An Open Letter to the Standards Council of Canada re: MS, OOXML vs ODF…
See the UPDATE (or see the Comments section):
Sent Tuesday, March 25, 2008:
ATTN: Standards Council of Canada.
Dear Sirs and Mesdames,
It’s with considerable interest that I’ve been following developments (such as is possible, given the meetings are behind closed doors with a media gag…) of the above referenced Technical Committee, to which Canada, as I understand it, is one of the 40 participating countries. Lately, things appear to be getting increasingly interesting.
Most notable is my concern with the influence being exerted by Microsoft Corporation in attempting to persuade member countries to adopt the OOXML language in favour of the truly open and free ODF format.
Microsoft, as you are no doubt acutely aware, has repeatedly been found guilty of engaging in monopolistic trade practises, and has a long history of leveraging their dubious monopoly in operating systems against any potential competitors. They’ve used (or rather abused) the standards process in the past to create a monopoly in other products. A good example of this would be their W3C non-complaint web browsing software, Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer, as I’m sure you’re also aware, does not fully comply with web standards such as HTML 4.01, CSS Level 1, XML 1.0 and DOM Level 1. Nor does it conform to CSS Level 2 or DOM Level 2, and it also does not support XHTML. However due to Internet Explorer’s widespread adoption (itself the subject of anti-trust litigation), web page designers are forced to write non-compliant code in order to accommodate Microsoft’s product or risk the failure of their web sites to render properly on the majority of their site’s visitors’ browsers. That’s simply one example. Most recent in Microsoft’s long history of litigation and fines is the fine of 899 million euros levied by the European Commission this past February – this for failure to comply with the requirements of an anti-trust ruling dating back to 2004!
My point is simply this: you are my (and the rest of Canada’s citizens’) representative at the ISO bargaining table, and having watched Microsoft’s strong arm tactics succeed so easily and often in the past, I implore you to steer the noble course of truly free and open standards. The vote you will cast has some very significant ramifications for the degree of open competition we’ll see over the course of the next decade, and will further impact the speed with which we reach convergence and true compatibility – only then will competition in technology and software truly blossom. Want to stimulate business in Canada? How about plotting a course whereby companies will not be required to spend thousands of dollars in order to simply share documents? While you’re sitting across the table from the Microsoft representatives in their no-doubt crisp new suits, as they assure you (and the press, media gag notwithstanding) that “98% of issues with OOXML are resolved”, remember that Al Capone also wore fine suits. He too hit his competitors about the head with baseball bats.
In the interests of full disclosure, I own no shares of any technology/software company, nor do I work for or receive any compensation from any tech/software company, monetarily or otherwise. I’m just another in a sea of faceless people whose interests you represent and who wants to be proud his government made the right, open, and free decision. I look forward to raising a toast of fine Canadian beer to the courage of your resolve to make that most open and free choice.