Microsoft Office lock-in and the deal with Novell

I can't urge you strongly enough to read the article entitled How Vista Lets Microsoft Lock Users In. It details how Microsoft has built into Vista the "trusted computing" ability to lock down Office files via DRM such that no unauthorized document reader will be able to decrypt and read them. This is perhaps one of the biggest hidden weapons Microsoft has in its arsenal that could sabotage Linux and if Microsoft succeeds in its attempt to plug SUSE and all Novell's "interoperability" bonuses.

Think of this, if you will, as the Tivoization of Office files, only with malicious intent. Microsoft could, indeed, open up the document format completely and swear before God that it will never sue anyone for patent infringement. However, this does not prevent Microsoft from locking Office files in such a way that only Vista users can read them. No one else will be able to do so without the proper authorization, thus rendering the open format and Microsoft compatibility entirely meaningless -- unless, of course, someone agrees to pay Microsoft for the keys to unlock those files.

The lesson here should be obvious. The FOSS community must avoid - at all costs - the practice of adopting or integrating anything into FOSS that is owned or generated by Microsoft. Ximian, and now Novell, has made it a mission to recreate Microsoft technologies on Linux. I urge the community only to allow Novell to continue to do this at its own peril. It was a massive strategic blunder to attempt to recreate dotNet on Linux as Mono. Microsoft has implicitly, by attempting to make patent deals, acknowledged Linux as a genuine threat. That makes it so much greater a danger to adopt Microsoft practices, whether it involves integration of Office document formats, Excel VBA compatibility, or anything else.

This is an ironic twist, to say the least, after all the fuss Microsoft made over the viral nature of the GPL. Microsoft, through Novell, is attempting to infect open source with hooks it can use to profit from the success of Linux at the expense of Linux users' freedoms.

Our message to Novell should be to live free or die.

I want to thank Phil Hughes for bringing the above article to my attention.


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straddling the line...

emory bugs's picture

i have to agree with the comment 3 doors down...what are you trying to do nick? anyway it is clear that microsoft have grappling hooks a plenty...

A really interesting

new thumbs daily's picture

A really interesting article.

"Live free or die"

Play Sports Games's picture

I wonder if Novell are listening at all. The subject of "freedom" is so vital...

Ethics?(a title from an earlier comment to Nicolas)

bhawks's picture

Please, all first do not mistake my comments as being pro Novell/MS deal... My comments are completely "devil's advocate". I had just earlier today read an article today, "The Ultimate Do-It-Yourself Linux Box" written by Nicholas Petreley and he states when replying to a commenter, "I'm not politically correct when it comes to worrying about tainted kernels, etc." I find it hard to believe that maybe he is only blogging to get your ire up. He is right in this instance but puts our mixed signals.

I do realize you will flame me but tainted kernel and maybe tainted code contain the same idea and problems... I do hope that Novell comes to their senses very quickly because I tend to think they forget the past and how MS screwed them at every turn and what makes them think that they(MS) have changed is crazy. So please remember when you do write your flames, I am nothing more than a very almost exclusive user of SuSE since 7.0 and I only want nothing more than for it to find the right home and for users to not over look this incredible OS just because of a bad business decision.

It's a funny club we all belong to... We truly do want our cake and to eat it.

Novell / MS - New Joint Software Venture

Common Sense's picture

Skim Cream not SCUM ! (L.J. Feb 2006 /etc/rant)

Page 16 of the Novell Connection Magazine (Second Quarter 2006 volume 17 number 2) talks about "A Hardened Back End" .

It looks like they will need it.

hope follows Firefox

linux man's picture

I have been using linux for a 2 years now, one of the reason was firefox, firefox just kicked IE's xss, but somehow have a feeling that OO.o is just not as good as M$ office, OO.o is too big, takes long to load...

Open Office slow to load

Ron Morley's picture

Yes, OO does take a while to load. However, so does MS Office if one considers the time spent when Windows is pre-loading it, during which time one can't do anything else with a WIndows box. At least with Linux and OO, if I'm too busy to wait the 10 seconds or so it takes to load up the first time, I can always do something else, on another desktop if I want.

Also, how does this comment address the underlying issue of freedom to use the software that one chooses? The whole idea of FOSS is that one is free to use whatever software one finds best suited to one's purposes, instead of being locked-in to specific programs and technology, such as MS is attempting to do with its Digital Restrictions Management technology that's built into Vista and the latest version of Office. While I have no problem if anyone chooses to use the MS product in the sincere belief that it's a better offering, I do object to being forced to use a particular product because someone else thinks I should or because that's the only way that I can gain access to the information that I need. Freedom cannot be separated from FOSS and we forget this at our peril. Novell, by making their deal with the devil, has overlooked this aspect of the FOSS world and will, I hope, be punished for it in the marketplace. I will no longer consider SuSE or any Novell product when it comes to choosing new software to use on my Linux boxen.

Just my $.02,

Microsoft Free Since 2003!

Sum Yung Gai's picture

Ron, you summed it up beautifully. It has always--ALWAYS--been about the freedom. I started understanding this back in the 1990's after MS Office 97 came out, and I had to deal with the *VERY BIG* file format problems that Word 97 in particular caused (new, incompatible, secret file format, totally broken "Save as Word 60/95" functionality). I was doing desktop support back then, and I'll never, ever forget that problem. My users, and I, were absolutely incensed! I also read the Halloween documents right about then.

It was at that time that I started taking what Richard Stallman was saying very seriously. It rang true, and I started a slow, but steady, conversion to Free Software at that point. I formatted the disk of my last Windows 98 machine at home in 2003, and I've been on Free Software ever since. I don't see myself ever going back without some kind of gun pointed at my head, as I value my freedom too much.

That's why I won't touch any version of Mac OS, either. Apple is just as bad as Microsoft, if not worse. If Apple really had their heads on straight, they would've included in OS X instead of AppleOffice or AppleSuite or whatever they call it.

And as for Novell, you dance with the Devil, you're bound to get burned.


Vista the new Linux distro by ms

Octavio Rodriguez-Z Vargas's picture

Vista is nothing new ... for some people ... including me

This comment is for all the people who belives the Vista is a "new genuine" product of Microsoft. XP on the windows tradition sussesor, but wait! why I said that? Simply, there is a java project named "looking glass", of course because this is was made on java and not in C# (the copy of java language of ms) the majority of programers and linux users yet don't know it, that's the great advantage of the "new" Aero desktop of the "new" Vista, another advantage and "new" feature is called transparency, but wait again! almost all linux users see this "new" technology since last 90's on linux terminals! the cube is a 3D desktop that has been run on a Linux for almost a year now. So, what is new in Vista? I see the crystal type of icons incrusted too, but that style has seen it on a gnome for years and in a MacOSX because it runs a BSD variant.
Now all of that can give me the reason of say: the new Linux version developed by microsoft is called Vista belive it or not!
Beyound of the desktop, under the hood is the multitasking power, traditionaly this is one of the best things on a UNIX and a UNIX like system because this can give it the traditional stability of use. Windows can't give that class of power until now with Vista, that is true? if this is it then was is it taken from the kernel of Linux? all seems to be true, another thing was the incorporation of the tcp/ip protocol back in 1995, this part of the open source give the power to windows to sell it for it self, but MS never give the credit of that to the open coumnity.
Microsoft has mixed all technologies of the OpenSource and because of the open license they can copy it and introduce to the rest of the world like if were from they, but they can potentialy demand for that to real creators and coders.
Maybe the open license should take care about it and make tha exeption of use to unique one company to preserve the open comunity.
Microsoft is doing the unique thing they do it best, the copy of all that like it, in terms of software, and then they present it like an innovator, inventor, coder and propietary of things that escape from the mind of their programers.
But beware, if you invented some part or all code of a piece of software that is incorporated in Vista, the best tip I can give you is best for you can probe it if you can't now and forever the real creator was the best pirate of all times (with U.S. goverment permision, of course): Microsoft.
For me it isn't extrange of the loking across the DRM of the files of Office, but they can incorpaorate the XML format, that's the problem.
They can take but they can't give, all in defense of their bussines.
Finaly, if MS can take the open source technology and their main ideas and give us a faulty operating system and finally attack them and try to finish them, what happen if they can make it? This is bad thing, then, who can give you more ideas Mr. Gates? from who can you stollen or borrowed? Think it twice, Mr. great pirate.

Similar to XP?

Robert's picture

A long time ago XP should be safe also, but then there are so many problems with the install-procedure.... I think with vista it´s similar...

Can't wait for MS to create a new Linux Distro

Anonymous's picture

Just so we can see Nick's head explode and watch him go supernova know MS has every right (and the talent) to create a new distro...if they so desire.

I would *love* to see MS themselves do this

Anonymous's picture

I would absolutely love it. Then, when Microsoft try to haul someone into court for "patent infringement" related to GNU/Linux, then their case becomes considerably weaker, since they themselves distributed the software under the GNU GPL. It would be like what's happening to SCO. I would truly enjoy seeing that. And that's why MS don't do it; they are seeing that, once you distribute under the GPL, the judges assume that you have actually read the license, and said judges don't like it when you don't follow it.

So please, PLEASE, Microsoft, make and distribute a GNU/Linux distribution. We are waiting.

My Take

Richard Steven Hack's picture

While I completely agree that Microsoft has never done anything but attempt to establish and maintain a "pseudo-monopoly" ("psuedo" only because it is not enforced by state law - except in this instance of DRM), and while it is obvious that Microsoft wants to destroy open source, I am less certain that either the Novell agreement, and the existence of reverse-engineered products such as Mono and the like are going to be able to ALLOW Microsoft to achieve this goal.

For one thing, Mono is not important - Java is. If Microsoft tries to hobble Mono via patent lawsuits, first, as someone else pointed out, it will be five years or more before that lawsuit is concluded and by then people will have dumped Mono and moved back to Java - or created some other language entirely. If Sun tried the same thing with Java, we'd all be coding in Perl or Ruby or Python - or even reverting to C++ and C.

So Mono is a red herring - ignore it.

As for the Novell deal, the bottom line again is: how can ANY lawsuit put forth by Microsoft prevent the OSS community from "coding around it"? Even more significant, while a successful Microsoft lawsuit might force the business community to restrict its use of OSS, this would not stop development overseas where US laws don't apply. China would be HAPPY, I'm sure, to see US business strangle itself for the benefit of one company that China is not interested in seeing dominate ITS business community. You want to code OSS stuff? Start learning Chinese, would be my advice.

Third, as for the lock-in of document formats via the DMCA and DRM, this is another doomed to failure process - although clearly it can cause a lot of havoc before it fails. The entertainment industry is already failing to succeed at DRM, although they won't completely fail until they tie their DRM to the new PC hardware DRM. That's when the consumer will dump the entertainment industry completely.

The same will happen with Microsoft. While many - even most - businesses might roll over and buy into a system where Microsoft has locked them into their documents - many won't. Already there is a fair backlash against Microsoft for its incompetence at security, reliability, the slowness of new system upgrades (Vista) and most importantly, the expense. This isn't going to be rolled back by Microsoft strong-arming business into requiring its documents.

Sure, there will be chaos during the shakeout in the next ten years. In a way, the situation is like Iraq. Currently there is a disaster going on there, and the disaster ultimately will reflect badly on the organizers - the US. But eventually things will shake out and settle down into a - probably bad for the Iraqi citizens - steadier state. The same will happen for OSS and computer users in general here.

In other words, condemn Microsoft's actions and point out where they're wrong - but don't panic. If you think Microsoft is going to win unless you can reverse their actions - you've already lost - because you don't have that power.

The only power you have is to deal with any situation creatively.

Sums it up

HarryTuttle's picture

If you put you head inside

Anonymous's picture

If you put you head inside the lion's mouth, it is bound to get bitten off. If you look at history, MSFT has NEVER acted as a company one can trust. Open XML is nothing different.

Restricted Access

Plabius Secundus's picture

This has a consequence apparently unforseen by Microsoft. If someone uses MS Word to write you a letter that you cannot access without your own paid-for-copy of MS Word, then Microsoft has, effectively, denied you access to the writer's speech. If you must pay Microsoft a (license) fee in order to access a person's speech, then Microsoft's behavior is most unreasonable and, perhaps, unconstitutional.

Unforseen consequences

Ron Morley's picture

IANAL, but I don't think you'd get far with the unconstitutionality argument. Businesses are generally exempt from the requirement to abide by the Bill of Rights, etc.: that's why the unwarranted search of your person, otherwise known as the Drug Test, has been found to present no Constitutional problem. It's why the company has the right to read all of the email you send using its facilities, why it can search your office whenever it desires, and so forth.

However, again bearing in mind that IANAL, you might get somewhere with a restraint of trade suit. I think that the requirement that you possess a particular piece of software in order to access information that you, lacking the intervention of technology such as Digital Restrictions Management, would ordinarily be available to you could be regarded as presenting an unreasonable obstacle to your ability to pursue a livelihood. I believe that it's a commonly accepted principle that a person cannot be forced to hand over money to a business simply because that business has decided that they like the idea. Unless I'm missing something big, it seems to me that this is the ground that we should be fighting on. It's all well and good to fight on the principle of freedom of choice and I support those who do so, but it seems to me that we need to open up another front in this war and start fighting on ground of our choosing. MS may have just handed us the weapon to do so.

Just my $.02,

Fuller Statement of Restricted Access (or, Reply to Mr. Morley)

Plabius Secundus's picture

Mr. Morley,

My argument, though only briefly stated, is much more broad than that.

First: The Microsoft corporation does NOT own all of the content generated by the use of its software but, rather, ONLY the content generated by its own employees. Thus, if Microsoft wishes to control their business related communications, they are free to do so. However, since I am not an employee of Microsoft, and do not communicate with those who are, this question never arises.

My argument applies to any and all persons (even unemployed ones, but not employees of Microsoft) who use Microsoft software to communicate to or with other persons. Thus, if I write a letter to my mother, the content of the letter is my copyrighted material. As such, Microsoft cannot (or should not be allowed to) decide who gets to access my letter. Nor can Microsoft control the distribution of my speech. That is for ME to control.

Second: Whether or not Microsoft is "presenting an unreasonable obstacle to...[my]...ability to pursue a livelihood" is entirely irrelevant to my argument (though, as you point out, quite valid in its own right) because my argument does NOT presuppose a business relationship with Microsoft or any of its subsidiaries.

Here is what is at issue: 1) My right to speak; 2) My right to deliver my speech to those who wish access it; and 3) the right of those persons to access my speech. If Microsoft wants to claim that ownership of its software gives them the right to violate 1, 2, or 3, then they need to justify that violation.

No OpenXML in OOo and no VBA?

CPinto's picture

When did it start being a bad thing to be able to open proprietary formats in, and when did it start being a bad thing to achieve maximum interoperability with those formats?

I mean,were it the work of a brilliant hacker, everyone would cheer but because this is official stuff suddenly it's a bad thing for OSS users?

Where does this put Samba, for example? Samba reverse engineers Microsoft's protocol. Doesn't it fall into the evil stuff category too?

I, for one, really do welcome this kind of interoperability because it allows me to actually use Linux and at work and to lobby for others to use it as well. When everyone is using it, then no one will really care about Microsoft formats will they?

Unlike many people around here, I happen to work for a national government and you'll have to trust me when I say this: interop "or die"! The Linux/OOo adoption that has been touted around the press is nothing more than the first yard of the marathon.

Re: No OpenXML in OOo

Ron Morley's picture

You have missed the point. I have no problem with proprietary formats. If the stupid and short-sighted people of the world want to lock themselves into a parasitic (on the part of the vendor) relationship with MS, that's their right. Where the problem arises is over the issue of Digital Restrictions Management being built into Vista and Office combined with the fact that MS will be the holder of the keys and will demand their pound of flesh to allow access to the data being "protected": held for ransom is more like it. The whole idea of a so-called "Open Format" being locked-down by MS, aside from the oxymoronic issues involved, goes against the very essence of FOSS - freedom to choose the software and technology that one finds best suited for one's own purposes. Do you really want to place yourself and others in the position of being required by MS to use their products simply so that you can access information that you need? That's the point that we should be concentrating on.

The technical issue of reverse-engineering the format of MS's implementation of OpenXML can be solved. The legal issue is that, because of the DMCA, it is illegal to attempt to reverse-engineer the Digital Restrictions Management technology built into Vista and Office or implement in the US if someone overseas breaks it (bear in mind here that IANAL). Until the DMCA is found to be unconstitutional it will be impossible for any US-based programmer to try to break the scheme. MS is relying on a combination of this and the fact that, even if the technology is reverse-engineered, it will still hold the keys needed to decrypt the data, to assure itself of a never-ending revenue stream.

Just my $.02,

Here's when and how it became bad

Anonymous's picture

1.) The contribution's coming from Novell, which has a special patent agreement with Microsoft. The so-called "patent rights" are not transferable. That makes it legally dangerous to accept anything--ANYTHING--further from Novell into Free Software projects at this point, until they terminate that portion of the agreement with Microsoft. It's a shame, but nonetheless true.

2.) Microsoft didn't patent the SMB protocol. They can't; there's prior work by IBM, since IBM invented it. That's why Samba can exist. That's also why Microsoft's trying to extend it in ways that they think they *can* patent. The same applies for MS Office 97/2000/XP/2003 file formats; as trade secrets, they aren't patented. On the other hand, MS's "Open" Office XML apparently is patent-encumbered. That means it could be legally dangerous for *anyone* except for proprietary vendors to implement it. Note that I didn't say, "*is* legally dangerous." I said, "*could be* legally dangerous." Most F/OSS developers don't have seven figures of US dollar$ to contest a patent lawsuit, and also there's the issue that courts tend to grant injunctions quite freely on the mere allegation of a patent infringement...until the case concludes, say, two or three years later.

That's why it could be bad. Yes, it is scary. That's why 1.) software patents are so damned evil, and 2.) why we need to push ODF as much as is possible. Since you work for a national government and are a reader of Linux Journal Online, well, help us in this! Push for ODF adoption! Get others to do it too; make the case for it where you work.

Not supporting OOXML in OOo isn't the answer

IFireBall's picture

Lets take a look at possible scenarios here

1. Lets say we have it your way, nobody implements OOXML support in OOo, then MS realese a new version of MS Office, and OOXML becomes the de-facto standard for Office users (its what the "save" button does), OOo users find themselves forced to keep around a version of MS Office in order to communicate with the rest of the world, eventually dumping OOo (maybe even Linux) becasue there is little reason and comfort in keeping 2 versions of similar software.
I just don't think OOo has enough market power (yet) to prevent that from happening, given that fact that most computer users still think that to type text you need "Word" rather then "a Word Processor".

2. Novel (or someone else, for that matter) impelements OOXML support for OOo, its illegal to use in non-Novell distros, so it gets put in the "Non-Free" or "Restricted" sections. However, most users install it since they care for the vague legality as much as they care for the legality of say, the Nvidia drivrs...
Eventually MS decides to sue everyone for violating it's patents (and lets say they don't care for the bad publicity it brings), IBM, Oracle, Sun and RedHat get involved each bringing its own battary of lawyers, the case drags on for years like the SCO case, and in the end, nobody really cares for the results, the technology scene already changes from end to end... (Or maybe the legislators, made aware to the problems in software patents by the publicised trial, fianly make some needed revision to the patnet laws...)

I think I'd rather live though scenario #2, being able to use a technology while having the vendors fight over it in court then not being able to use the technology at all.

You have perfectly described the conundrum

Anonymous's picture

I basically agree with your analysis. It's why MS Office is on 90+ percent of desktop computers in the world. That's the problem. In the past, it was possible, and legal, if somewhat difficult, to reverse-engineer Microsoft's proprietary file formats. That's why is so important.

Microsoft, of course, recognizes this, and that's why it's moving from trade secrets to software patents, to actually make it *illegal* to implement in a truly independent way. This is your "scenario #1."

Scenario #2 is what will likely actually happen for the home user (not business user--see below). A better example than the nVidia driver--which actually is legal by the skin of its teeth--would be the MPlayer and libdvdcss projects. Those are actually illegal in the United States because of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), but I know tons of home users who use it, including me. :-) But most businesses don't let their employees watch e. g. "The Matrix" or "Superman Returns" at their desks when they're supposed to be working, so for most businesses, the danger of DMCA lawsuits due to MPlayer and libdvdcss pretty much is a no-op. So, for home users, Scenario #2 is at least liveable.

On the other hand, file formats for office productivity suite documents are a *BIG DEAL* in the business environment, as we all know. General Motors, Ernie Ball Inc., school districts, and countless small businesses cannot afford the risk of a patent infringement lawsuit in your Scenario #2, above. They just won't accept that risk. So, your Scenario #1 is infinitely more likely to occur in the business world. That means your desktop, too, if you're employed in virtually any office environment, so you won't have Scenario #2 available to you at work.

That is the conundrum that Microsoft wants to--again--force upon us, but this time through legal means instead of trade secret means. If we don't support OOXML, both home and business users will need to keep around a copy of MS Office. If we do support OOXML, scared companies--large and small--will not accept the risk of a BSA-style Gestapo raid and will opt for MS Office instead. That effectively forces MS Office on *you*, the home user, too. The only escape from this is ODF, and MS knows it.

That is why we need you, especially you government employees, to promote truly open standards like ODF. Please, don't just sit on your ass on this one! We need you.

Scenario #2b: due to patent

Anonymous's picture

Scenario #2b: due to patent and cost issues, businesses start demanding ODF support and forbidding use of MSOOXML.

This is made more likely by governments migrating to ODF.

Spot on, there

Anonymous's picture

You're absolutely correct. That's why I asked that government employee to help us promote ODF. We have to do this.

Government employees, managers, etc.:

I REPEAT: Please do not sit on your asses on this one! WE NEED YOU! Help us--and yourselves--by promoting ODF.

Wrong example

David Anderson's picture

How is using the drivers from Nvidia illegal? It's legal to use them,because Nvidia themselves provide them. The debate was whether or not you want a 100% proprietary free system.

The legality issue

Anonymous's picture

The legality issue is:

--proprietary drivers
--copylefted kernel

Some say that these don't mix.

Can't see the link here

IFireBall's picture

I can't really see how you link the fact that Vista may contain DRM technology to calling the FOSS community not to adopt Microsoft related technologies.
The fact that a certain technology can be used by one company or another to lock-in users doesn't mean it can't be used to empower users when brought into the FOSS world, look at all the nice thing that have been done with Mono the last few years such as Beagle and Tomboy, it has enabled a whole class of programmers coming from Windows and .NET to become productive on Linux with much shorter learning curves.
I mean, if a technologiy has potential then by all means it should be adopted, one of the strengths of the Linux family of operating systems is its extreme versatility and the fact that it includes all kinds of technologies, for example I can use a Linux server as a bridge between Windows and Solaris servers because it can "speak" both SMB and NFS.
About document formats, I can't really see what do you expect to gain from not supporting MS-XML (or whatever it's called) in Open Office, trying to use that to lavarage people into not using the format would be as effective as trying to get then to stop using *.doc has been for the last few years...
Eventually people will use whatever the "save" button of their "favorite" word processor would produce, and you damn well be able to open that if you ever want to be able to replace that word processor.

Who holds the keys

Nicholas Petreley's picture

DRM-protected documents can actually be a good thing. The issue here is who holds the keys. Microsoft's way would make Microsoft the one who determines whether or not you can open a document. That's the problem. Worse, the fact that Microsoft holds the keys makes it possible to tie they locking/unlocking mechanism to Vista, rendering it impossible to read an encrypted document on any other platform. Adopting OOXML as the de-facto standard document format makes that much more likely to happen.

$DEITY! What rock did these idiots crawl from under

Joe Klemmer's picture

Normally I do not dignify the rants and idiotic statements of fools but this is just to much. The possibility that MS can and will do this is blatantly obvious. It's been long known that whomever controls the data (i.e. file formats) controls the computer.

The idealist in me thinks MS should try this tactic. People will see how horrible it is and finally kick MS to the curb. There's no way that the government of any country could conceivably risk being trapped by this.

The pragmatist (pessimist?) in me says that the lobbyists and mainstream media and the billions of dollars MS will spend on marketing will just have people, and governments, rolling over and doing anything MS wants them to.

It's disheartening.

Indie Game Dev and Linux User
Contact Info:
"Running Linux since 1991"


Kwatery's picture

If we do support OOXML, scared companies--large and small--will not accept the risk of a BSA-style Gestapo raid and will opt for MS Office instead.

It's sad to see so many blind mice in the world.....

G Fernandes's picture

Reading the responses on this page, it is sad to see the short-sightedness of the people who think that "this is a good thing". I can only say that such people have absolutely no knowledge of the history of Microsoft.

For those of you who are interested in opening your eyes, please read the following:

For the rest of you short-sighted people, at the very least have the courtesy to shut up.

Fortunately there are people with foresight in the Free Software community. Fortunately also, these are the people who matter.

So, keep shooting your mouths off short-sighted people - in time in the future, when you don't even remember what you said today, you will see the benefits of the foresight of others who can see.

But of course, since you won't remember, it won't matter.

Let the scales fall from the blind mice's eyes

L Clark's picture

All they need to do is read the "Findings of Fact" in the U.S. vs. Microsoft antitrust case:

Warning - it's a long read, but you're unlikely to look at Microsoft in the same light ever again.


Nicholas Petreley's picture

Thanks for the links. I recommend that the others here read what Bob Sutor has to say. I heard from Bob Sutor on this via email, and here's how I responded to this great question from one of the links above:

A final question: to what degree does using an open document standard make it harder for a vendor to implement a later platform lock-in strategy via DRM? Maybe no difference whatsoever, but the question needs to be answered.

From a technical perspective, you're probably right that it makes no difference. But there are two other factors here:

1. From a psychological perspective, I think it might make enough difference to prevent MS from trying to lock-in users with DRM. Opened or not, everyone knows Office XML is Microsoft's format. It is psychologically consistent for Microsoft to lock what it invented, and Microsoft could foster the perception that it is doing it to protect its users. It is not psychologically consistent for Microsoft to lock an open document. That would be more likely to be perceived by users as a way to lock out other platforms, and would be bad publicity.

2. Being an open document format it did not create, Microsoft would have a hard time justifying why it is the exclusive holder of the keys. It would be like passport all over again. Even if MS created a DRM engine for protecting documents, it would probably be forced to allow anyone to run their own key server so companies could manage their own privacy constraints. And those companies with a heterogeneous environment would simply implement it so that it worked on all platforms.

Those are my guesses, anyway.


Clau C's picture

That was a quite interesting article there. Knowing that Microsoft makes it's most of the capital from Windows and Office sells, I expect them to try and "boycott" other competing products (so I don't agree with some posters here, that it's FUD what Mr. Petreley is writing). I don't know a time when Microsoft's intentions were other than making money; what has MS ever done good for the community?! Quite nothing, really...
I really look forward to what the future will bring ;-)

What about public documents?

ErRoNeUs's picture

For the longest time, the argument against using proprietary and 'secret/priviledged' formatted documents in government activity was that people wouldn't be able to read the documents their government uses in its operation.

Wouldn't this new thing Microsoft may be doing add fuel to that fire?

Venezuela is one such example

Anonymous's picture

You're right. In countries whose governments haven't been bought by large multinational corporations, that fire is raging. Microsoft hasn't been able to buy off Venezuela or Brazil at this point, and their F/OSS projects are going forward, especially Venezuela's. See, that's why Microsoft is attempting to put an "open" veneer on their Closed Office XML formats, because if Europe, which is teetering on the fence right now, goes with the "open documents for citizens" argument, the loss for MS would be just too big.

Other than the openness to lawsuits, there is nothing "open" about a patent-encumbered file format.

Nick, once again, right on!

Anonymous's picture

I just read Cory's article. Richard Stallman has been pointing this out for years, and it's correct. It's really a "Treacherous Platform Module," and I "trust" nothing about it. This is even more incentive for me to continue to use Free Software and truly Free formats. Like a previous poster, I too don't like the ad-hominem attacks against you for what you wrote; such attackers clearly have no case.

The people who made these comments ...

Anonymous's picture

... remind me the of people living in the west who once were so fascinated with the fantastic achievements of communism, that they kept extolling its virtues to everyone.

Lenin called them "useful idiots".

Guess what Ballmer, Gates & Co. think about people like you ...
they're just not saying it - yet.


Anonymous's picture


The people who propogated this myth...

Anonymous's picture

You didn't do your research:

Guess what I think of useless idiots?


Anonymous's picture

Did anyone bother to read the article Nicholas indicated?

I, for one, have read the article and it's not like it's by an unknown dude like me (or all of you, btw).

Respect people's reputation!

And what is this knee jerk thing? We're discussing this "excellent" deal for weeks. If you think it's all rosy, companies can be good citizens, evil-doers suddenly see the light... ok, good for you pure of heart!

Well, FWIW, I don't.

And I have a lot more faith in Nicholas Petreley which came to Linux years before Novell.

Shame on you, resorting to ad hominem attacks...

Whew ....

jorge_'s picture

Really, don't hold back, what do you think about Mono? You don't mention it NEARLY enough. You went like three entries in a row without slagging Ximian or Mono.

You're slipping, you forgot to tie in GNOME this time in your little delusion.

I think all of this will make open source better

Jake rivers's picture

I think all of this will just make open source look even better to the average user.

I'm so relieved I cancelled my subscription

Anonymous pbardet's picture

When I think you're editor in chief at Linux Journal, I'm just sorry to see that you're spending so much time ridiculing yourself in public.

It's just too bad for LJ. I hope they do the right thing quickly now...

BTS, I can't login anymore since I'm not subscribed, and can't use my real name since it belongs to a registered user...

The Linux community couldn't give a rats about Microsoft

Rotteen Ralph's picture

Sorry guys - this blog is pretty much a knee jerk reaction.

I have to agree....FUD.....

Nick your a bonehead

Stick the Nick's picture

What does the DRM in Vista have to do with Linux and it's file system. Nothing. Do you really think Novell would include DRM in SUSE. No. Is it even possible? No. The lesson here should be obvious, Nickolass Petreley is now the industry spokes person on FUD...

So, Stick the Nick, you read the article, then?

Anonymous's picture

The point is that if M$ get their way with Vista and Office, it'll be illegal (read it -- ILLEGAL), if not impossible, for anyone to try to make OOo interoperable with their [M$'s] encrypted 'open' file formats.
This locks MS Office users (and anyone wanting to read a secured document produced with MS Office) into using MS Office (or a licensed 3rd-party app) to view it.

I couldn't care less if M$

tinkerbelle's picture

I couldn't care less if M$ wants to shut itself into a quite corner of the web by restricting its documents to other M$ users. It will not affect me. I use OOo or anything else for my work and as it is open format anyone can read it if I share it.

If someone wants to stick with a DRM'd format and wants me to be able to read what they say then they have to make the effort to convert their file to an open format or I wont read it. So home users could well be mainly FOSS users and governments/buisiness will find they cant communicate with end users (formally known as customers) without doing more work converting docs.

I am concerned that M$ might be persuing some backdoor takeover / lockdown in Linux systems and am boycotting Novell products including openSuse until they stop colaborating or the worries are proved to be unfounded. It is important though to advise Novell of the boycot, if they get 1000's of people telling them they are stoping using their products then they cannot say there have been no complaints.

Small business

Gifts's picture

The truth is that if Microsoft went ahead with this, it would not only lose its reputation, but it would lose a major part in the market place. Why? Because most computer users will not be happy to have to get Office for their computer. While Linux may be a small thing, compared to Microsoft, the fact of the matter is that people still do exchange files with people of other formats. The aggravation involved – especially when we look at servers and the like – will be enough to push people rather to standardize on a format that may possibly not be Microsoft. Lotus notes, for instance, could capitalize on a market here and word will get around that other applications are just more 'friendly' when it comes to swopping files etc.
Seriously- what I mean, is that if I take my Openoffice DOC files to the local printer and they can't access them, they will blame Microsoft not me. Small businesses will stick their noses up at Microsoft – which means personal users will do so – and the only people they may have is the corporates left. This would actually mean that Microsoft has destroyed its own dream – to put a computer in every household.