James O'Neill's Blog

January 26, 2007

Another lesson in FUD, from a past master.

Filed under: General musings,Linux / Open Source,Office,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 6:48 pm

A little culture to lead into the weekend. A quote from Voltaire no less.

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: “O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

Someone sent me a link to story “Rivals Attack Vista As Illegal Under EU Rules“.

We’ve heard of the self styled “European Committee for Interoperable Systems” before. It includes IBM, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Adobe, Corel, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, Linspire and Opera (note the European nature of its members. The interoperability track record of IBM, Oracle, and Real networks is less than great, even Adobe blocked the inclusion of PDF support in office 2007). My guide to FUD pointed out the first step was, broadly establishing credibility. If you are arguing in the domain Science or Engineering position yourself as wise and expert, if it is the solution of Social problems, position yourself as “New”, and if it is one of competition position yourself as Open and Interoperable.  “American IT lobbying against Microsoft” would be truthful, but not help when the goal is to lobby the European Commission. I’ve written before that they equate “pro-competition” with “pro-Microsoft competitors”, so it’s pretty fertile ground for this group.

Any statement from that group should be examined for signs of FUD, and they’ll usually be found.

Step 2 in the guide to FUD. Make assertions which will go unchallenged. e.g. “Microsoft is dominant in the market. Anything Microsoft does is intended to increase or cement that dominance”. So that article tells us
“Vista is the first step of Microsoft’s strategy to extend its market dominance to the Internet,” the ECIS statement said
To borrow the famous Mandy Rice Davies quote “They would say that, wouldn’t they” But “the first step of Microsoft’s strategy” ? Gee, the Internet’s been around for a while and we – this powerful player committed to expanding our dominance – are only just getting round to the first step of a strategy …

On to Step 3. Extrapolate form your assertions. So what would expect ?  IBM can see a commercial opportunity in “Open Document Format” standard while Microsoft is on the side of the Office Open XML standard which is backed by ECMA. According to this news story “Bob Sutor, who is vice president of open source and standards at IBM, confirmed that IBM voted against adoption of OOXML at the Ecma general assembly”. IBM have been arguing for ODF and against OOXML in any way they can.. There have even been accusations that they stooped to putting false information into Wikipedia*. So what did they their mouthpiece tell the EC according to the article
“They said a so-called “open XML” platform file format, known as OOXML, is designed to run seamlessly only on the Microsoft Office platform.”

So the real story is: IBM having lost at ECMA is trying its luck at the EC, through a Front Organization.

Have they finished ? No.  So that article tells us
Microsoft’s XAML markup language was “positioned to replace HTML”, the industry standard for publishing documents on the Internet.Microsoft’s own language would be dependent on Windows, and discriminatory against rival systems such as Linux, the group says.

It’s the most ludicrous kind of scaremongering. Microsoft somehow getting everyone on the Internet to abandon HTML at all, never mind in favour of something closed really deserves to be laughed at. The scary thing is that the European Commission seems to be full of people who fall for this stuff.

* Before I leave this there’s been a bit of a storm about what’s on Wikipedia about Office Open XML. Pro OOXML people have accused pro ODF people at IBM of using Wikipedia to spread disinformation. It got to the point where someone from Microsoft asked an independent expert in XML, to have a look at it. This story has been turned into “Sneaky Microsoft Spin machine pays people to falsify Wikipedia”. When I first heard the story I thought the person behind it should be fired (especially when I see luminaries like Dave Winer saying we absolutely wrong). Then I read the page where the  story was broken by the guy who did/would have done it. And the mail asking him to do it was posted here.  I changed my view, I’d encourage anyone else to read those two pages and make up their own mind.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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