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Summary: Insight into Microsoft’s infiltration into Free software-dominated datacentres
OVER the past couple of months we have written a lot about the curious case of Switzerland, where Microsoft was chosen by the government without even opening up to bids from other companies. This was covered in:
The latest development in this case is rather discouraging.
A preliminary ruling around the legality of the Swiss government’s decision to allow a software contract to be awarded to Microsoft without any other vendors being asked to tender has found in favour of the tech giant. But open source supporters should still hold out hope, according to legal experts.
Here is a newer update:
Swiss Government Has Microsoft ‘Dependency’
Also commenting on the ongoing case, Karsten Gerloff from the Free Software Foundation said that the Swiss department concerned should break free from its dependance on one vendor.
“Free Software offers users strategic control over their infrastructure. This problem is by no means limited to Switzerland. Across Europe, it’s quite common for public bodies to either hand out contracts to proprietary software vendors without a proper public bidding procedure,” he said in a blog posting.
The case above is a familiar one and it happens not only at governmental levels. From two separate informants of ours we have learned that the same thing is happening in academic institutions. Based on administration/teaching stuff at two universities, we have gathered a sort of picture of how Microsoft is taking over IT services without the consent of those who will be affected.
One person tells us:
Here’s a funny. I was in a meeting today and some Windows guys were discussing Sharepoint. The boss asks “what are the disadvantages of Sharepoint?” One guy immediately says “It’s not open source.” but then goes on to say “You can use templates anywhere …” as if that makes up for it not being open source. Another of them said that “It’s Microsoft-only.” with all that implies in terms of not playing nice with others. Considering the source, that one was a good answer, but I almost laughed out loud at the first one. [...]
At random, another story I heard today:
Microsoft Exchange Is MIT’s New Email System
I don’t know whether it’s more surprising that a renowned technical school like MIT would go to Exchange as their mail system in the first place or that it took them so long to say “Me too” to go with all the other Ivy League schools that have already moved to Exchange. Truthfully, this is a disheartening trend. We haven’t yet moved to Exchange as “the e-mail system”, but we already have occasional problems with mysteriously disappearing e-mail, odd IMAP server behaviour, incoming mail that may bounce unpredictably and lack of an audit trail for troubleshooting. The most disheartening things are the loss of commitment to open standards and the consequent discrimination in favour of proprietary software.
I could have asked a third question of the MIT move to Exchange: why make this move now when it’s clear that Microsoft is losing momentum and many are moving to open source solutions instead?
This was also the context of the discussion on Sharepoint. We already have some open standards, non-Microsoft solutions in place for problems spaces such as Wiki, file sharing, personal Web pages and ticketing. Now, because there are a few projects which require Sharepoint, the boss is considering scrapping all of these other systems and moving to the Microsoft system (i.e. the one ring to bind them.) I suppose he thinks he would be saving money that way. In that case, it’s even funnier that he didn’t ask the usual questions about TCO first.
The truth of the matter is that our CIO just quit and the future is uncertain. It’s an open question about whether he got pushed out, but his superiors clearly did prefer Exchange for e-mail. The former CIO generally did not like Microsoft and tried to keep them at an arms length away even though of course the vast majority of people use Windows as the client operating system. We have Exchange, but the former CIO was pressured into implementing it. I certainly hope that the new CIO, who is so far unknown, doesn’t bring a “prefer Microsoft” or an “aggressively promote Microsoft” philosophy. The boss is probably trying to prepare for that eventuality.
Ivy League schools may be the exception and the United States in general is moving away from Microsoft more slowly than the rest of the world. So we asked another person who may be familiar with the situation.
Someone who was in a similar position wrote:
Funny, the critique of Microsoft imitation of the following did not mention any of the serious complaints: Microsoft Sharepoint is expensive as hell, has a byzantine licensing scheme incurring per seat costs (CALs), is slow as hell, has lots of down time, runs only on a virus-susceptible OS, loses data, is hard to use, does not work with non- Microsoft systems and only marginally better with Microsoft systems.
Here are the systems their dialog should have covered:
Also, if you dig (you will have to) you can find that Sharepoint and .NET at the epicenter of the catastrophic, total, prolonged failure of electronic services for several chains of banks. Sharepoint and .NET were loudly touted as miracles up to the changeover. The day of the changeover, things fell down and did not get back up for many months. Money could not be received, money could not be transferred out, and on the rare occasion it could be access was not limited to the account owner!
The original dialog matches last year’s tactic of agreeableness and misdirection. Microsoft people learned to say “you are right …” followed by a paraphrase of the problem or accusation. Most people would assume, wrongly, that the admission would lead to corrective action. Nope. It lead to more of the same. If the “you are right”+paraphrase response was followed up by asking what they were going to do to fix the problem, then the response was angrier and aggressive.
Furthermore we learn:
I did some asking around and found out that this project to deploy a big rollout of Sharepoint has been in the works for a long time. The decision has already been made…
Standard Microsoft marketing: present Microsoft as inevitable and a done deal. Also, it is typical for Microsoft to plan and scheme in secret for a long time and build up base before going public. Outsiders, those not on the pro- Microsoft bandwagon, will not get anything other than double talk.
First step: Identify the individual staff responsible for introducing that mindset. Organized crime is organized crime with or without a computer and the counter measures are well-established.
… and the only thing that is preventing it from happening is the current economic climate …
That, and the fact that it won’t work and there would be backlash.
If it is rolled out now while Microsoft has a weaker grip on the populace and everyone is looking for non- Microsoft alternatives, the team trying to claim credit for the work will end dangling from lamp posts. Microsoft minions are working like mad to ensure that decision makers are unable to find out about the original technologies and those that do manage to find out are kept isolated from those who can deploy them.
… and commensurate lowered budget allotment for IT. This is the ” expensive as hell” point above. Microsoft wants about half a million dollars for a full scale deployment.
Fire the people who even considered proposing Sharepoint. They’re working against his company. It’s like Peoplesoft, you can only win by walking away early in the game.
… Indeed. What’s so ironic is that we already have neutral 3rd party vendors for our file sharing and wiki services, we use straight Apache (with perhaps PHP and Tomcat) for personal home pages and most other Web sites and we are deploying Drupal as a portal for this fall. What are they thinking? To replace all of those perfectly good, open standards platforms with something that has many problems of its own just because a few projects need it and it has that “magical” shiny Microsoft label?
Yes. That’s probably what they are thinking, if they are thinking. Religions and movements usually are more about feeling than thinking.
What can be done with such people who put their political movement’s agenda in priority over their own employer’s or even their own nation’s? It is about saving your nation, double entendre included and addressing the Microsoft political movement preventing it from damaging further the nation’s economy and sovereignty. Those clowns are putting a lot of people out of work to fund their monkey business. I’m surprised that analysts like Naomi Klein haven’t latched onto the part that the rolling
failures caused by Microsoft products play in the “shock doctrine” and its use in sedition.
As further input from one person we have:
I believe the slippery slope to this madness began when we agreed to entertain Exchange and then the decision was made to switch everyone to it. These decisions were imposed on us from above, which is how Microsoft typically infests enterprises. This is yet another sign that higher education in the US is becoming more corporate (including an “intellectual property office” which licences patents from University-sponsored research.) [...]
Starting in the early ’90′s, I began to hear stories of enterprises that adopted Windows due by management fiat. Generally, Microsoft was considered the enemy of technicians. In these stories I heard, Microsoft would make a pitch to the CIO’s group with the ploy that their applications and servers would work more smoothly because they also designed the client operating system. Nonetheless, the CIOs often weren’t swayed by that argument because they knew that their product was generally inferior and they were wary of being too beholden to one vendor. In that case, they would go above the CIO’s head and pitch their wares directly to the CEO and then they were generally successful.
I believe that a variation of this is what happened at my university. Our CIO did not care to use Exchange campus-wide but instead wanted to sell it to departments as a premium service for which they would be billed. The first bad thing to happen is that many people were unhappy with the Oracle calendar system we used and there was a sense of uncertainty about how committed Oracle was to the product. Ergo, Exchange became our calendaring platform. The second bad thing which happened was that a new administration came in and they wanted Exchange. They told us in effect “either you run Exchange for us or we will have someone else do it.” Next, the economy went south, the budget for IT was cut and the administration told us “we see no reason to support 2 different mail systems, so we want to standardise on Exchange.”
Around the same time, the administration wanted to deploy a couple of applications written by some other academic institutions and, for these, Sharepoint was a required component. At some point afterwards, the decision was made to standardise on Sharepoint. My guess is that the logic was the same as that used for the decision to standardise on Exchange. Overall, the big push for migration to Microsoft servers at my university was provided by the administration. Our CIO has recently decided to leave and I also suppose that he saw too much meddling in his decisions from above and decided that his position became much less attractive as a result.
Summary: News of interest about intellectual monopolies
A notorious patent case about a technology that allows people to search multimedia content may finally be coming to a close.
Earlier this week, a judge ruled that two patents initially awarded to Encyclopedia Britannica are invalid. The patents were built on the infamous 5,241,671 patent first unveiled by Compton’s NewMedia in 1993 at the Comdex trade show.
Voice-to-text company SpinVox is under pressure after a dossier, alleging financial irregularities, was circulated to shareholders.
In July 2005, after several failed attempts to legalise software patents in Europe, the patent establishment changed its strategy. Instead of explicitely seeking to sanction the patentabilitty of software, they are now seeking to create a central European patent court, which would establish and enforce patentability rules in their favor, without any possibility of correction by competing courts or democratically elected legislators.
Jorge Taylor had a patent for a chemical sealant device for repairing flat tires (U.S. Pat. No. 5,178,701) and had to pay the seven-and-a-half-year maintenance fee of $1040. But, Mr. Taylor sent a check for $1030, rather than $1040, in the mail and used the wrong form for transmitting his payment, and sent it to the Applications Branch rather than the Maintenance Fee branch – sort of a hat trick of errors.
PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY BTG is trying to stop certain computer products from reaching American shores because they infringe on some of its patents.
• Oppn to officials taking up plum posts in WTO, WIPO ["a too-cosy club, v. close to corrupt," says Glyn Moody]
Civil society groups have complained against the practice of senior commerce ministry officials taking up plum posts with international agencies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) with whom they have been involved in direct negotiations on issues of national interest.
Summary: Microsoft’s agitation of Yahoo! since February 2008 takes its toll on more Free software-oriented staff
When Yahoo! became a zombie to Microsoft it was apparent that Free software would suffer as a result. Yahoo! is — after all — the home of some Free software projects, systems administrators, and developers. The founder of Delicious has just gone on the record saying that he regrets selling to Yahoo! and The Register says that the founder of Hadoop is leaving too.
Yahoo! is losing the founder of Hadoop, that increasingly popular open source grid platform based on Google’s proprietary software infrastructure.
There is at least one GNU/Linux distribution which is based on Hadoop and some Free software-based ‘clouds’ depend on this project too. Other prominent losses include Jeremy Zawodny, who is now writing occasionally for Linux Magazine. Zimbra too felt the wrath of Microsoft due to uncertainty that has been cast onto it. So, we’re inclined to believe that Microsoft’s damage to Yahoo! is also an attack on Free software. We are already concerned about VMware buying SpringSource because VMware is headed by former Microsoft employees right now [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. █
Summary: A quick look at people who welcome Microsoft into the realms of its sworn enemy
IT IS no secret that Microsoft hates GNU and Linux. Its occasional remarks serve as an unequivocal reminder and those who do not notice this are simply not paying attention. This is just the truth, beyond the lying, the spin, and the marketing which saturates the mainstream press.
As we last mentioned a week ago, Microsoft touched the GPL only after threat of being sued. Yes, Microsoft’s ‘goodwill’ was hinged on a lawsuit [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], but a lot of people either have not paid attention or simply preferred to ignore the evidence and embrace Microsoft PR instead.
“Some people drank the Kool-Aid from Microsoft and they honestly believe that Microsoft has changed.”In a nutshell, it was an accident for Microsoft. It was an unfortunate accident. Microsoft wanted to avoid being sued so it complied, but it still hates the GPL. How do we know? Well, in the past few weeks we have given many quotes from Microsoft’s seniors of utmost importance — people who expressed their contempt for GPL very clearly. They even compare it to harmful things like “viruses” and poor forms of “communism” (let us ignore the fact that Microsoft’s monoculture is akin to communism).
Some people drank the Kool-Aid from Microsoft and they honestly believe that Microsoft has changed. Watch this post for example. It is influenced by pro-Microsoft spinning (the comments are better than the post by the way). How about this one? To quote some comments on it: “When the hyena shows his fangs, don’t assume he is smiling.” Another person remarks: “…all the while Microsoft has it’s hand extended with and olive branch in it, the other is behind the back with a knife just waiting for the right moment. Forget that at your own peril….”
How sad it is to see that some people in the GNU/Linux world are gullible enough to be fooled by Microsoft’s PR machine. All these so-called ‘gestures’ are about obeying rules, nothing like those Microsoft marketing messages that it endlessly emitted about Samba, which Microsoft gave up to only after nearly a decade of court disputes and heavy fines. Like in this case with the GPL, it was about doing what it was pushed towards doing, not goodwill. Glyn Moody has just mentioned the Samba debacle again:
It’s a little hard to tell whether the statement “was offered an opportunity” means that it was Microsoft who instigated the project, or whether it flows from the earlier EU investigation into interoperability that led to Microsoft’s documentation being made available to Samba for a nominal sum.
It was not even free. Here is another ignoramus statement from ZDNet.
Now Microsoft has officially decided that the GPL is a good thing and is using it to release code for Linux, it’s time for the software company to take advantage of the many good things that being a member of the open source club brings.
But wait a second. When has Microsoft “decided that the GPL is a good thing”? That was an accident, it took Microsoft months to comply. Microsoft did not choose the GPL, either; it was a requirement, it was mandatory for Microsoft to do in order to advance sales of Windows Server, along with Novell’s help.
One reader brought to our attention this interesting comment from the Mono-Nono Web site:
The classical policy of “Ximian” is that they show a proof of concept, inspire the community, and then walk away. Library infection is the way to guarantee that others have to fix your immature software because they depend on it. Gnome is a dependency hell.
Novell bought Ximian, put their management in charge and then bought the KDE reference distribution SuSe and standardised it on Gnome regardless of what the customers wanted. Also think of the RedCarpet debacle.
When you play “evil” or simply “against the rules” of community conduct people will freak and prepare their knives. Intercultural problems are at the core of so many conflict lines. The “flow” is acceptable behaviour. If you distort it and manipulate people, there will be a slashback for you, a slashback that may even appear absolutely unreasonable.
As of Mono it was clear to us that we have to take care of the patents but Novell denied the problem. Suse always supported the fight against software patenting. What we need is to come up with are strategies to follow Ulyx when you cross the sirens. We need a rope and wax. No, the GPLv3 is not the solution. Maybe we need more of this http://www.patentcommons.org/
We need these committments to protect the developer community.
Our approach here in Boycott Novell is actually to abolish software patents, not to rely on “commons” or pools, which have proven ineffective so far anyway. █
Summary: If people sell shares at their high point, then Gates does not anticipate a great future for his company
Yesterday we wrote about Christopher Liddell, Microsoft’s CFO, selling many shares of Microsoft. It was large enough to go atop the radar of the press and so is this considerable transaction from Bill Gates, which as we’ve stressed for several years, is part of a trend lasting a long time. Bill Gates is getting out of Microsoft, at least in the financial sense (he is still lobbying for the company). People who are closely affiliated with the company are not permitted to sell too fast, based on the simple rules.
Bill Gates Dumps 7 Million Microsoft Shares
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is trimming his stock portfolio–he’s sold off 7 million shares in the company he founded since the beginning of August.
Truth be told, based on this post that we have not cited before, Microsoft’s business model is aging, and it is gradually becoming obsolete or at least less profitable.
This reduction in dominance will entail a decrease in Microsoft’s profits from operating system sales. Revenue from this side of its business recently suffered its first annual decline. This reduction in revenue puts added pressure on other parts of its business to become revenue producers.
The author offers some charts, too. This author appears to be a proponent of Apple, but just to set the record straight, Apple too is not without its issues. From the news:
Does your firm pay for overtime? Apple doesn’t
The employee, Kenyon Zahner said that he usually worked for more than 40 hours per week at an Apple location in Florida. But, he alleged that the company did not pay him extra, which is required as per the state law for non-managerial employees. Zahner’s attorneys in the legal documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Florida stated that “The defendant knowingly had the plaintiff work off the clock and did not pay the plaintiff overtime.” Apple is yet to file a formal response in this case.
Apple has become profitable in the phone business, even if it plays dirty against Linux (also see [1, 2]). But Apple, unlike Microsoft, is actually seeing success in this area. Check out this new article from Business Week.
Microsoft’s Windows Mobile: Time to Hang Up?
There are better ways for Microsoft to make money from smartphones than to keep investing in a mobile operating system that’s losing share and relevance
Many say that mobility is the future of computing. If that is the case, then indeed Gates was right to sell his shares… sooner rather than later. █
Summary: Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer confirms a new, predatory pricing scheme
IN OUR last post about Intel-Microsoft collusion, we showed evidence that this pair is arranging an elevation of cost for self gain at the expense of consumers. This was made possible partly by an assault on GNU/Linux on this particular form factor. Microsoft’s CEO now confirms that the reports on pricing were correct.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently confirmed that the company will limit Windows 7 Starter, the edition expected to end up on netbooks, to systems that sport small screens and low-powered processors.
For background, the links at the bottom may be of use. We have covered other stories of collusion since 2007.
Brendan Scott has also just published this summary of the events surrounding GNU/Linux on sub-notebooks.
About 18 months ago a silver (actually white) bullet known as the eeePC running Linux appeared. They were literally sold out immediately (example story) – despite the fact that they were pre-loaded with Linux, and well before the onset of austerity from the financial crisis. Within 2 or 3 months a version of the eeePC running Windows XP was announced, first shipping in early (perhaps Jan??) 2008. At about the six-eight month mark (give or take) people were happy to report the form factor being sold at 70-30% in favour of Linux (google it or see Brendan Leblanc’s claim of “under 10%” in the first half of 2008).
Since that time something has happened. The specifications for this class of portable device have been steadily increasing, closing the gap between them and standard laptops (so much so, that there may not be a “netbook” market anymore). With that the price of these machines has also increased. Linux versions of the eeePC are either not available at all, or are only available on the lowest specification models.
That was after ASUS had gotten “closely tied up with Microsoft,” according to the company. More details can be found below and the Russian authorities have initiated an investigation, so this is not mere speculation or “paranoia”. █
Summary: Microsoft is looking to repossess documents by harming ODF, PDF, and HTML, using patents, FUD, RAND, and Silverlight
FOR explanation and background preceding this post, see:
As The Inquirer points out right now, this may also affect Microsoft's ongoing attempts to pass XPS as a 'standard'. Microsoft wants patents inside formats and protocols that people use because it discriminates against Free software.
For a few years the Vole had been trying to create open standards derived from its own XML-based file formats, such as XPS and Office XML. True, much of its work was seen as an attempt to stop competing formats, such as the Open Document Format. However Microsoft did get some support for its cunning plan.
As one person put it, “Microsoft granted patent “..document stored in a single XML..” [http://is.gd/2a8y1]. ODF uses several xml files .. so are we in safe??”
Another individual writes: “Not “new usage” for patents: #Microsoft #patents #fud against #ODF: http://is.gd/29nmu”
There is a fairly new video at YouTube where Jon ‘Maddog’ Hall talks about OOXML and ODF. Have a look.
Although we are seeing more ODF software, Microsoft carries on with OOXML and in the process of putting an office suite on-line, Microsoft proves that it is hostile not only towards competition but also towards Web standards. Yesterday from The Register:
Microsoft’s web Office: No love for Chrome, Opera
Apparently, Microsoft isn’t familiar with Google Chrome or Opera, or, for that matter, Internet Explorer 6 or the Windows version of Apple’s Safari. They’re not on the official list of supported browsers included in a recent blog posting by the Office Web Apps Team – a posting, ironically enough, entitled “The Office Web Apps Love Your Browser.”
Official support for the Office Web Apps limits that love to Internet Explorer 7 and 8; Firefox 3.5 on Windows, Mac, and Linux; and Safari 4 on Mac. And that’s it.
According to Mary-Jo Foley, Silver Lie (XAML) is making its way into this as well. This harms GNU/Linux users no matter which Web browser they use. It is time for regulators to impose open standards on Microsoft, and not proprietary formats that Microsoft pretends (and bribes) to be called “standards”. Microsoft’s ODF implementation is still deficient and harmful [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. █
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