Microsoft fights open standards with free software
Note to Massachusetts politicians: Bill Gates may be on his way out, but his lobbying juggernaut isn't going anywhere. A case in point is the struggle in the Bay State over the Open Document Format, an open standard for saving documents that competes with Microsoft Office's proprietary file formats. The state government's policy favors ODF, but Microsoft is using both public philanthropy and behind-the-scenes lobbying to undermine it.
The software giant made headlines and raised eyebrows last week by donating $30 million in software to Massachusetts schools. It was a seemingly generous gift, worth some $800 per student according to Standards Blog, but one that may have come with strings attached. Since Word and other Microsoft software don't support ODF, accepting the gift would mean a blow to the state's plans for ODF.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is continuing an invidious lobbying campaign against Massachusetts's controversial CIO. Although an amendment that would have limited the CIO's power to mandate ODF was recently defeated, the Standards Blog reports that the fight isn't over: "I am told by an informed source that the amendment lives on." The Microsoft-friendly proposal will be voted on separately, according to the blog. Slashdot users are already conducting a vigorous debate. Some see Microsoft's software gift as a good thing regardless of motive, while others are a bit more cynical: "Microsoft offered $30 million in software licenses. That's not money. That's advertising."
What do you think? Is Microsoft's supposed charity really a move to quash competition? Leave a comment below.
Of course, Microsoft's donation is intended to advance its own interests and to undermine competition. I say that as a longtime business and software developer user of Microsoft platforms and products.
Regardless, there is an obvious benefit to Microsoft's donation, and it is not entirely true that Office and similar products won't support ODF. They don't support it seemlessly, but they do support XML, and ODF is XML based. With proper XML schemas, ODF and Office proprietary and XML format documents would be convertible. Not necessarily an ideal or elegant solution, but a workable solution.
surely a ploy to kill the competition. That is the way Microsoft got to be where it is today. There has not been any serious innovation at Microsoft for a very long time. In fact, most products of late has come from companies that Microsoft has acquired. The only way to stay in business for them is to kill the competition legally.
It is a move to quash competition and to deflate the ODF movement.
Is Microsoft's donation a move to quash competition?! Of course! That company does not have an altruistic bone in its body and it will pull any dirty trick it can to have its way. I'm as in favor of competition as anyone - so long as it's competition on merits and not political clout. M$ can only win this one on the merits if it embrases ODF. That's not to say it won't win, but it would be a corrupt win. Not that anyone in Redmond would lose any sleep over that.
Your 'cynic' quote is incomplete. It sounds much better in its entirety:
Microsoft offered $30 Million in SOFTWARE license. That's not money. That's advertising. It's the same principle as drug dealers on the corner of the street offering free shots. Once the kids are hooked, they have nowhere else to go.
The schools can keep their $30 Million in the pocket when they use Open Source software just as well. The difference being that in a year from now they can get the next version for free too...
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