UPDATED: U.K. Education Group Escalates Microsoft Complaints

A consultancy to the U.K. government has forwarded complaints about Microsoft's licensing and interoperability practices to the European Commission (EC), according to an announcement issued by the Becta consulting group yesterday.

Becta, or the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, helps the U.K. government with technology decision-making for thousands of U.K. schools and colleges. Its charges to the EC echo complaints about Microsoft's educational licensing agreements, as well as the interoperability of Microsoft's XML file formats, that the group first filed with the U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading back in October.

A press officer for the EC commented that the EC isn't treating Becta's complaint as a formal antitrust complaint, according to an IDG News Service story. However, the EC has been engaged since January in investigating interoperability issues surrounding Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) document formats, which are used in the Microsoft Office 2007 software suite.

OOXML was ratified as an international standard by the ISO/IEC organizations in April. Currently, two international standards for document formats exist: OOXML (ISO/IEC 29500) and Open Document Format (ISO/IEC 26300). ODF is backed by Microsoft's competing vendors, including Sun Microsystems and IBM, both of which offer free office productivity suite solutions, similar in functionality to Microsoft Office.

Becta issued a statement when OOXML was approved that teachers and parents "would best be served by a single standard which accommodated the existing Open Document Format specification." However, ISO's FAQ on the matter seems to disagree with that position, stating that "After a period of co-existence, it is basically the market that decides which [standard] survives."

Currently, Becta is recommending to the U.K. educational community that it not deploy Microsoft Office 2007. Also, it recommends that users should save files in the older .doc, .xls and .ppt formats until OOXML is compatible with ODF.

Becta typically doesn't file competition complaints, according to Dr. Steven Lucey, Becta's executive director of strategic technologies.

"Intervention via the competition authorities is not our preferred approach," Lucey said in a prepared statement. "Ideally we prefer to address interoperability issues by working in close partnership with the wider industry."

A Microsoft spokesperson stated by e-mail that "Microsoft is deeply committed to education and interoperability." The statement countered some of Becta's claims.

"We have funded the development of tools to promote interoperability between Office 2007 and products based on the ODF file format. We will continue to work with Becta and the Commission in a cooperative manner to resolve these issues."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Feb 25, 2014

Hoy la educacion no nescieta nuevos programas, solo cumplir con los que tiene.No nescieta preocuparse por su futuro, demasiado problemas por resolver hay en el presente.No nescieta nuevas tecnologias, si no alcanzar y aprovechar las minimas como los audio cuentos.NO nescieta nuevas politicas, si no cumplir con las prometidas.Lo que si nescieta es resursos$$$$$$, muchos recursos y sobre todo bien aplicados, en donde hacen falta en comunidades retiradas, mas los programas como escuelas de calidad solo se acercan a las ciudades, para que una escuela sea de calidad bfdebe ser urbana?bfdebe tener muchos alumnos? si la respuesta es SI, lo lamentable es que la mayoria de las escuelas no reunen estos dos elementos.Necesitamos acciones, con el solo compromiso e innovacion la cuspide es muy alta. Gracias por el espacio [url=]txphjm[/url] [link=]nrmdpy[/link]

Mon, Feb 24, 2014

Well, it wouldn't stay with ISO very long.In pinicrple, IBM might want to come up with an OOXML Understander' to run on zSeries (mainframe) Websphere as part of an office automation solution for a well-funded client. So, taking that as an example of an application which doesn't appear on a user's desktop or accept their keystrokes, you can probably think of others. Firstly, no-one but Microsoft can sensibly implement the specification, nor can they test conformance. Previous articles on Bob's blog estimate 150 person-years to implement, even if you make sensible guesses as to the imperfectly-specified portions. And then, how do you even begin to test conformance and interoperability ?So, why bother to spend 150 person-years of engineering effort, when there's a perfectly good ISO spec there already, with several implementations on the market (and no-charge ones available for anyone to pick up from open project web sites) already ?Secondly, if Microsoft's track record is anything to go by, they will steadily add more to the document spec in what appears to the rest of the world to be an ad-hoc fashion. That's how we got from Word 1.0 back in 1985 or so, to Microsoft Office 2007 now; it's how Microsoft persuade people to part with more money in the direction of Redmond with each new release. Yes, new variants are arguably better in various ways; but they achieve that at the expense of interoperability with old variants of the same product.There's no reason to think they would change the habit of a lifetime. So, even if ISO do issue a standard, pretty soon there won't be any implementations of the standard.Glad to hear you're on examining the proposal. Don't take any money privately from any corporation (not Microsoft, not IBM, not Sun, not any of them) take salary from your employer, and if you take any money or rewards from anyone else, declare it publically to the UK committee. And give your own professional judgement when it comes to the vote.I think I know what's best. But I'm not on the committee. I don't get a say.

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