As most of you already know, I spent the month of October in a marathon of speeches about ODF. During the marathon, I had the opportunity to attend some presentations about Microsoft Interoperability and would like to share with you here some information about that cool experience (the post is long but worth a read).
The first opportunity to see our friends from Redmond featuring the theme was at the rally held by them at the end of Latinoware 2008. I do not call that a presentation, because they did not allow questions from the audience, as a rally. Luckily the audience was not that big and I was on that room just be able to “write the facts” about the speech.
One thing that called my attention at the beginning of their presentation was the fact that they quoted the harmonization between OpenXML and ODF as a challenge on their Interoperability projects. I don’t know how the world sees that, but here in Brazil we explain it as “they created the difficulty to sell the facility.” In other words, the problem of fragmentation created in document formats was created by them and now they want to play the “good guy” that want to “solve this terrible problem.”
To avoid controversial topics, they spent much of the presentation showing Microsoft’s virtualization tools, running Suse Linux inside Windows Vista (with forgiveness of bad word, of course). The big question that cannot be made would be “Will that stuff works with Debian ?”, but of course, the audience had to keep quiet (band of punks ).
I find it interesting to see that they evolved. A few months ago, they used to exemplify interoperability as Excel working with PowerPoint, but now are in an advanced position: Widows talks with Suse Linux !!! I do not know what you think about it but IMHO, Novell is the Open Source department from Microsoft (and this fact makes me very angry because I was the No. 1 fan of NetWare and NDS in the 90s). In short, with Windows or with Linux (or rather, with Suse Linux) Microsoft is always profiting.
At the end of the speech, I went down the room and I asked a very basic question to Microsoft’s speaker (just between us two, not out loud as I wished): “I used to see Microsoft talking about open standards always confusing the theme with specifications published on the Internet, programming interfaces (APIs) or technology and cross-patent license agreements, and therefore, I would like to know what is the definition of Open Standards for Microsoft? “. After five minutes of round and round, he simply did not know the answer. I made my now famous “inteligent smile”, thanked the guy and bye bye. If they don’t a basics objective answer about open standards, how can they talk about interoperability?
After Latinoware, went to Santiago in Chile participate in a free software event, organized by a university (DUOC) and a free software company (Emerges). I thank them for the invitation and congratulate my friend Juan Olguín for organizing the event (I’m available to you for the next event and only ask the kindness to let me know in advance if Microsoft is again sponsoring. Knowing it a couple of days before my trip wasn’t that cool, but I think we talk a lot about it over there, ok?).
During the days I was in Chile, I had a chance to talk with people about Free Software and Open standards, including many students and professors. I was surprised to see that the doubts and insecurities that they have today are very similar to those we had in Brazil 5 years ago and therefore was a pleasure to exchange experiences and information with them, mainly presenting concrete examples where the “existential paradigms” were broken, as in the PgSQL Detran of Parana case.
The presentation about Microsoft’s interoperability was made by an Uruguayan guy who works at Microsoft Chile. The presentation was interesting (”more of the same” we are used to listen from them) until it embarked upon a route that managed to get me really bad. Through a number of half-truths they were presenting Microsoft’s Open Source initiatives on a way that I would not be surprised if in a few more slides they say that Microsoft hs created the Open Source movement.
My patience just ended with a slide containing the news of Microsoft’s Open Source approval of licenses by OSI, giving the clear impression that OSI was recommending those licenses. I raised my hand to ask a question and he gave me the word
I began telling that I see as good thing Microsoft’s initiative to work with interoperability, but made clear that there is something I really don’t understand: “There was a SourceForge and Microsoft created its own open source repository , the CodePlex. There were several Open Source licenses, but Microsoft has created their own. There was an open standard for documents called ODF, but Microsoft has created their own pseudo open standard, OpenXML. There is an existing PDF and Microsoft will now come with the XPS at ISO. It is my impression or there is the interoperability of the software industry and Microsoft is now creating the Microsoft’s Interoperability? Why they didn’t joint the collaborative efforts of the industry instead of duplicating it ? ”
With this simple question transformed the smilling presenter on a very angry man. He started his answer by saying that two standards are better than one, and that his son, a 3 years boy will create a standard better than the ODF and that “anyone has the right to standardize anything.” This last sentence indeed, summarizes for me the approval of OpenXML in ISO: Anyone and Anything (lacking only the “Anyway” to give a “grand finalle” to this AAA subject). He also said that my vision of a single standard needed is wrong and it is against the development of technology, citing the case of China that is developing their its own documents standard. He said that Microsoft is now a Platinum sponsor of the Apache Foundation and that they are participating in various committees developing open standards (based on the things that I’ve saw ai ISO, it is a good idea to alert people on those committees to have wide open eyes with them).
I thanked him for the opportunity to do this question in public because I’m waiting an oportunitty like that in Brazil since two years ago, but Microsoft never gave me this opportunity. Indeed, commented to him that scares me the lack of luck of his colleagues here in Brazil, because every time I participated in an event where I should participate in a debate with Microsoft, the company’s representatives had problems at the last minute and not could attend (the last of them occurred in Belem do Para in mid-October). Also said that I’m member of OASIS ODF TC because I believe in building really collaborative open standards standards and that it should be easier for me to create the Jomar’s document format or even start a project to develop a document format for Brazil, but we Brazillians really believe in open standards developed by coolaborative efforts.
As the discussion went away, the organizer has asked us to conclude it outside of the room, after the presentation. Before that however, a student who was in the audience asked the Microsoft’s representative baout why every example of interoperability presented by him always involved products and services from Microsoft and its commercial partners and tried to illustrate the question with an example, but ended up being ignored by the speaker to be using “philosophical arguments.” Pure intolerance and lack of respect, because the kid just want to know if the Interoperability speech wasn’t being used by Microsoft as a way to keep the money making machine working, but we weren’t able to express himself and ask it objectively.
When the presentation ended, we’ve met outside the room. Before I started (or continued) the conversation, I was subjected to an interrogatory with questions that reminded me a job interview (he almost asked my Curriculum). Who am I, where and with whom I live, who paid my bills, with whom I deal, my schoolar background and so on … (I think he wanted to know if I am “somebody” or if I could also be cataloged as idealistic and summarily ignored).
It was almost half hour of lively conversation focuses on practical actions of the Microsoft Interoperability (and its recent past) and our divergence views about ISO and standardization role. For me, who has two standards don’t have a standard at all, but he thinks “more standards is the best” (the good’n'old Microsoft speech). I found it interesting in the middle of the conversation, I asked about the technical problems that exist in ISO appoved OpenXML text but he merely said that “this is another discussion.”… ok
At the end of the chat, he said he would talk with his peers in Brazil to calm my anxiety to debate with Microsoft, but I told him that it’s already too late for that, using a maximum of free software: “talk is nice, but show me the code. ”
I told him that I don’t have any doubt that the marketing department of Microsoft knows well how to handle interoperability, but until now, I haven’t seen their engineering department demonstrating that the company really understands the theme. I also saida that I am sick of hearing the Microsoft’s arguments (always the same) and I want to see concrete actions: Enough talking
I took the opportunity to warn him that I hope that Microsoft makes the best existing ODF implementation in Microsoft Office 2007, because this implementation will show the degree of seriousness with which Microsoft will handle interoperability (and he accepted the challenge).
On the last day of the event, I was gifted with “the pearl” of my marathon. A company called Linux Latin America was giving a presentation about its products and services, claiming to be one of the largest companies of Linux in Latin America and celebrating the opening of their office in Brazil. The interesting thing was that approximately at the fourth slide in their presentation, I almost have a heart attack: the man began to show the same slides presented by Microsoft at Latinoware (some of them translated into Spanish, but exactly the same ones).
It was really captivating see a “real Linux company” using the Microsoft’s slides, their arguments of “the market is asking for” and also the good’n'old jargon as, “our customers are asking us …”. Long live the free world, hm ?
After witnessing all this and think a lot about everything I saw and heard, I came to some conclusions:
The IT industry is working together to achieve interoperability through open standards, integrating products and services without limiting the freedom of choice for its customers, developing in partnership with these truly interoperable and open standards. Microsoft works with the integration of its products with its comercial partners ones, the same way they always did, and wants to convince the whole world that this is interoperability.
There are now “Free Software Companies” which resolved to embrace the Microsoft’s interoperability cause, and of course, on a few months from now they will help our Redmond friends to tell the story about how Microsoft has created the FOSS movement.
Their FUD is really working very fine. You need to see the faces of Chilean students to see the “good things” that Microsoft is doing, now that Microsoft is part of the Open Source & Standards movement …. Impressive .
I also learned that Machiavel must be working on an executive role in Redmond and that definitely for them, the end justifies the means (not to mention another historical character who preached that “repeat a lie until it becomes truth” … you know what I am talking about, ok?).
And you, what do you think about it all ? What you think about the “interoperability vision” from our friends from Redmond? It isn’t really cool to see they working that hard to explain the “Free World” to the software market?