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CNet on the Document Format Contest

December 8th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Right now an extremely important contest is being carried out for the default next generation office document format. It’s Microsoft against everybody else (in the form of ODF).

While Microsoft is currently claiming the openness of its new file format, most cautious observers are skeptical because of patents it holds on some parts of the format. (It has promised not to sue or collect royalties from others who use that IP, but that’s not a comforting guarantee to competitors.) Controlling document format compatibility was the trump card that allowed the creation of the MS Office monopoly and led to billions of dollars in revenue; they wouldn’t let that go without a fight, because they are guaranteed to lose marketshare in a free marketplace.

CNet discusses many aspects of this ongoing battle in Microsoft’s document gambit moves ahead.

Finland’s Ministry of Justice Chooses OpenOffice

December 7th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Hot off the marketing mailing list, I’ve received three links talking about Finland’s Ministry of Justice and its choice to adopt


Hopefully some English translations will come up soon, my Finnish is rusty. (At least I can understand the numerals used, and it appears that 8,500 computers will move to OOo on Windows, while 1,500 will remain on MS Office.)

85% OpenOffice to 15% Microsoft Office; that sounds like a desirable distribution of global marketshare in the future. (Though I’d like to see some third-party successes too, like Abiword, KOffice, Corel and TextMaker…)

Open Malaysia Blog on Microsoft’s Attempts to Undermine ODF

December 6th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Yusseri writes a great piece on the Open Malaysia blog on his research into Microsoft’s efforts, directly and through proxies, to undermine ODF around the world.

“I looked around in the web and the available documentation that we had to provide data for my presso. I found lots of other OSS initiatives all over the place. What I also found was a fair amount of resistance against the initiatives. This resistance was led by one large multinational corporation and a few “alliances” — namely the BSA and the Initiative for Software Choice. There were no other single corporation that protested, campaigned, lobbied or made donations against the disparate initiatives.

There was only one: Microsoft.

All the others — IBM, Sun, Oracle, SAP, CA, Symantec, Adobe, Autodesk, etc. — either made supporting noises or kept quiet altogether.

I checked all over the world — America, Australia, South Africa, India, Korea, Japan, Germany, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, and more — and it was all the same.”

Read Yusseri’s article to see the details of “free” Microsoft software and “discounts” and “donations” (and the occasional veiled threat), all intended to block or stall the open source efforts.

It is dangerous how far this one rich company’s arms stretch around the world, and it is a terrible shame to see so much progress being held back by one stubborn and corrupt organization. Let’s hope the dam breaks soon, hundreds of places all leap to freedom at once, Microsoft cannot keep up with it all, and a free market based on open standards emerges to replace the repressed environment of today.

Brazil, India, Italy, Poland Recognize ODF

December 5th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

A sudden rush of large countries are adopting or recommending the use of ODF!

The Open Malaysia blog covers this story, as does Data Manager Online (Italy).

Brazil has now deprecated XLS, PPT and DOC file formats in favor of officially recommending ODF for its governmental use.

The ODF Alliance press release (download a PDF here), that touched off both articles, mentions that “Italian standards bodies voted unanimously to recognize ODF as soon as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) formally publishes IS 26300, which [happened on November 30].”

Poland held a national meeting in which ODF was strongly advocated, and “in India, a government order was issued that ODF files will be used for the Delhi state government’s commercial tax office.”

These are bold moves taking place in major countries. ODF just keeps piling on the victories, and its outlook is continually improving.

Birmingham Revisited

December 4th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

It appears my recent post on Birmingham’s Linux pilot did not tell the full story.

Techworld (UK) writes Birmingham City Council claims open-source success.

With Birmingham’s trial period over and with lessons learnt and understanding gained, the Council now expects to make cost savings over time, and contrary to press reports which claimed Birmingham had scrapped the Linux initiative, it will in fact “significantly increase” its use of open-source software, Evans said. The trial also had other positive results, he claimed, such as demonstrating the ease with which Firefox and can be substituted for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office.”

Excellent news! And, later in the article, OpenOffice and Firefox’ potential are explored further:

OpenOffice, for one, met little or no resistance with most users, many of whom said they didn’t notice they’d been using a different application. (Power users did face some problems.) The public had no trouble using Firefox on public terminals and some said they preferred the open-source desktop to Windows. “It appears that OpenOffice provides a satisfactory equivalent to Microsoft products for those using basic or intermediate functionality,” iMpower found.”

This seems to justify the strategy of porting open source programs to Windows, to acclimate users to FOSS before they migrate fully to Linux. Smaller steps make the path easier to travel.

One of the major reasons Birmingham ran into trouble with its pilot is that the UK has some catching up to do with regard to open source:

The UK has less than average usage of open source compared with other EU countries, according to a report by the University of Maastricht, with 32.1 percent of all UK local government users on open source compared to the 78.7 percent European average.”

But, it’s clear they are moving in the right direction, if slowly. November 2006 Newsletter

December 2nd, 2006 Benjamin Horst

The November edition of’s monthly newsletter came out a few days ago.

Among the highlights of this past month is a mention of Bharateeeyaoo, the Kannada language version of OOo being distributed on CD by the government of India. The Sunday Times Bangalore carried this news on its front page.

OpenOffice Mac Porters’ Meeting

December 1st, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Google is hosting the second meeting for developers porting OpenOffice to Mac OS X at their Hamburg offices on December 2 and 3 (tomorrow and Sunday).
Eric B writes:

“The main developers of the Mac OS X port for project meet to work together over a weekend

– show, analyze, work on current development version,
– share our knowledge in workshops (e.g. for debug )
– define tasks and objectives
– meet, collaborate and have fun coding.

If you are interested in attending and developing for the Mac please contact :

The minutes of this meeting will be public, and available shortly after the event.”

From several of the mailing lists, it seems to me that OpenOffice is already very popular on Mac OS X. As it improves, through efforts like this, the userbase will grow even more quickly.

I expect OOo to displace Microsoft Office on Mac OS X before it does on Windows, but its future majority marketshare on Mac will certainly help fuel its growth on Windows as well. (Remember that the mavens are already mostly Mac and Linux users. They’ll be promoting OpenOffice to their friends on Windows directly and through increasing global usage of ODF files.)

Chandler Updated

December 1st, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Yesterday, November 30, a new version of Chandler, 0.7alpha4, hit the streets. This version is starting to look like a real application.

The press release reads, in part:

“Alpha 4 is our first Dashboard release. The Dashboard[1] is in part, inspired by GTD methodology and many of David Allen’s insights into the problems with the ways in which people process information and get too easily sidetracked from important tasks in today’s interruption-prone information workplaces. The Dashboard is the runway view of all of your information. The closest thing users have to a Dashboard today is their email client Inbox.

In addition to incremental improvements to calendaring and sharing, our goal in this release is to deliver a rough sketch of what Chandler will be by our first Preview release, which is scheduled for Spring of 2007.”