, as well, that OOXML did not leverage nearly that many existing open standards. ODF did. ODF is competition friendly for this and for other reasons.]

Customers should avoid doing business with companies that are repeat offenders of the law, especially when they continue to rake profits/rewards for past abuses. [Problem with this argument is that I am not sure if Microsoft has been officially slapped for MSOffice abuses yet.]

OOXML has many defects. This almost guarantees problems with interop. A number of sources have documented well the OOXML problems. [Eg, Rob Weir's blog]

I think the groklaw, boycottnovell, and consortiuminfo links link up to most important abuses that hit the news. While ODF went smoothly, OOXML was full of problems at all levels. There were violations and abuses of voting at the national and international level (exploiting undemocratic processes or vote stuffing at the last minute). There were lies spread and people attacked for their support of ODF (Massachusetts' Quinn and a long letter from an Indian professor come to mind). There were demonstrations by people disgusted with how OOXML was handled in various places.

OOXML is immature, its passage was full of controversies, and it was crafted by a serious anticompetitive monopolist. It is not supported well by open source. What more needs to be said? Especially since all of these points contrast with ODF.

thanks for those thoughts

Glyn Moody's picture

some important points you raise

Know thy enemy

bugstomper's picture

I've noticed that the pro-Microsoft bloggers tend to repeat talking points. You would do well to familiarise yourself with the arguments that have been used as rebuttals to the claims of people who were accusing Microsoft of improprieties surrounding the adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard. I have found Microsoft's Doug Mahugh as one of the slickest of the people on that side. There is quite a bit of material on his blog, much not relevant to your preparation for this meeting, but you could try focusing in his blog archive on the dates surrounding the OOXML BRM. You could also try this Google search for Doug Mahugh on Rob Weir's blog as a way to get a manageable number of hits that will tend to include exchanges between the two of them and links to some of the more relevant of Mahugh's blog entries. I might be biased, but I am always left with the impression that the arguments keep following a pattern of an issue being brought up about some negative Microsoft behaviour, a very reasonable sounding post about it by Mahugh, a devastating rebuttal by Weir, and what seems like an attempt by Mahugh to sidestep the issue and reframe the debate. It does seem like useful preparation to read those over.

good point

Glyn Moody's picture

I'll revisit his blog

Andrew MacDonald's picture


Check out Andy Undergrove's Standards Blog ( He has been following this from the very beginning, I believe that the length and breadth of his coverage is unqualed.



Glyn Moody's picture

on the list - thanks

Hi Glyn I would recommend

Anonymous's picture

Hi Glyn

I would recommend that you assemble a team to help you during this debate. I would have at least 2 people present with you; one for fact checking, and one to post questions via Twitter or IRC. You can bet that the landscape is going to change rapidly during that debate, and you can bet that Microsoft is going to have a huge team assembled. Thing of an iceberg -- only the tip of their team will be visible in the room. The rest will be hammering away via some kind of chat.

Good luck

Christian Einfeldt

Oh no!

Anonymous's picture

"In fact, Microsoft saw another major supplier as the villain of the piece."

Microsoft the victim? Classic tactic to draw attention away from the real issue.

I think my mum's been teaching them emotional manipulation!

Your rant

Anonymous's picture

It would be more effective to more individuals if you used proper grammar.

Groklaw is a great source,

Anonymous's picture

Groklaw is a great source, I'd rank this one a close second for documneting dirty tricks and the like.

XML specific stuff:


Glyn Moody's picture

for those

The aftermath

realeyes's picture

1) Here is a link to the proprietary dependencies of OOXML:

and another at O'Reilly:

2) Ars Technica has an article on the challenges to the decision from Brazil, South Africa, and India, which has links to other sites with more information:

3) As a counterpoint to support for OOXML, here is the list of contributors to ODF, which should be a real eye-opener for Mr. Steel:

Later . . . Jim


Glyn Moody's picture

some of those are new to me - thanks

Are you selling, if so what ?

Chris 2009's picture

It will focus your discussion if you figure out what you are trying to sell. Are you selling hardware, selling software, or selling services ?
If you're going into this discussion without an intent to sell anything, why are you even going into the discussion ?

Newham Council is a classic 'organisation with money to spend'. I imagine that Microsoft will want to take that money with Microsoft Office; IBM will want to take that money with Lotus Notes; and maybe some other vendors will want to take that money with other offerings, either software or services.

That is as it should be; 'competition' is in the public interest, and so long as the IBM and Microsoft salesmen each show up to different meetings and do not agree to divide the market or collude on price, they can each make their pitches and Newham can say yes to one, yes to the other, or no to both.

IBM's going to go in selling Lotus Notes, and indicating that Newham (and anyone else in the world who cares to download it) can have IBM Lotus Symphony as a no-charge-no-warranty marketing novelty. The time-honoured tradition of giving away razors in order to sell razor blades.

You could point out that Microsoft-ware does not conform to any standard. It's as if in the 'bad old days' you had a phone connected to a British Telecom exchange, and if you wanted to dial someone with a phone connected to an ATT exchange (in the USA), you found that ATT and BT could not agree on an interconnect standard and so you would not be able to place your call; the phone at the other end could not be made to ring. We have standards for phone networks nowadays, and you can dial any other phone in the world from your phone, no matter which business provides the dial-tone to the phones.

Almost all vendors are agreeing on ISO26300 ODF as an 'interconnect standard' between their various office productivity products (and their marketing novelties); one vendor (Microsoft) is holding out for a different standard, they invested effort to make ISO issue a standard ISO29500, but they didn't invest the effort to make their product conform with ISO29500, and so there are no products which conform to ISO29500.

So it comes to the question of whether Newham want to be a sort-of Microsoft showroom, in the sense that anyone who wants to interoperate with them will have to buy Microsoft products, or whether they have an independent streak and do not want to be anybody's showroom.

Nothing wrong with being a showroom; I'm sure Ford supply Ford cars to their dealerships up and down the country for the purpose of selling Ford cars to the car-buying public.

But do Newham want to do that on public funds ?

it's pretty sad, really...

Glyn Moody's picture

...I'm not selling anything, unless it's the "truth", whatever that might be. I'm just working on the assumption that it's worth the effort of trying to make people aware of what happened at ISO, and what the increasing advantages of using free software. I'm obviously an incurable optimist....

More power to you ...

Chris 2009's picture

Laudable objectives.

But there are businesses with large stockpiles of cash lined up on both sides of this question, and it's not clear to me how they will use their cash.

And remember, the public interest is in 'competition' and 'choice in the market'. There is no public interest in Newham picking Microsoft Office over IBM Lotus Notes, or vice-versa. The public interest is in them having a choice.

So take care not to get squashed under that pile of cash. It can be very suffocating.

it was a bun fight

Alan Bell's picture

The attendance list is where it all went wrong. It seems a lot of country delegations were made up of a representative of the two biggest IT companies in the country, invariably Microsoft and IBM with the Microsoft representative getting the all important Head of Delegation role. Getting a whole lot of delegations like this in a room made the overall representation of interested parties massively skewed in favour of Microsoft and IBM were over-represented too. It turned into a party political slanging match and with the help of a three line whip Microsoft used their majority to swing the vote their way.


Glyn Moody's picture

thanks for the link to the list

OOXML Debate

normnz's picture


I was intimately involved in the Standards NZ evaluation of OOXML in New Zealand. SNZ voted against accepting OOXML as an ISO standard. It would be good if you can email me for more information.

Where is the FOSS activism in NZ?

Matt Parry's picture


To the poster above, I am also in NZ, am a Free Software advocate and VAR for small businesses specialising in an open platform.

When pitching to SMB's I am gulled by the sheer audacity of the pro-Microsoft shops that take the FOSS advantages and state that they are MS advantages. They must have a MS crib sheet that the SMB's fall for their snake oil. I have defined a clear marketing pattern / strategy.

I am looking to increase my skills at countering this affront. Could you recommend any local active groups (Ideally in Chch?) that meet regualary or have a mailing list. Please contact me MattParry.NZ AT

Thank you for your reply.


I like the idea as posted above, to take more than yourself and have someone connected via twitter / internet to a backroom of knowledge.

Short short term

normnz's picture

Another thing...

Using open source-based software in desktop and server packages offers no short-term savings.

Umm, just how short were the terms they were looking at? Sound like a time frame specifically selected to suit a particular outcome.

Taco Sauce

Anonymous's picture

Ah man, I thought the title meant you were going to make your own OS.

Hasn't someone already done that?

Glyn Moody's picture

I leave these things to the experts....

Can you re-shape the agenda

Anonymous's picture

Can you re-shape the agenda and purpose of the meeting? A debate on what happened in the standards process isn't that productive unless the discussion centers on the merits of a choice and the reality of the options. In this case, is a truly open document standard worth something to Mr. Steel or to the world at large in his view? If yes, does either OOXML or ODF truly live up to what an open document standard needs to be in order to deliver the value he sees in such a standard? If ODF does and OOXML does not, who cares how Microsoft got OOXML through, he'd still have to agree it should not have gotten through. If neither does, there's an interesting debate to be had as to whether either can become what is needed and which is likely to. Finally, if he thinks both provide the value he sees, then no amount of debate over how Microsoft got OOXML through will really matter to him.

At the end of the day, with a "customer" of these competing approaches, the only debate that really matters is about whether and how much they benefit. What you can also do and presumably already have done in your other meetings is expand the customer's view of what is valuable.

For example, not being locked in to a vendor's implementation of apps that use the document format gives freedom and negotiating power to the customer in future years (the lock-in argument). Open source may or may not cost more in the short or long term based on current prices, cost of conversion, re-training, compatibility with rest of world's choice of software, etc. but lock-in and, standard or not, lack of free, if unsupported choices for constituents to use in viewing your documents are real issues to consider, especially for governments who should not force their citizens to have to buy a product in order to see government documents.

You're right...

Glyn Moody's picture

...but the basic hook of the meeting is fixed. Other aspects will doubtless be brought in. I hope they might be discussed at later meetings.

Sweden and Norway

Stefan G's picture

I have second hand experience with the
happenings in Sweden and Norway, and I can
contact the people who were there to see
it first hand if you need direct testimony.
Reports on these irregularities are on

The information I provided on Sweden and
the brief but telling link to reports from
Norway can most definitely be verified, it
is not loose accounts based only on hearsay.

For another well informed source, you could
contact Rob Weir at IBM, the true "bad guys"
in this according to Microsoft. His blog
contains some really good writings on the