- Keeping a promise made a long time ago Apr 08, 2014
Moved by Freedom - Powered by Standards - Some time around 2009 or 2010, the OpenDocument community realized that while it had won the moral battle over Microsoft and its dubious OOXML standard, it had lost the adoption and ecosystems war.
Microsoft Office had been released and with it an undocument format called OOXML which, as far as experts were concerned, had little to do with the ISO 29500 (aka OOXML) standard. While Europe and Brazil were struggling to migrate their public sector’s documents to ODF, any company or government, let alone any individual acquiring Microsoft Office 2010 migrated to the new and shiny OOXML, officially without remorse or complaint. The ODF advocacy groups here and there were launching all sorts of events and meetings to guide and assist migrations to ODF. Results were mixed. We had victories. We had defeats. At the end of the day what was at stake was fear of failure and change from CIOs and IT services. That’s still the case today. But while these are mostly human factors, there is one thing we hadn’t tried yet, or at least hadn’t been tried enough: turning the hundreds of thousands of files that are out there and locked up in various proprietary file formats to ODF documents.
This week the Document Foundation announced its second major project, the Document Liberation. Its aims is to pool and collect every file format filters we have and that people are willing to contribute and develop them so that they not only keep improving but are distributed in the largest number of applications.
- Government plan to adopt ODF file format sparks standards debate in UK Apr 07, 2014
PCWorld - The U.K. is moving to a system where citizens can exchange information with the government digitally by default—but in choosing the file formats to use for that exchange, it must balance corporate interests with those of citizens.
The recommendation of HTML for browser-based editable text and PDF as the default for non-editable documents is uncontroversial, as they can both be read on most computer platforms.
However, when it comes to exchanging drafts of documents between government departments, or between government and citizens or suppliers, the choice of an editable file format is proving more controversial.
An interministerial body, the Cabinet Office, is now evaluating comments on its proposal to adopt Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard for sharing documents with and within the government.
The goal of the Cabinet Office was to identify document standards that do not impose costs on users, and in which text, spreadsheets and presentations could be edited on different devices without loss of integrity. It also wanted to avoid tying users to a particular vendor.
- Call to fix interoperability of office suites Apr 02, 2014
Joinup - Last week Monday, five European public administrations published a new call for tender, to further improve interoperability between free and open source office suites and the ubiquitous proprietary alternative. This is the second time that the German cities of Munich, Leipzig and Jena, the Swiss Federal Court and the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit have issued such a call. ICT specialists have until 30 April to submit proposals.
The office suites' interoperability project is again managed by the OSB Alliance, a trade group representing open source service providers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
According the alliance's press release, one of the main features to be developed concerns change tracking between open source and proprietary office suites. The public administrations issuing the call want to improve the specification of change tracking, and make this part of the Open Document Format ISO standard.
- Call to fix interoperability of office suites Apr 02, 2014
Joinup - Last week Monday, five European public administrations published a new call for tender, to further improve interoperability between free and open source office suites and the ubiquitous proprietary alternative. This is the second time that the German cities of Munich, Leipzig and Jena, the Swiss Federal Court and the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit have issued such a call. ICT specialists have until 30 April to submit proposals.
The office suites' interoperability project is again managed by the OSB Alliance, a trade group representing open source service providers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
According the alliance's press release, one of the main features to be developed concerns change tracking between open source and proprietary office suites. The public administrations issuing the call want to improve the specification of change tracking, and make this part of the Open Document Format ISO standard.
- EU institutions accused of doing nothing to free themselves from dependence on Microsoft Mar 27, 2014
PCAdvisor - The Commission should set an example on Document Freedom Day, lobby groups for open standards and open source software said.
The European Commission and European Parliament are doing nothing to rid themselves of their dependance on Microsoft, two lobby groups said Wednesday, Document Freedom Day.
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and Open Forum Europe urged EU institutions to support open standards in an open letter to Giancarlo Vilella, president of the European Parliament's Directorate-General for Innovation and Technological Support. He also chairs the body that coordinates IT activities for government agencies including Parliament, the Commission and the Council of the E.U.
- Making Document Freedom Freer Mar 27, 2014
ComputerWorldUK - A crowdfunding project in Germany will make LibreOffice better for us all -- what a great example for Document Freedom Day!
Today March 26th is Document Freedom Day. It's today that we put the focus on the benefits of using open standards for the documents we use at work and home for spreadsheets, word processing and the like. As Apple demonstrated recently with presentation files, using closed formats allows the vendor to arbitrarily force you to spend money to retain access to your own work, and can even render archived documents unreadable for all practical purposes -- a phenomenon known as 'bit rot'.
The problem of bit rot is as old as the software application. It is part of a family of problems caused when the software that manages your data is not under your ultimate control. Another manifestation is "interoperability" -- trying to use data created in one application in an equivalent alternative created by a different vendor. Yet another is decayed digital restrictions, where the DRM used by a vendor for an defunct business model continues to defeat legal access by the owner of the data.
This last problem is especially toxic as the US DMCA and similar laws elsewhere actually make it a crime to access your own data if to do so you have to break into the defunct DRM. All three are used as a tool to lock-in customers and lock-out competitors, at the cost of customer flexibility.
- Give us liberty or give us Office, EU lobbyists cry Mar 27, 2014
PCWorld - The European Commission and European Parliament are doing nothing to rid themselves of their dependance on Microsoft, two lobby groups said Wednesday, Document Freedom Day.
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and Open Forum Europe urged EU institutions to support open standards in an open letter to Giancarlo Vilella, president of the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Innovation and Technological Support. He also chairs the body that coordinates IT activities for government agencies including Parliament, the Commission and the Council of the E.U.
The letter highlights several problems, including that video streams of Parliament and Council hearings are still only available in the proprietary Microsoft Windows Media Player and Silverlight formats. This prevents EU citizens who wish to participate in the legislative process from watching without being forced to use the products of a single company, the groups wrote.
The groups said they have been asking the Commission to adopt a more open or cross-platform video format since 2008.
Though they were told at the time that Parliament was working on a new system for streaming that would be built on open standards that would be accessible to all, nothing seems to have happened since. “We would be interested to know if this project is still in development,” they wrote.
- UK gov targets £500m IT savings this year and is ‘taking business elsewhere’ Mar 26, 2014
Diginomica - Last time I spoke to the UK government’s chief technology officer, Liam Maxwell, he described himself as a self-proclaimed ‘competition nut’ and ran through some of the Government Digital Service’s key initiatives to transform public facing transactions into agile, digital products. You can read a write up of the interview here. Maxwell, who is not one to mince his words when it comes to government IT, took the stage at the Think Cloud for Government conference in London today and said that this competition-driving agenda will likely save taxpayers over £500 million this year. A tidy sum when added to the hundreds of millions of pounds saved over the previous two years.
Maxwell explained to delegates during his keynote that government departments are being forced to focus on ‘Mission IT’ – the important, front-facing digital stuff that directly impacts users – rather than the back-end platforms that have dominated time and budgets in the past. This is being achieved by the disaggregation of IT across central government, where departments will no longer procure and manage networks, hosting, desktops etc. all in one bundle, but instead will get access to a range of suppliers for each of these common infrastructures services from the centre. Breaking up common services into siloes and sharing them.
All of this is being wrapped round the use of open standards, which will allow buyers to switch easily between suppliers. Maxwell argued that this will increase the supplier base and drive down costs. He said:
- Document Freedom Matters Mar 17, 2014
Moved by Freedom, Powered by Standards - As the Document Freedom Day is approaching I realized that we don’t push ODF and open standards as loudly as before. Certainly most of the battles for the mind and market share are past, at least when it comes to office file formats. But the recent public consultation of the UK government brought back some of the most crucial issues surrounding ODF and it’s useful, I think, to check where stand these days on these matters.
Shortly after OOXML had been given the ISO label in the weirdrest and most outrageous way, a representative from Microsoft spoke at an IT conference in Brussels and bluntly declared “ODF has won”. Well, it is true in the sense that the OOXML standardization process had highlighted the -probably terminal- inability of the ISO to tackle IT standards and transparency in an effective way. In this sense indeed, ODF had won the “moral” battle. On the other hand, Microsoft had reached its main goal: to get the ISO’s stamp of approval on the half-baked OOXML specification. What it never achieved however, was the actual mass adoption of OOXML by the users of Microsoft Office and beyond. What’s that you say? OOXML has not reached mass adoption? Well, the actual specification, the standard, has not actually been implemented as the default file format until MS Office 2013, and yet, as an odd, end of the list option called “OOXML – strict”; OOXML – Transitional being a rubberstamp for every undocumented and unpublished sub-spec and binary blob necessary for Microsoft Office’s secret sauce to work its magic.
Of course, it is sad, yet true, to notitce that the mass adoption of ODF has failed until now, and that most companies and government use Microsoft file formats (xml based or not) as their default format. This alone would be enough to claim we haven’t moved an inch closer to true document freedom. At the same time, the IT and the way we use software and data has changed in 5-6 years.
- UK and Israel enter digital governance pact, will share data around open standards and open source Mar 14, 2014
The Next Web - The UK and Israel have entered a pact that will see them working together on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) around digital government, which they say will help create opportunities for future generations.
In an announcement issued this afternoon by the UK Government’s Cabinet Office, Minister Francis Maude pointed to Israel’s reputation at the forefront of innovation in the digital realm as a key factor in its move to align itself with the country.
“When I visited last year, I saw how Israel has a forward-thinking approach to digital innovation, just like the UK,” said Maude. “This Government’s long-term plan is all about creating modern, digital public services that are so good people prefer to use them. So, we will look to find new ways of working with Israel’s impressive array of digital businesses and draw on its culture of entrepreneurship.”
The MoU was signed at the Israeli Prime Minister’s office by the UK Government’s Chief Technology Officer Liam Maxwell, and by Harel Locker, Director-General of the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. The agreement constitutes a commitment by both countries through adhering to the following:
- Now comes the acid test for the government's open standards policy Feb 28, 2014
Computer Weekly - The UK government's consultation on the use of open document formats has closed*, and we now wait for the acid test of the Cabinet Office commitment to open standards.
The outcome of this process will determine the government's ability to break its lock-in to proprietary software for years to come.
Responses to the consultation - available online for all to read and comment, in a welcome break from the past - have spread across 14 web pages, such is the interest in what may seem an arcane and narrow topic to those outside IT.
The champions of the policy - led by chief technology officer Liam Maxwell - will tell you over and again that this is not about any one supplier or product, it is simply about ensuring maximum competition and choice for public sector IT buyers.
But of course, everyone else knows this is really about breaking the dominance of Microsoft Office and avoiding lock-in to that one supplier.
- Comments on UK government’s consultation on document standards Feb 28, 2014
Karston on Free Software - The UK is currently inviting comments on the standards it should use for “sharing or collaborating with government documents”. Among other things, the government proposes to make ODF the sole standard for office-type documents.
FSFE has submitted its comments on this proposal, which we believe is very positive. Just now, in the final hours of the process, Microsoft has submitted a lengthy comment, urging the government to include OOXML in its list of standards.
We have filed a short response to Microsoft’s submission. While it should appear on the consultation page shortly, I’m publishing it here right now.
- LibreOffice: ignore Microsoft's "nonsense" on government's open source plans Feb 27, 2014
PCPro - The makers of LibreOffice have slammed attempts by Microsoft to derail the government's move to open source, accusing the company of protecting its own interests rather than users.
The government is consulting on plans to switch to open file formats, with the aim of making it easier to switch away from proprietary productivity suites - notably Microsoft Office.
Microsoft has opposed the move and asked its UK IT partners to fight the proposals, saying open formats would cost the government more money. It argued for the inclusion of its own standard, OOXML, among the government's chosen file formats.
A spokesman for the Document Foundation, the organisation behind LibreOffice, claimed Microsoft had opposed the government's adoption of open file formats, such as the open document format (ODF), because of the potential impact on Microsoft Office - and that the company's counter argument didn't make sense.
"Microsoft’s business model is based on selling licenses - of course it’ll be heavily affected," Italo Vignoli told PC Pro. "I perfectly understand Microsoft's position – if I were a Microsoft employee, I’d support that position. But I think this isn’t in the interests of users, it’s in the interest of Microsoft."
- My Comments as Posted to the UK Cabinet Office Standards Hub (now it's your turn) Feb 26, 2014
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Last week I highlighted the fact that Microsoft was urging its business partners to comment at the British Cabinet Office's Standards Hub on a standards-related proposal. That proposal would limit government procurement to office software that complied with the ISO ODF standard, but makes no mention of the ISO OOXML standard promoted by Microsoft. I also noted that anyone could comment on the proposal, and that the deadline for comments would close on February 26, Greenwich time. I closed by urging readers to let their opinions on the subject be heard.
Having so urged, I could hardly forego offering my own comments as well, and now I have done exactly that. What follows is the text I uploaded there, and perhaps it will help motivate you to contribute as well if you have not already done so.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
- Stand up for Open Standards - and ODF Feb 25, 2014
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Around a month ago, I wrote a post about an interesting proposal from the Cabinet Office to standardise on HTML and ODF (plus a couple of minor formats) as part of its “Sharing or collaborating with government documents" project. As well as those recommendations, this was also notable for the extremely open way in which the policy had been formulated. That included soliciting yet more feedback on the plans.
Back in January, I urged people to do that, since this call represents the best opportunity we have yet finally to get ODF supported by government in the way it deserves, with all the benefits of open standards and lack of lock-in that this implies. I'm please to see that people have indeed responded (not, I hasten to add, because of my call...), and we now have a large number of comments broadly supporting the move to a main document standard.
Given the consultation closes on Wednesday (not really clear if that's Wednesday evening or Tuesday evening - might be best to assume the latter) , I'd like to urge anyone who hasn't already offered their thoughts to do so. It's very easy (registration takes about a minute), and it's very informal: you just type in your thoughts, then submit. These don't need to be long and complex; lots of people have written pretty much what I did, a short comment to the effect that they support the proposal:
- Open Standards Still Need Your Vote Feb 24, 2014
ComputerWorldUK - Simon Phipps - The battle for truly open document standards is not over yet - your voice needs hearing again.
You may have thought that the battle to ring-fence its effective monopoly had passed, but in a call-to-arms for their Partner Network this week, Microsoft asked them to comment against the proposal by the Cabinet Office to mandate Open Document Format support where reasonable and appropriate in future by the UK government. They ask partners to call for removing the pressure for creation of a level playing field by including Microsoft's gerrymandered OOXML standard as an equal alternative.
Doing so would mean there was an easy way out that took away the pressure for change that Francis Maude spoke about in January. He said: "The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace. I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software." The oligarch in question clearly doesn't like the suggestion that there be diversity in government software usage and wants its partners to speak up for "no reason to change".
Why is this a problem? Faced with pervasive use of Microsoft-controlled formats, government departments use features that don't translate well across platforms. That can mean citizens and businesses using non-Microsoft software are treated as second-class. But mandate ODF -- used by most other office software and now well-supported even by Microsoft -- and everyone becomes equal. Adding OOXML as an alternative neutralises the pressure to create that equality; more choice in this case is not better.
- Standards and the European Cloud Strategy Feb 10, 2014
G-Cloud - A guest post by the Government CTO, Liam Maxwell - The recent publication of our updated CloudStore buyers guide marks an important step in our journey to become a more intelligent customer of cloud services. We get the best from cloud providers when they are transparent about the services they provide and how they meet our needs as customers. That’s why we also recently published our cloud service security principles – so we can be clear about what we will look for when buying cloud services.
- Microsoft will ‘bend far’ to ensure UK government still uses its software Feb 06, 2014
CBR - Following Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude's comments last week on plans to move government IT away from Microsoft Office software, an IT consulting expert has told CBR that "a switch to open source alternatives would consume both the already-stretched IT service resources and the time (and probably more importantly the patience) of users."
Mark Foden of Foden Grealy, a change management consultancy who support IT change programs in the UK government, said: "I don't know what the licensing situation is but I should think that Microsoft will bend far to ensure that their software continues to be used.
"It would take will to make the change. I guess we will see new types of licensing deals - perhaps with Office software bundled differently with other products - and probably a reduction in cost but I don't envisage a rapid, widespread switch."
Foden did point out, however, that it may not necessarily be a total shift away from Microsoft Office, but rather a refinement of document standards.
"I'd say the important thing is that it is document standards that are being specified not the software. Presuming that Microsoft update their software to make it easy to use the open formats then I imagine that departments won't need to do anything until existing licensing deals expire."
- HoudiniEsq Adds Open Document Format Support Feb 05, 2014
Digital Journal - Innovator and leader in Legal Practice Management Software-as-a-Service for enterprise, LogicBit Software Corp. announced today that it has added support for the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF), also known as OpenDocument to its core product HoudiniEsq.
HoudiniEsq is the first Legal Practice Management product to fully support the OpenDocument format natively. Users can now create beautiful polished PDF or Word documents and templates using either LibreOffice, OpenOffice, Microsoft Word or HoudiniEsq.
“Using the OpenOffice format for templates provides better output for both PDF and Word documents from a single template." says CEO Frank Rivera.
The OpenDocument format support is available free of charge to all HoudiniEsq users.
- Open Standards and Open Source driving Open Innovation Feb 03, 2014
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - This morning I had the great pleasure to speak about Open Standards and Open Source as sample cases and as drivers for Open Innovation. I was invited as a speaker by the local industry group IT Forum Rhein-Neckar with whom I have been collaborating for many years. The IT Forum regularly holds business breakfast briefings on hot, trendy and interesting topics.There is always a good audience - many people C-level leaders from local entreprises. My co-speaker was Prof. Koelmel from the University of Pforzheim/Germany who gave a very interesting overview on innovation management and open innovation strategies.
It was astonishing to get the feedback how positively IBM is perceived as far as openness and open innovation are concerned. Several people called IBM a role model on open innovation and on constantly transforming itself and adapting to the market place - including the use of open innovation for pertaining global leadership.
I uploaded my slide deck on slide share for those who like to browse through:
- New data standard to help shine light on public procurement Jan 22, 2014
Thomson Reuters Foundation – Transparency activists announced plans on Tuesday to create a common data standard that will help open up public contracts around the world to greater scrutiny and empower citizens to hold their governments to account.
Governments globally spend an estimated $9.5 trillion every year on public procurement but the contracts that govern that spending are often opaque or deliberately hidden from the public’s view, making it difficult for citizens to question them.
The standard will be developed by the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP), a group composed of transparency watchdogs, governments and the World Bank in partnership with the World Wide Web Foundation, a foundation that promotes the web as a public good. The work will be funded by The Omidyar Network, the philanthropic vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
- Advocacy: "Governments should choose ODF" Jan 16, 2014
Joinup - Governments should choose the Open Document Format (ODF) as the default option for all editable government documents, says OpenForum Europe, an organisation advocating the use of open standards in ICT. "ODF has clear superiority in terms of independence from proprietary influence or dependency on proprietary technology."
The advocacy group on Wednesday made public its recommendation to the UK government, which on 4 December had asked for comments on two challenges regarding its use of document formats.
"Document formats present potentially the single most challenging area for adoption of open standards", OFE writes. "It is vital that UK government 'stand up to be counted' in its implementation of the open standards principles."
- Confirmation from Commissioner Šefčovič: EU Commission is set up for using ODF Jan 16, 2014
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - In a response to a question from the European Parliament Commissioner Šefčovič confirmed that the European Commission is set up to support ODF in external communication for documents if they are open for revision. The ODF standard can be used as well as the OOXML standard.
- European Commission still in denial on vendor lock-in Jan 16, 2014
Karston on Free Software - If you’re suspecting that the European Commission isn’t entirely serious about using and supporting the Open Document Format, you might be on to something. Responding to questions from the European Parliament about whether the EC’s Microsoft addiction might have lead it into being locked into the Redmond giant’s products, the Commission basically says “move on, nothing to see here.”
Read on for the gory details.
- Urgent: Help UK Gov To Adopt Real Open Standards Jan 15, 2014
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Back in December, I noted that the Cabinet Office's Standards Hub was seeking input on two important questions: sharing or collaborating with government documents, and viewing government documents. Response must be submitted for both by tomorrow (that apparently means until the end of tomorrow...15th January) To do that, you need to register, but it's not onerous - it took me about a minute. Then you can offer your comments on the two areas.
I strongly urge you to do so - it will only take a few minutes, and even a couple of lines will help. If we don't take this opportunity now, we may not get another one.
- Cloud standards set to mature in next 18 months Jan 14, 2014
Out-Law - Standards in cloud computing are "more focused" than had been thought but they lack widespread adoption, a report commissioned by the European Commission has found.
The Commission has asked the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to help set out what standards cloud service providers should follow in order to operate in a way that both promotes EU market interests and complies with EU laws. ETSI established a 'Cloud Standards Coordination' (CSC) group which has now reported on the current landscape for standards in cloud computing.
"The analysis has concluded that cloud standardisation is much more focused that anticipated," the CSC's report said. "In short: the cloud standards landscape is complex but not chaotic and by no means a 'jungle'. Though several cloud computing standards have seen successful adoption in small-scale and research projects, cloud computing-specific standards [have] not seen widespread adoption by cloud providers to date."
The European Commission previously suggested that standards in cloud computing may relate to issues such as data security, interoperability and data portability.
- EC recommends supporting open document format Jan 10, 2014
Joinup - All European institutes should be able to use the Open Document Format (ODF) in exchanges with citizens and national administrations, says Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič, in response to questions by member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter. "There is no lock-in effect whatsoever, and no contradiction with the Commission's strategy on interoperability."
- EU Rolling Plan on ICT Standardisation Jan 06, 2014
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - First of all, Happy New Year to you all – above all good health, success and lots of luck.
For ICT standardisation in Europe the New Year starts with great news. Just before Christmas the European Commission published the EU Rolling Plan on ICT Standardisation. This is a work programme focussing on how ICT standards and specifications can support EU policies across all different Commission Directorates.
For the first time such a concise document is available providing advice to the Commission Services on the availability of standards and specifications, including global ICT specifications, and providing a plan for ICT standards bodies of how policy making in Europe can be supported by standardisation. It also provides a high level of transparency to all stakeholders and to the public. This Rolling Plan has the potential to further drive the use and implementation of standards and specifications in policy contexts in Europe – and it may shine beyond the borders of the EU.
- Process starts to select open standards for government documents – via GOV.UK Dec 12, 2013
TechBeast - There appears to be a window of opportunity to tempt the UK Government away from its precious Microsoft Office document formats and onto something more open and available to users of 3rd-party office suites, as well as ensure that documents can be read for decades to come.
There doesn’t appear to be a consultation as such, but they do appear to be inviting suggestions.
As well as making it easier for citizens to access and work with the information that government publishes, open document formats will enable users in government departments to operate more efficiently by sharing documents and working on them together.
- Where Did ODF Disappear to? (And How to Fix it) Dec 11, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Readers with good memories may remember various key fights over the years that were largely about ODF and OOXML. The first round culminated in the extraordinarily shoddy fast-tracking of OOXML through the ISO standards process. Then we had a big battle over open standards in general, which also involved ODF and OOXML, where the UK government performed a dizzying series of U-turns.
That was over two years ago, and it struck me that after years of sound and fury, and all the work the open source community put into supporting ODF and open standards, we have recently heard nothing about the use of ODF by the UK government. That is, OOXML seems to have won be default. Indeed, it is striking that practically every document from the UK government is in OOXML format: for a while, there was an attempt to offer ODF formats too, but clearly people in UK government have given up even pretending to be fair here.
But now, it seems, we are to have another chance to persuade the UK government to provide a level playing field for open standards, open source and ODF:
The government has begun the process of selecting open standards for document formats.
- Christmas comes early for the Open Document Faithful (ODF) Dec 09, 2013
Computer Weekly - Jingle Bells. The UK government has spruced its open document policy up for Christmas.
The Cabinet Office began a public consultation on open document formats this week, three and a half years after it came to power promising they would be one of the first things it delivered.
The consultation might signify the government has renewed its commitment to the policy. It had struggled so much since the coalition's first failed attempt to introduce it in 2011 that it seemed it would never deliver at all.
The Cabinet Office Open Standards Board issued a "challenge" for public comment on a proposal this week that government documents be published in a format that anyone can read.
"Citizens, businesses and government officials need to access government documents," said the challenge.
"[They] must not have costs imposed upon them, or be excluded, by the format in which government documents are provided," it said.
It said people should not be forced to buy special software just so they could read government documents. Government, in other words, must publish documents in formats that people can read without condition.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said in a written press statement on Wednesday said open formats would make government communications more efficient.
- Setting open standards for document formats in the UK using CAMSS approach Dec 09, 2013
Joinup - As part of ongoing efforts to improve government technology in the UK through adopting open standards, the Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Kelly, is leading the work to select open standards for our document formats. He has published two document format challenges on the Standards Hub. The document format challenges are descriptions of the problems that users face when they try to read or work on government documents. We are asking for ideas on how we should solve these challenges, including which technical standards we should use.
If you have some ideas about the open standards that you think could help, or any information you can share on the approach you have taken in your country, please post a response on these challenges:
- Whitehall tries to pin down open document standard Dec 06, 2013
UKAuthority - Five years since a UK government first made open standards a priority and a year since they were mandated across Whitehall, a concerted effort has begun on setting standards for document formats.
As the first step in an 'open and informed debate' the government's Standards Hub has published 'challenges' relating to the viewing and sharing of government documents. 'Citizens, businesses and delivery partners, such as charities and voluntary groups, need to be able to interact with government officials, sharing editable documents,' it notes. 'Officials within government departments also need to work efficiently, sharing and collaborating with documents.'
The term 'documents' covers word-processed texts, spreadsheets and presentation slides.
The closing date for proposals is 14 January. Proposals will be opened for comment before a recommendation is made by the Open Standards Board, chaired by Liam Maxwell, the government's chief technology officer, the announcement said.
- Process starts to select open standards for government documents Dec 05, 2013
GOV.UK - As well as making it easier for citizens to access and work with the information that government publishes, open document formats will enable users in government departments to operate more efficiently by sharing documents and working on them together.
The document format challenges - descriptions of problems faced by users trying to read or work on documents - have been published today on the government’s Standards Hub. Ideas are invited on possible open standards based approaches to the challenges, from which one or more proposals will be developed.
These proposals will also be open for comment before a recommendation is made by the Open Standards Board.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said:
- The only way is Office: UK Parliament to migrate to Microsoft cloud Dec 05, 2013
The Register - The UK Parliament is migrating to Office 365, which will become the default option for email, file-sharing, hosted apps and storage services for MPs and parliamentary staff from May 2015.
Like many organisations, Parliament has decided that moving to the cloud offers the potential for financial savings. A January meeting of House of Lords Management Board (see section 7.2 of the minutes) acknowledged data sovereignty and security issues need to be tackled for the plan to be pulled off successfully.
- IEEE forms cloud interoperability “testbed” Oct 14, 2013
Business Cloud - In an effort to standardise how clouds interoperate and federate with one another the IEEE has put together an intercloud tesbed, which the international standards development organisation says will help the industry develop standard methodologies for cloud-to-cloud internetworking.
- UK government picks first open standards in bid to dodge vendor lock-in Oct 01, 2013
ZDNet - The UK's Cabinet Office has selected the first two open standards as part of its plan to reduce technology bills and improve interoperability.
The two standards endorsed by the government's recently established Open Standards Board are HTTP/1.1 URL and Unicode UTF-8. The former should help organisations be able to reuse public sector information down the track with the introduction of consistent identifiers for things like schools, hospitals or companies in government datasets to ensure meanings stay consistent over time. The Unicode UTF-8 standard is meant to prevent corruption of text between systems.
The government's push for open standards is meant to cut technology costs and level the playing field between open source and proprietary software vendors. The Cabinet Office says it hopes the standards will also help agencies move away from long-term deals with a small number of suppliers.
- EU move to standardise phone chargers is bad news for Apple Oct 01, 2013
The Register - In a move that'll be cheered by phone users the world over, the European Union has decided that mobile phones should have a standard charger plug.
In a unanimous vote, the EU's Internal Market Committee decided that there's no good reason the charger should be treated as a proprietary secret. As German MEP Barbera Weiler put it, manufacturers should “put an end to cable chaos for mobile phones and tablet computers”.
- Government adopts first two open standards technologies for cheaper IT use Sep 30, 2013
The Cabinet Office's Open Standards Board has recommended the approval for the first two sets of open source technologies to encourage a "level playing field for open source and proprietary software providers", which is intended to allow the government to move away from "restrictive, long-term deals with a small number of suppliers".
The first two open source technologies to be approved are HTTP/1.1 – which will essentially be used to link similar pieces of information together from different sources – and Unicode UTF-8 to standardise the way textual information is moved from one system to another without causing problems with text formatting and interpretation.
- First open standards for government technology endorsed Sep 30, 2013
Invest in UK - The Open Standards Board has endorsed the first set of open standards for government technology.
The Open Standards Board has recommended the approval of the first open standards for government technology . The adoption of open standards will give government bodies access to a wider marketplace of innovative suppliers by encouraging a level playing field for open source and proprietary software providers. It will help the move away from restrictive long-term deals with a small number of suppliers.
The board’s recommendations were based on advice from specialist advisory panels and peer review.
Government Chief Technology Officer Liam Maxwell has accepted the board’s recommendations, adopting them as the first open standards for government.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said:
- Setting practical open standards for the public sector Sep 09, 2013
UKAuthority.com - Government's CTO, Liam Maxwell, is keen to engage local government and the wider public sector in the Open Standards setting process.
"The idea is to get rid of the complexity and walls in government... GDS is about building world class services for the citizen." Open standards, he maintains, are key to delivering the interoperability this new approach requires.
The standards currently being set by the open standards board Maxwell leads will be mandatory only for central government - not for health or local government. However, if the dream of joined up service delivery for the citizen is to be achieved all parts of the public sector will need to agree common standards.
The first three open standards 'challenges' go before the Open Standards Board for decision on 24th September. These are:
1. Describing and sharing information, centred on meta data and vocabularies
2. Cross platform character encoding
3. Persistent resolvable identifiers
- Government calls for volunteers to help manage its open IT standards Sep 05, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - The government has called for volunteers to help run its IT open standards drive.
The Cabinet Office wants to appoint unpaid volunteers who can help run the government's Open Standards Board, which sets core standards for government bodies to consistently apply, to make services better for users and to keep government IT costs down.
The Open Standards Board takes advice from groups of expert users who form a Technical Standards Panel and a Data Standards Panel. These panels consider proposed open standards profiles and advise the Open Standards Board on whether they meet user and functional needs.
- Open Standards show and tell Aug 15, 2013
Government Digital Service - Last year, we established our definition of an open standard for software interoperability, data and document formats, and the Open Standards Principles that explain our rationale for putting them into government IT.
Now we are working on identifying the specific open standards that will most benefit users of government technology and services. That process depends on suggestions and recommendations from experts on the field — many of whom are outside of government. We need your help.
On the evening of 5th September 2013, GDS will host an Open Standards show and tell event in London to talk through how you can get involved as we identify and select open standards for software interoperability, data and document formats through the Standards Hub.
- Portugal's prescribed open standards - full list Jul 11, 2013
Computer Weekly - See below for the most comprehensive list of mandatory open standards known to man: the software standards Portugal passed into law this week.
While the UK left punters wondering how it would enforce its own open standards mandate, in Portugal it is now illegal to do anything else. If you do business in Portugal - and some people do - and you do business in the public sector - and a lot of those who do, do - this is how you do it henceforward. If you don't the government will simply be unable to buy your software.
It took Portugal's administration a year to put the finishing touches to this list, following an extensive public consultation - about two to three years work in all. But when you get down to the nitty gritty, is it just a statement of the obvious?
- EU Open Standards: We Want Actions, Not Words Jul 02, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Open standards has been a recurring theme here on Open Enterprise. It's also been the occasion of one of the most disgraceful U-turns by the European Commission. That took place in the wake of the European Interoperability Framework v1, which called for any claimed patents to be licensed irrevocably on a royalty-free basis. But when EIF v2 came out, we found the following:
Intellectual property rights related to the specification are licensed on FRAND terms or on a royalty-free basis in a way that allows implementation in both proprietary and open source software.
In other words, EIF v2 is a disaster for free software, since FRAND terms are not compatible with it except in odd, atypical cases. This was a clear instance of the European Commission giving in to lobbyists in a particularly craven manner.
So when I read the following, I was naturally sceptical:
- Berlin won't migrate to open source, looks to open standards instead Jun 13, 2013
PC Advisor - The German city-state of Berlin won't migrate to open source software Instead, its parliament decided in principle to choose workplace IT based on open standards.
Berlin's Green party had proposed to have 25 percent of its standardized IT workplaces running open source software by 2018, according to the proposal that was voted down by the state parliament on Monday.
It is the second time the opposition Greens had proposed switching Berlin's 68,000 workstations to open source software, and the second time they failed, said Thomas Birk, the party's spokesman for government modernization, on Wednesday. The earlier effort was in 2007.
Switching to open source can work, said Birk. By switching over 80 percent of its 15,500 desktops from Windows to its own Linux distribution, LiMux, and OpenOffice.org software, the city of Munich said it had saved over €11 million (US$14.6 million) by November last year.
"Munich's example proves it is not witchcraft," to switch to open source, said Birk.
Not every migration works though. The city of Freiburg announced in November it would dump OpenOffice and go back to Microsoft because of functionality problems due to a failed migration.
- Australia mulls requiring OpenDocument Format compatibility May 29, 2013
PCWorld - Australia’s government may mandate that its agencies use software compatible with OpenDocument Format (ODF), an international file standard.
The country’s government agencies mostly use Microsoft’s Office software, but support for an open standard eliminates the “potential for a vendor ending support for specific format,” wrote John Sheridan, Australia’s chief technical officer.
If the draft proposal is approved, however, government agencies would not be required to work only with ODF documents, Sheridan wrote. The proposal is now open for comments and will eventually be taken up by the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board for approval.
If ODF support is mandated, Australia would follow a number of European countries that have required that government agencies be able to use open file standards.
ODF was approved as an international standard in May 2006. It is an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file format that sprang from OpenOffice, a free, open-source office application suite. The standard is open and can be implemented by any software vendor.
The standard is supported in Google Docs, Lotus Symphony, OpenOffice, StarOffice as well as later versions of Microsoft’s Office.
- The fight for HTML5: 'Keep DRM out' lobby steps up standards battle Apr 26, 2013
ZDNet - The web standards body W3C is being petitioned by a consortium of 27 organisations to reject proposals that would make it easier to support DRM-protected media in HTML5-based sites.
The draft Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification would apply to video, audio or interactive content marked with HTML5 media element tags. The specification defines an API that would interact with a DRM or simple encryption system when the media was played.
In a letter (PDF) addressed to inventor of the HMTL specification Sir Tim Berners Lee the consortium, which includes notable free software advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation, calls the proposed specification "disastrous" and claims it "would change HTML, the underlying language of the web, to make it accommodate and encourage" DRM.
The consortium opposes the adoption of the proposed specification on the basis that it would "harm interoperability, enshrine non-free software in W3C standards and perpetuate oppressive business models". W3C has made a public commitment to openness when developing web standards. The organisation's mission statement includes the pledge "the social value of the web is that it enables human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge. One of W3C's primary goals is to make these benefits available to all people".
- Government reveals board members expected to drive open standards Apr 17, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - At the end of last year all government departments were ordered to comply with open standards.
The Cabinet Office has revealed a board of ten members that will be expected to identify and drive the open standards that are intended to promote a cheaper and easier way of buying and using IT in government.
It was revealed at the end of last year that all government departments will be expected to comply with these open standards, which aim to underpin a common infrastructure that will deliver user-centric services to citizens and businesses.
The Open Standards Board has been set up to ensure that the government’s open standards meet users’ needs and create a level playing field for open source and proprietary software.
Board members include government CTO, Liam Maxwell, and Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at the NHS Commissioning Board.
The other appointments are:
- Croatian government creates working group on open source and open standards Apr 12, 2013
Joinup - The government of Croatia is starting the Working group for the implementation of open source and open standards. The decision to create the working group was taken during the third meeting of the Government's Commission for Coordination of Informatisation of the Public Sector held on 28th of March. The commission includes several government ministers and is headed by Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister, Milanka Opačić.
The group will be hosted by the Ministry of Public Administration. Darko Parić, assistant Minister in the Office for e-Croatia will provide necessary help and guidance.
It is expected that the group will provide consulting to ministries and other public administrations that wish to adopt open source software and open file formats. The group will provide guidance for public procurement of software related services and can help with pilot projects.
- Rising to the challenge on open standards Mar 26, 2013
Government Digital Service - Liam Maxwell - You might think that we’ve gone a little quiet since we published the Open Standards Principles last November, but we’ve been working hard on getting together the processes and the people to lead on some of the open standards challenges that you, our users, inside and outside government have told us to focus on first.
We know that having interoperable software and open information and data formats will mean that we can provide better services and bring about a positive change to the way government buys its IT.
So today, we’ve opened up 8 challenges on the Standards Hub that we think open standards can help to solve. This is the first step in identifying open standards for use across government. The Standards Hub will help us to engage with our users and to be completely transparent in how we select and implement our open standards.
The challenges range from:
- transferring information across public safety systems, that could potentially speed up emergency response times and save lives; to
- making us more transparent and accountable through sharing of government data.
Now, we need your ideas, through the Standards Hub, to help us develop the proposals to tackle these challenges.
- Microsoft joins Open Data Center Alliance to promote cloud standards, interoperability Feb 28, 2013
ZDNet - The OCDA—a group that includes Deutsche Bank, Nokia, J.P. Morgan Chase, AT&T, and eBay—will find its position bolstered by the software giant by giving the alliance a greater voice and a gain in credibility moving forward.
- Cabinet Office chucks hefty rulebook at paper-chewing gov bods Jan 23, 2013
The Register - The Cabinet Office will have its money-saving, IT-tightening digital service standards ready for government offices by April and has said it wants all departments to have swotted up and be ready by next February, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said yesterday at a gathering of "digital warriors". The newer websites and services have just three months to achieve compliance, however.
The minister spoke about the new cost-cutting rulebook at Sprint13 conference yesterday, where he was joined by Martha Lane Fox to help whip up excitement among their fellow civil servants about government's digital dream.
The new Digital Service Standards for Government will be published in April, and all new government sites and services after that date will have to be compliant. By early 2014 it is hoped that all government services will have shifted over to the new platform and will be following the guidelines.
Maude has said he expects savings of £1.2bn by 2015 for the UK taxpayer, when the government manages to fully transition its admin off paper and onto the internet. He is also hoping to reduce overall IT spend - currently, according to the Cabinet Office, the UK government has the highest IT spend per capita in the world.
- Open standards drive needed in risk-averse public sector says govt Digital Director Jan 18, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - Public sector organisations need to quicken adoption of open source and open standards software in order to meet government aims for digitising services, Cabinet Office Director for Digital Mike Bracken has said.
Speaking at the Government ICT conference in London this week, Bracken warned that a bigger push is needed in order to introduce a wave of digital services during this parliament, including digitising hundreds of thousands of transactions across government.
Last November departments were told they must comply with Open Standards Principles (OSPs) in order to enable interoperability and reduce costs. However Bracken said more needs to be done to open the doors to innovative technologies that will enable a swift IT transformation.
"There are a bunch of companies, [and] open source open standards services that we really need to plug into this government system if we are going to transform these transactions as quickly as we need to do," he said.
- EU Data Protection and Open Standards Jan 10, 2013
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - As happened for last year, 2013 will doubtless see plenty of battles in the domains of open standards, copyright and software patents, but there will also be a new theme: data protection. That's a consequence of an announcement made by the European Commission almost exactly a year ago:
- The U.K. Cabinet Office Solves the Open Standards Policy Conundrum Nov 26, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Governments certainly have more than enough to concern themselves with these days – financial crises, natural disasters and terrorism, to name just a few. Given that’s the case, it’s surprising that so many are finding the time to worry about what kind of standards the products and services they purchase comply with. But they are.
That’s the case in the EU, where the final terms of version 2.0 of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) were the subject of heated debate, resulting in a watered down definition of what should be regarded as acceptable standards for use in enabling communications between EU member nations. It’s also the case within those EU member states that are considering adopting definitions similar to the original formulation that appeared in the original, 2004 version of the EIF.
It’s somewhat ironic that this discussion is occurring not in the context of standards generally, but with respect to information technology (IT) standards, where the standards of greatest concern are those that enable interoperability. I say ironic, because once a standard has become universally adopted in the marketplace, customers – including governments – have little choice but to adopt it as well, because interoperability standards not only enable government IT systems to interact with each other, but also with the citizenry. Moreover, one great economic benefit that can be gained from procuring products and services that comply with widely adopted standards is that it protects the purchaser from becoming locked in to the proprietary products and services of a single vendor.
- Portuguese government goes ODF only Nov 21, 2012
The H Open - The Portuguese government has published a listing of open standards to be used within the country's public bodies and has decided on ODF (Open Document Format) as the sole editable document format according to a report from the Portugese Open Source Business Association.
The listing is part of the National Digital Interoperability Regulation which activated a previous law that mandated open standards within public authorities. ODF began life as the XML-based document format for the OpenOffice.org productivity suite and later went on to become an international standard, first with OASIS and later with the ISO.
The selection of ODF means that the ISO standard OOXML, pushed by Microsoft, is not eligible to be used even though it is technically an open standard. The decision does not mean that Microsoft's Office suite cannot be used: Office is also capable of working with the ODF files. Other formats and protocols that have been approved for use are PDF, XML, XMPP, IMAP, SMTP, CALDAV and LDAP.
Portugal's open standards mandate is part of the country's ICT reform program which hopes to save €500 million a year and provide an economic stimulus to Portugal's native ICT suppliers. There are allowances in the law for when an agency says it will find implementing open standards "impossible" but that requires that the Presidency of the Council of Ministers is informed and will trigger a review of the decision.
- Portuguese Government Adopts ODF as Sole Editable Document Format Nov 20, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - According to a press release issued today by the Portuguese Open Source Business Association (reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry), the government of Portugal has decided to approve a single editable, XML-based document format for use by government, and in public procurement. And that format is not OOXML.
Instead, the Portuguese government has opted for ODF, the OpenDocument Format, as well as PDF and a number of other formats and protocols, including XML, XMPP, IMAP, SMTP, CALDAV and LDAP. The announcement is in furtherance of a law passed by the Portuguese Parliament on June 21 of last year requiring compliance with open standards (as defined in the same legislation) in the procurement of government information systems and when exchanging documents at citizen-facing government Web sites (an unofficial English translation is here).
- Whitehall's open standards champions face 'real battle' to win over sceptics Nov 12, 2012
Computing - There's going to be a battle in overcoming resistance to the government's Open Standards Principles for IT, according to an advisor to the Cabinet Office.
Launched at the start of November, the standards are designed to make government IT cheaper, better connected and more open when delivering services across Whitehall.
But according to Mark Thompson, strategy director for service innovator Methods and ICT futures adviser to the Cabinet Office, it's just the start of what could be a long, tough process.
"The real battle is overcoming all the resistance and all the attempts to smear it politically, to put it in a political box. It's just a fact of life that we are seeing this happen out there in the world," he told Computing.
"Historically, this country has always been an innovator, we're not so good at putting it into practice, and we're very good at having ideas."
- UK Government finalizes Open Standards Principles: The Bigger Picture Nov 12, 2012
OpenSource.com - Last week, the UK Cabinet Office released its Open Standards Principles: For software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT specifications. It became effective November 1, 2012, and applies to IT specifications for software interoperability, data, and document formats for all services delivered by, or on behalf of, central government departments, their agencies, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and any other bodies for which they are responsible.
For the open source community and advocates of open standards, the UK’s Open Standards Principles policy is a welcome and positive development. It follows a lengthy, and often tumultuous, consultative process that began in 2011.On behalf of Red Hat, I was pleased to work with our UK colleagues to voice support for the Cabinet Office policy consultation, including participating in one of the Roundtables, along with others in the community. Great to see Open Forum Europe, the Free Software Foundation Europe, and Simon Phipps, President of the Open Source Initiative, all welcome the policy.
- U.K. Government Embraces Openness Nov 06, 2012
WSJ - There’s a risk that being based in the U.K., that Tech Europe takes too Anglo-centric view of the world, but London is one of—and perhaps the—main tech hubs in Europe ,and the U.K. government has hit a series of right notes when it comes to tech. It has just sounded another.
After a faltering start (its ICT strategy paper was somewhat patchy), the Conservative-led coalition has taken a number of well-placed steps. From its use of fiscal incentives to reward angel and seed investing, through some key appointments (Facebook’s head of EMEA Joanna Shields to run Tech City), key organizations (the Government Digital Service under Mike Bracken) and key principles (the Open Data Institute under Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt), there is a very strong and very positive thread uniting them all.
The latest step is the publication of its report on open standards. And once again, the government has got it right. It is a refreshing, well-crafted, thorough document, that admits the mistakes of the past, points the way to the future and lays down seven principles that few could argue against.
It is not often you read a government document and repeatedly mutter to yourself “yes!”
- Government IT projects: UK adopts open technology standards Nov 06, 2012
BBC - The UK government is drawing up a set of open technology standards all future IT projects must comply with.
The standards will dictate how data should be formatted and the ways that software should interoperate.
The push for open standards builds on earlier work to standardise the hardware on which government services are built.
The decision to mandate the open standards follows a four-month consultation exercise.
"For too long, government IT has been too expensive, over-specified and run in contract structures that encourage complexity, duplication and fragmented user services," said Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude in a speech announcing the strategy.
- Finally: UK Open Standards are RF, not FRAND Nov 02, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - In a huge win for open standards, open source and the public, the long-awaited UK government definition of open standards has come down firmly on the side of RF, not FRAND. The UK government's approach is enshrined in an important new document defining what it calls Open Standards Principles. Annex 1 provides definitions and a glossary, including the following crucial definition of what is required for a standard to be considered open:
rights essential to implementation of the standard, and for interfacing with other implementations which have adopted that same standard, are licensed on a royalty free basis that is compatible with both open source and proprietary licensed solutions. These rights should be irrevocable unless there is a breach of licence conditions.
The Principles are not just about central government, which means their impact is likely to be extremely wide:
whilst this policy focusses on central government, we shall work to promote the open standards principles for software interoperability, data and document formats with all public bodies in the UK. Local government, the wider public sector and the Devolved Administrations are encouraged to adopt the principles to deliver wider benefits.
The seven Open Standards Principles are as follows:
- UK governments must comply with open standards Nov 02, 2012
ITWorld - The new policy is a major step forward for competition and innovation in the UK software market, the FSFE said.
All governmental bodies in the U.K. must now comply with open standards to prevent vendor lock-in and stimulate interoperability of government IT, the Minister for Cabinet Office announced on Thursday.
Compliance with the Open Standards Principles will make U.K. government IT more open, less expensive and better connected, the Cabinet Office said.
"The publication of the Open Standards Principles is a fundamental step towards achieving a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and breaking our IT into smaller, more manageable components," wrote Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General in his foreword to the Open Standards Principles document.
The new policy does not cover open-source software, which is part of a different policy document.
"This is a major step forward," said the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) of the Open Standards Principles.
The new rules cover open standards for software interoperability, data and document formats, and should enable software to interoperate through open protocols.
- The government's open standards policy is bold, important and very carefully written Nov 02, 2012
Computer Weekly - The government has finally released its policy for open standards in IT - after an often controversial consultation process - and it will surprise and delight many observers who expected a meek compromise to the lobbying power of the software industry.
The new "Open Standards Principles" are bold, important, and clearly written with a smart lawyer and a clever linguist looking over the shoulder of the author. They are mandatory immediately for all central government IT purchases. And they will worry the big incumbent suppliers who have been used to a long-term lock-in to their products.
Here are a few of the boldest highlights from the policy document:
- UK open standards and the proprietary ecosystem Oct 29, 2012
Computer Weekly - The coalition government was elected on the promise that it would resolve the notorious problems that had turned public sector IT into a disaster story.
It expressed some firm ideas. Then it had second thoughts. Now two and a half years on, its flagship policy has stalled.
What happens next will depend on the results of a public consultation, due imminently. The government's dilemma is how to implement the policy.
The question for the consultation is what the policy really means.
- On Open Source, Standards, Clouds, Strategy and Open Stack Oct 22, 2012
Bits & Pieces - Simon Wardley - The issue of standards and in particular open standards is a hotly debated topic. The recent UK Government consultation on open standards was embroiled in much of the politics on the subject with even a media expose of the chair of a consultation meeting as a member of a paid lobbyist group. The rumours and accusations of ballot stuffing of ISO meetings with regards to Microsoft’s OOXML adoption as an open standard are also fairly widespread. The subject matter is also littered with confusing terms from FRAND (fair, reasonable and non discriminatory licensing) being promoted as an “open” standard despite it being IP encumbered by definition.
In general, the principle of standards is about interoperability. In practice, it’s appears more of a battleground for control of a developing market. Standards themselves can also create new barriers to entry into a market due to any onerous cost of implementation. There are also 17 different definitions of what an “open standard” is varying from international bodies to governments. Of these the OSI definition is probably the most respected. Here, open standards are defined as those which have no intentional secrets, not restricted by patents or other technology, no dependency on execution of a license agreement, freely and publicly available and royalty free.
- Checking Back in on OpenStand Oct 16, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - In case you haven’t thought about it lately, it’s a fair bet that everything in your life today depends to some greater or lesser extent (usually the former) on the Internet and the Web. And in case you’ve never thought about it at all, what makes those vital services possible has less to do with servers and fiber optics than it does with protocols and other standards. Take that reality a step further, and it becomes obvious that that the processes by which these essential enablers of our interconnected world are created is pretty important.
Further to that thought, a few weeks ago I was intrigued to read that five of the standard setting organizations (SSO) most responsible for the Internet and the Web had united to launch a new initiative called OpenStand. Intrigued, because while the press release answered the “who, what, when and where” aspects of the story, the “why” was a bit less fully fleshed out. I did some investigating on that front, and wrote about what I learned here.
Since then, I’ve had conversations and exchanged email with a variety of people who were involved in creating OpenStand, and I’ve also paid close attention to a number of other announcements, such as the launch last week of WebOpen.org hosted by the W3C, and supported by its own intriguing list of “Stewards:” Adobe, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Nokia, Mozilla and Opera Software, thus bringing together the developers of all four of the most popular Web browsers, plus some interesting partners.
OpenWeb.org describes itself on its home page as follows:
- Yes, Network Effects Are a Problem for Open Formats Oct 15, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - As we know, lock-in is one of the biggest obstacles to moving from closed, proprietary formats, to open ones. But so far as I know, no one has tried to quantify the extent to which people cling to old formats. That makes the following piece of research useful, at least as a first stab at finding out what is really going on:
we analysed a corpus of over 2.5 billion resources corresponding to the UK Web domain, as crawled between 1996 and 2010. Using the DROID and Apache Tika identification tools, we examined each resource and captured the results as extended MIME types, embedding version, software and hardware identifiers alongside the format information. The combined results form a detailed temporal format profile of the corpus, which we have made available as open data. We present the results of our initial analysis of this dataset. We look at image, HTML and PDF resources in some detail, showing how the usage of different formats, versions and software implementations has changed over time.
The key question was as follows:
- Steelie Neelie: Settle your Do-No-Track squabbles or else Oct 12, 2012
The Register - Regulators may impose a Do-Not-Track standard on squabbling tech vendors and web businesses after they missed a deadline to develop their own proposal.
EU member states are looking at how to enforce DNT under ePrivacy rules, the vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said Wednesday.
Kroes also hinted at action in the US, too, pointing to the Federal Trade Commission's growing frustration with the ongoing lack of agreement and watering down of proposals.
Kroes said techies and businessmen have one last opportunity to agree something that suits users, business and the internet.
“Let me be frank: standardisation work is not going according to plan. In fact, I am increasingly concerned,” she said.
- EU Clears Way to Use Consortium Standards Oct 09, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - While the decade long debate in the European Union over the definition of “open standards” has been well-publicized, it may come as a surprise to some that EU member nations are required to utilize a second standards filter in public procurement as well.
That filter relates to whether a standard has been developed by a “formal” standard setting organization (SSO). In other words, by either an EU SSO, such as CEN/CENELEC or ETSI, or by one of the global “Big Is” (ISO, IEC or ITU). If it doesn’t, then it’s supposed to be off limits - until now.
That filter has roots in a sixty year standards-based quest to benefit European trade, both within the EU and internationally. Historically, this goal was met by seeking to develop EU-wide standards that member states would be required to adopt, thereby replacing the national standards they had long used to keep the goods of neighboring nations out of their own markets. At the same time, these standards would be designed to facilitate EU goods internationally.
Of course, in an era of multinational companies and increasingly global trade, the concept of “European standards” makes even less sense in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector then it does generally. And with the rise of consortia, even standards developed by the Big Is (where every EU nation has its own vote, comprising quite a large voting block) are diminishing in importance, since the majority of the standards in ICT are now created within consortia and not by the old-line, mainstream SSOs.
- Reform of the European standardisation system Oct 08, 2012
Council of the Europeam Union - The Council today1 adopted a regulation aimed at modernising and improving the European standardisation system (PE-COS 32/12 and 13876/12 ADD1).
Harmonised standards are a well-established tool for promoting the technical conformity of products. They are drawn up by the European standardisation bodies (ESOs)2 and open to voluntary, though widespread, use by manufacturers throughout Europe in order to fulfill essential requirements of products laid down in EU legislation. The European Commission regularly gives mandates to the ESOs for developing new standards.
The regulation adapts the current legal framework to simplify it and to cover new aspects in order to reflect the latest developments and future challenges in standardisation. It includes, in particular, means for the development of voluntary standards for services and not only for products as it is the case nowadays.
- Impact Imminent: Open Source and Standards Oct 03, 2012
Adobe - Dave McAllister - Many years ago I wrote a posting on the similarities between standards development and open source. It seems like now would be a good time to revisit that topic, given all the activities that are blurring the barriers.
The premise still remains. Standards are designed to stabilize a technology or interface, package or connection. Open source is driven by continual development. Standards tend to update and publish on a schedule measured in years, while open source updates and publishes in sometimes days. Standards drive the status quo. Open source (often) drives innovation.
This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Open source is the operative paradigm for development these days, whether it is within a company firewall or not. Open source underlies even the most innovative of closed software products. Estimates from analysts state that 90% of software is a hybrid of open source and closed source code. Open source practices help define innovative techniques, or to paraphrase “Linus’ Law” from Eric Raymond, “Given enough eyeballs, all ideas are approachable.”
- Openness is Alive and Well (and Living in Europe) Oct 01, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Last week I took something of a trip back through time. The transition began somewhere over the dark Atlantic, on my way to Brussels via Heathrow, when the person sitting next to me struck up a conversation. Improbably, I found myself discussing ODF – the OpenDocument Format – with a former Sun engineer who had followed the ODF–OOXML contest with great interest back in 2005 - 2007. I was sorry to tell him, and he was sorry to hear, that things had not gone so well in the years that followed, and that many of the bright hopes of those that had supported ODF remained to be realized.The conversation set me thinking about how much of the energy that had surrounded open standards back then has faded from view in the U.S.
That’s not the case in Europe, though, where the promise of openness in all things IT-related, including in open standards, remains a hot topic. Only a few weeks ago, for example, the EU Parliament voted to amend its regulations relating to the use of open standards, and these regulations will flow through to the member states as of January 1 of next year.
The reasons for the enduring interest in openness on the Continent are several, but perhaps the most obvious one is that the European Union is not a long-settled federation like the United States, but a still evolving work in process. The result is that the relationship of nation to nation, and of nation to Union, remains very much in flux, and policy continues to evolve on a constant basis.
- Europe's Cloud Computing Strategy Calls for More Standardization Sep 26, 2012
CIO - IDG News Service (Brussels Bureau) — The European Cloud Computing Strategy, due to be announced on Friday, will seek to cut through the current jungle of standards in the European Union.
The plans, put forward by the European Commission, will also try to establish guidelines for service level agreements in order to build public trust in cloud services.
The Commission admits that setting standards will not be easy. "Currently, individual vendors have an incentive to fight for dominance by locking in their customers, inhibiting standardized, industry-wide approaches," according to Commission's strategy document.
The standards that the Commission wants would be voluntary but would apply to all cloud providers, not just to deals with public administrations.
- European Cloud Computing Strategy to call for standardisation Sep 26, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - The European Cloud Computing Strategy, due to be announced on September 28, will seek to cut through the current jungle of standards in the European Union.
The plans, put forward by the European Commission, will also try to establish guidelines for service level agreements in order to build public trust in cloud services.
The Commission admits that setting standards will not be easy. "Currently, individual vendors have an incentive to fight for dominance by locking in their customers, inhibiting standardised, industry-wide approaches," according to Commission's strategy document.
- Innovation the winner in IT standards revamp Sep 14, 2012
Public Service Europe - Paul Meller (OFE) - The revamp of Europe's rules on standardisation endorsed by the European Parliament on Tuesday is little short of a revolution for public sector procurers of information technology products and services
For the first time ever, the people writing tenders for IT contracts will be able to reference the full range of standards, not just those approved by the formal standards bodies such as the European Committee for Standardisation and the United Kingdom's National Standards Board. This means we are likely to see many more cutting edge technologies, such as web-based ones recognised as standards by the W3C – a consortium that grants industry standard status to inventions that help build the worldwide web – being adopted by public offices than at present.
The agreement reached between European lawmakers to recognise IT standards approved by industry fora and consortia without undue red tape will give public institutions the chance to use technologies that currently remain the preserve of the private sector. That can only be a good thing because it will help to boost innovation primarily, but not exclusively, in the public sector. In Europe, until now, public procurers have been prevented from directly referencing standards agreed by global industry fora and consortia such as the W3C, Oasis, and the Internet Engineering Task Force.
The decision to open up public procurement process very nearly did not happen. It only came about after a long and, in parts, fierce debate. Many national governments resisted opening up the procurement process to non-formal standards bodies, partly due to lobbying from their national standards bodies – the formal bodies that have dominated the public procurement area until now – and partly because some national governments were reluctant to hand over authority in the field of public procurement to the European Union.
- Software Freedom & the status quo Sep 13, 2012
Moved by Freedom - Powered by Standards - Charles.H Schulz - Next Saturday, the 15th of September, we will all celebrate the Software Freedom Day 2012. As usual, it will be a worldwide event with lots of big and small conferences, parties and presentations happening all around the globe and driven by teams of volunteers. Such a day highlights the momentum of the FOSS community and the importance of Free Software, and it has done so for several years now with a growing success.
I wish to seize this opportunity to point out an often less discussed aspect of Free Software. While I’m not sure it was fully intended in the first place -it obviously was somehow- Free Software carries the important ability to break the status quo in various fields related to software. I have been discussing here in various instances how Free Software helps creating a level-playing field for competitors and how this ultimately benefits to software users (customers or not). As it turns out, Free Software breaks the status quo in markets that are rigged or de-facto monopolized and this is something that is now known. But what is less known and understood is the ability of Free Software to break the status quo even among large software vendors and established players, may they be customers, service providers, regulators or otherwise.
- New EU rules on standardization to boost IT procurement Sep 12, 2012
PCWorld - The European Parliament on Tuesday approved a new system for standards, including IT specifications, across the EU.
The regulation, which modernizes the EU standardization system, was passed by a huge majority—639 votes in favor, 18 against, and 17 abstentions.
Standards are voluntary guidelines that provide technical specifications for manufacturers to ensure interoperability. Although companies are not required by law to work to standards, doing so gives them faster and wider access to the market.
In Europe, cooperation on standards is managed by three independent organizations, CEN (European Committee for Standardization), CENELEC (European Committee for Electro-technical Standardization) and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), national standardization bodies and the European Commission.
However, the new regulation will open up the system to technical specifications developed by private fora and consortia outside Europe, such as the World Wide Web Consortium, in areas where there are no European standards or where existing standards have not been taken up by the market.
Only 34 percent of all European standards have been mandated by the European Commission, meaning that most are initiated by industry and privately driven.
- 9th ODF plugfest in Berlin Sep 10, 2012
OpenDoc Society - The ODF plugfest will return to Berlin (Germany) on October 17th/18th 2012 for the ninth edition, again hosted by theBundesministeriums fuer Wirtschaft und Technologie and supported by OpenDoc Society.
- A Question of (Open) Standards Sep 06, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - As long-standing readers will know, alongside ACTA, the other main theme of this blog over the last year or so has been the battle for the soul of open standards, which culminated in the UK government's consultation on the subject. We don't yet know what the outcome there will be, but whatever it is, the issue of open standards will only increase in importance.
That makes this independent study on "the costs and benefits of introducing an open standards policy for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT requirements", commissioned a few months ago by the Cabinet Office, extremely useful.
As far as I know, it's the first rigorous, in-depth look at this whole area, and it makes for fascinating reading (well, it does if you are one of those sad people like me that finds this subject interesting.). Most of it will be familiar enough around here, but it adds plenty of links to original papers that provide further food for thought. And along the way, it brings out a few specific points that are worth emphasising - like this one, contrasting the impact of copyright and patents on software interfaces, which lie at the heart of standards in the computer world:
- The Document Foundation joins OASIS standards organisation Sep 05, 2012
The H Open - The Document Foundation (TDF) has announced that it has joined OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), the international standards development consortium which focuses on ebusiness and web service standards, as a Contributor. According to Document Foundation director Italo Vignoli, TDF will primarily focus its efforts on the Technical Committees for the Open Document Format (ODF), representing the open source productivity suite LibreOffice which it sponsors and governs.
- Leading Standards Organizations Assert Principles of a "New Global Standards Paradigm" Sep 03, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - The big news in the standards arena yesterday was a joint announcement by five of the standards setting organizations (SSOs) that have been most essential to the creation of the Internet and the Web: IEEE, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and Internet Society (the last three being closely affiliated entities).Joint announcements by SSOs are rare, and the subject matter of this announcement was more so: each organization was joining in the endorsement of a set of five principles that they assert support a “new paradigm for standards” development.
Most of the principles will likely strike those not familiar with standards development as being rather self-evident (one commentator from the utility industry who spoke with officers of the SSOs wrote, “frankly, I found their logic unassailable”). But to those that have engaged in debates for many years over what should qualify as an “open standard,” the announcement, and the further information to be found at the Web site established to support the initiative, the message was a bit cryptic.
- Oracle rallies PaaS providers to float cloud interop spec Sep 03, 2012
The Register - A consortium of seven technology vendors, including enterprise software heavyweights Oracle and Red Hat, have teamed up to produce an industry standard that they say will make it easier for customers to manage applications deployed in platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments.
Called Cloud Application Management for Platforms (CAMP), the draft specification defines generic APIs for building, running, administering, monitoring, and patching cloudy applications.
So far, PaaS vendors have all provided their own bespoke interfaces for such management functions, making it difficult for customers to move existing cloudy apps to new platforms, which may offer completely different management interfaces than the ones they currently use.
"CAMP defines a simple API that enables customers to have an interoperable solution across multiple vendors' offerings, manage application lifecycles easily, and move applications between clouds," Don Deutsch, Oracle's vice president and chief standards officer said in a statement.
- Open Standards in Government IT: An Academic Review of the Evidence Aug 21, 2012
The Centre for Technology Policy Research - Bournemouth University‘s Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM) has produced an independent study on the costs and benefits of introducing an open standards policy for software interoperability, data and document formats in government IT requirements.
Key findings of the review are:
- Intellectual property rights (as they are applied to software standards) do not provide the right incentives for enabling interoperability.
- Royalty bearing software standards (FRAND) come with potential restrictions that are difficult to justify.
- For future IT procurement, the aim must be to encourage the use of royalty free (RF) standards to increase competition.
- Although open standards offer important benefits, including avoiding lock-in and improving interoperability and competition, careful implementation is required to optimise these benefits.
- Office to Become Fully Open XML Compliant (at last) Aug 16, 2012
The Standards Blog - Yesterday, Microsoft made an unobtrusive announcement that brings a degree of closure to a seven year long epic battle between some of the largest technology companies in the world. The same saga pitted open source advocates against proprietary vendors, and for the first time brought the importance of technical standards to the attention of millions of people around the world, and at the center of the action were Microsoft and IBM, the latter supported by Google and Oracle, among other allies.The standards in question described the format specifications that can allow documents created by one proprietary software product to be opened, edited and saved in another.
More specifically, the battle had been joined between the supporters of the Open Document Format – ODF for short – developed by OASIS, and then adopted by ISO/IEC, and a format developed and promoted by Microsoft, called Open XML, which it contributed to ECMA for adoption before also being submitted to ISO/IEC. In due course, Open XML was adopted as well, but only after a global battle that, improbably, even inspired a public protest on the sidewalks outside a standards committee meeting.The heat of the action mostly occurred between the summer of 2005, when Massachusetts first endorsed ODF, and the end of 2008, the year that Open XML became an ISO/IEC standard, and inspired tens of thousands of news articles and blog posts (you can find my 284 stories on this topic here, and a partially completed book telling the story here).
- 1992: Open standards doomed from outset Aug 03, 2012
Computer Weekly - The European Commission has been trying - and failing - to avoid being locked into proprietary Microsoft technical standards since 1992, it has been revealed in official documents released to Computer Weekly.
Its failure then led directly to the decision last year that ensured the EC will in 2013 have been buying Microsoft software for 20 years without a competition. In fact it was 20 years ago this month that EC officials made the original decision.
The Commission's Committee for Word Processing and E-Mail made the historic decision to use Microsoft desktop software on On 6 July 1992. It was backed up over the following month by various official bodies.
- On Software obsolescence Aug 01, 2012
Moved by Freedom, Powered by Standards - Recently the Mozilla Foundation announced a new orientation for their email client, Thunderbird. It caused quite a bit of discussion, and we, at the Document Foundation, received quite a lot of public and private feedback on this mostly in the form of: “Now that Mozilla is getting rid of Thunderbird, The Document Foundation should take on its maintenance and development”. Much of this crazy rumor has ended being disproved by Mozilla itself and what seems to be going on is that Mozilla will in fact enable a real community-led development style on Thunderbird (contrary to the development model of Firefox) but has to intention of dumping it anywhere. That didn’t stop the rumor to spread anyway and this article by Brian Profitt caught my eye: “Will Open Source Office Suites go the way of Thunderbird?”.
Brian seems to push the case that Open Source office suites, just like email clients in general are tools that are slowly yet surely becoming extinct and obsolete. Email clients do not innovate anymore, he argues, and suites like Libreoffice lack the innovation and the presence the upcoming Microsoft Office 2013 has. I think that Brian is mixing up several trends and concepts here, although his article is well worth a read.
- Improved OOXML support for LibreOffice and OpenOffice Jul 20, 2012
The H Open - Developers from a project hosted by the Open Source Business Alliance are working to improve the compatibility of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with Microsoft Office. The German municipalities of Munich, Jena and Freiburg, and the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit (FITSU) and the Swiss Canton of Vaud – who together use OpenOffice on around 18,000 workstations – have jointly raised €140,000 (approximately £109,000) funding for the project.
The goal is to improve the way in which Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents that have been saved in the Microsoft-developed OOXML format can be imported, displayed and edited. Among other things, the developers plan to enhance the formatting of frames, images, tables and lists in Word documents. They are also working to fix the display of comments in Word and Excel files and add the option to embed fonts in ODF and OOXML documents. They say, however, that they need a further €30,000 (£23,000) to complete the font embedding feature and have called on interested OpenOffice and LibreOffice users to contribute development funds.
- Open Source Law Releases Report On Open Standards Jul 13, 2012
Brenden Scott's Weblog - I have been doing a bit of work for a variety of people recently relating to standards and standards setting. In early May I saw that the UK open standards consultation process had been extended because of a potential conflict of interest by one of the facilitators. Linux Australia commissioned a report from me about Open Standards. That report (Report on Issues Relating to Open Standards) was completed last week and, I understand, Linux Australia has used it as a basis for a submission to the UK Open Standards Consultation process. The report covers a variety of issues relating to open standards. Some of the issues it covers are:
- 'Confusion about open standards clouds public debate' Jun 15, 2012
Joinup - Björn Lundell - Politicians and software makers are confused about the meaning and impact of openness in standards, says a group of Swedish academics. A workshop they held in the city of Skövde on Tuesday marked the beginning of a three-year research project to build a reference model for open standards and open source. They aim "to improve understanding of open standards and their implementations in open source."
The research project, titled Open source software Reference Implementations for Open Standards (Orios), will be carried out by the University of Skövde and three firms specialising in open source, PrimeKey Solutions, Pro4u Open Source and RedBridge. The project is financially supported by the Knowledge Foundation, a Swedish research funding organisation.
"Orios will allow stakeholders to communicate unambiguously about the costs, benefits and effects of open standards and open source", predicts University of Skövde professor Björn Lundell, one of project's researchers. "It will provide concrete examples that help organisations benefit from reference implementations."
- EU Regulation on Standardisation - Good agreements reached in legal decision making process Jun 11, 2012
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - For those of you who followed my posts on the European standardisation reform and the legal package presented almost exactly a year ago by the European Commission there is great news: The IMCO committee of the European parliament published just yesterday the so called four column document showing the compromise agreement that was reached in the trilogue negotiations between the European Council, the European Parliament and the Commission.
- EU Clears Way to Use Consortium Standards Jun 08, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - While the decade long debate in the European Union over the definition of “open standards” has been well-publicized, it may come as a surprise to some that EU member nations are required to utilize a second standards filter in public procurement as well.
That filter relates to whether a standard has been developed by a “formal” standard setting organization (SSO). In other words, by either an EU SSO, such as CEN/CENELEC or ETSI, or by one of the global “Big Is” (ISO, IEC or ITU). If it doesn’t, then it’s supposed to be off limits - until now.
- Oracle case crippled after judge rules APIs can’t be copyrighted Jun 01, 2012
The Register - Google has won a major victory in its legal fight with Oracle over the use of Java in Android after the presiding judge ruled that the APIs under dispute can't be copyrighted.
"So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API," Judge Alsop wrote in a ruling released on Thursday, US time.
"It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression."
- Technology Leaders Support OASIS Standards for Open Data Protocol May 25, 2012
MarketWatch - Market demand is growing for easy access to data across multiple platforms and devices. The move to cloud computing is increasing pressure to create a more open and programmable Web by having a common approach to expose and consume data.
- Open Standards Consultation Nearing Close May 18, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Simon Phipps - The final round-table for the government's Open Standards Consultation is now open for booking - consider attending as much is at stake for UK ICT procurement.
As part of its ongoing consultation on the role of open standards in software procurement, The government has announced the date for the re-run of the first open standards round-table as Thursday May 31st. Anyone with an interest is invited to attend, either in person or (for the first time in this consultation) by phone. Places once again need to be booked in advance.
The first attempt at holding this meeting resulted in an unusually positive view on on the acceptability of standards that can only be implemented after gaining permission from patent holders, under so-called "FRAND" terms. Given one of the primary goals of the consultation is to make it easier for government entities to procure open source software, the widely-recognised incompatibility between FRAND terms and open source made this view surprising and anomalous.
The meeting was later voided by the Cabinet Office after the discovery of an undisclosed conflict of interest for the meeting moderator, who failed to advise them of a commercial relationship with Microsoft. It may be that the anomalous outcome was the result of domination of the meeting by opinions derived from the telecoms industry rather than the computer software industry.
This final round-table meeting will cover the aspects of the consultation regarding Competition and European Interaction. The Cabinet Office is seeking answers to these questions:
- Thoughts on the certification May 17, 2012
Moved by Freedom - Powered by Standards - A weblog by Charles-H. Schulz - On the 7th of May 2012 The Document Foundation has announced its first certification program. This certification is aimed at professionals who are interested in having their skillset certified in order to provide professional services to their customers. The program is currently being rolled out, in fact the first official certification meeting will take place at the LinuxTag next week. I would like to explain what we are trying to achieve in a bit more details by shedding some light on the reasons such a program came into existence.
Historically, OpenOffice.org has been one of the most downloaded Free Software out there and one of the most used (the real market share was estimated to be around 15%, far higher than the estimates based on the shipment of MS Office) all around the world. But for all its user base, OpenOffice.org proved incapable to growing a vibrant ecosystem of support and service providers, value-added resellers, OEMs and integrators. Initiatives had been launched with mixed success. Judging by its yield and popularity, OpenOffice.org was a complete business failure – and not just to Sun’s own bottomline.
- How Microsoft Fought True Open Standards V May 15, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Ten years ago, people were saying that open source would never be able to best proprietary software. But what they overlooked was the fact that Apache had already beaten Microsoft's IIS Web server offering back in the mid-1990s, and had never lost that leadership once.
Since then, we've had GNU/Linux trouncing Windows in the area of supercomputers, and arguably winning in the mobile space with Android. And so the refrain became: yes, but open source will never succeed on the desktop. Against that background, this news is significant:
VideoLAN would like to thank VLC users 1 billion times, since VLC has now been downloaded more than 1 billion times from our servers, since 2005!
In case you haven't come across it:
VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.
- UK Open Standards consultation - workshop on IPRs May 08, 2012
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - It was shortly before last week's second workshop organised by the UK cabinet office in the context of their consultation on open standards when the announcement was made that the first workshop would not be considered. The reason for this nullification was a potential conflict of interest of Dr. Andy Hopkirk who had been moderator of the workshop.
The workshop itself last week was pretty straight forward. The majority of the people were clearly in favour of openness, of open standards and of enabling a level playing field for open source technologies via a clear open standards procurement policy. Cabinet office reconfirmed that the policy is about software interoperability only and that they intend to follow the principle of "Comply or declare"; thus they indicate the basic direction and give recommendations but do not dictate.
One of the points that came across most clearly at the meeting is that the telecommunications sector thinks and operates very different from IT. And it could be clarified that all the concerns that were raised out of the perspective of the participants representing telcos are not applicable for software interoperability.
- Software industry reclaims open standards debate May 04, 2012
Computer Weekly - Software heavyweights filled the first meeting of the UK's extended public consultation on open standards last Friday, closing down telecoms patent advocates whose arguments had threatened to derail government policy.
Deputy government CIO Liam Maxwell had the night before extended the consultation for a month after discovering Microsoft, lead opponent of the UK's open standards policy, had been paying an independent Cabinet Office facilitator to help formulate its case. Government supporters had till then shown a lacklustre response to the consultation, while the policy, and open standards, had looked lost for the UK.
By Friday lunchtime the tables had turned.
Linda Humphries, Cabinet Office official, told a meeting of around 30 mostly software experts that the fields from which the government's opponents had been drawing their evidence was out of bounds for the consultation.
"The consultation is focusing on open standards in specifications for software interoperability, data and document formats," she said, with Maxwell looking on.
"It doesn't go into hardware, telecoms or software IP. There are some people concerned we are trying to run away with [their] IP. That's not the point at all. What we are talking about is standards," she said.
The meeting nevertheless dwelt for a significant time on just those things as the software industry staked its territory in what seemed like a pivotal moment for both it and the coalition government's ICT strategy.
- Swedish schools confused about document file formats and applications May 02, 2012
Joinup - Björn Lundell - Sweden's schools teachers and students seem unable to separate the digital formats of their documents from the software they use to write and read such documents, concludes Björn Lundell, a researcher from the University of Skövde. Based on preliminary figures from a survey of schools in the country, he sees " significant IT vendor lock-in."
The researcher collected a first round of answers from an email-based survey sent to 290 municipalities that together support about 5000 primary and secondary schools. Based on these results Lundell shared some early conclusions, in a presentation during the ODF Plugfest in Brussels earlier this month.
Many of Sweden's schools expect their teachers and pupils to use a variety of proprietary file formats, Lundell summarises. He says that is exactly the opposite of the country's policy's. "Students should expect to be able to use open file formats in public sector schools."
- Accommodating Telecoms May 02, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Simon Phipps - I attended the 3rd round-table meeting for the UK Government Consultation on Open Standards last Friday. The meeting was well attended although not completely full. In particular, perhaps because of the controversy that broke the same day involving their back-room activities, a number of seats that people supporting FRAND had booked at the sold-out meeting remained empty.
In the absence of those friends of FRAND, input on the supposed necessity of FRAND was made by only by spokespeople from the telecommunications industry. Their history is of participants in a market where a legally-constituted cartel of suppliers commission specifications for key shared standards. Technologists contribute freely on the expectation they will recoup their costs through royalties for licensing the patents on their contributions. In their market, it is reasonable to expect and tolerate FRAND terms. I believe understanding that is critical to progress on a rational policy for the UK Government.
- How Microsoft Fought True Open Standards III Apr 30, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - In my first two posts about Microsoft's lobbying against true open standards, I concentrated on a document sent to the Cabinet Office in May 2011. Here, I'd like to look at another, sent in October 2011 (available in both html and pdf formats.)
The document has three main sections. The first is headed:
The revised definition would preclude the use of practically all standards that governments (and private sector, including citizens) currently use because no standards are “made irrevocably available without restriction on a royalty free basis.”
Here's the nub of the argument:
- Cabinet Office Acts On Discovery Of Undisclosed Conflict Of Interest Apr 27, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Simon Phipps - In a remarkable development last night resonant of the revelations in the Leveson inquiry, the Cabinet Office voided the findings of the first open standards consultation round-table on the grounds that it's facilitator had a previously undisclosed relationship with Microsoft. The news posting on the Cabinet Office web site also announced that an extra month has been added to the process, so that the consultation meeting can be run again.
As both ComputerWeekly's Mark Ballard and ComputerWorld's Glyn Moody have discovered, there has been extensive behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to re-open the Government's position on open standards and protect the incumbent suppliers to the government, so the discovery of an over-cozy relationship in this area of the government's business too is no real surprise.The extra time will be welcomed by many, but I expect to see a renewed push for the sophistry that claims standards with restrictions on who can implement them are somehow preferable to standards anyone can freely implement. That's clearly untrue, as I wrote on Wednesday. The extension also means you're extra time to submit your responses; please do.
- Open Standards consultation – important update Apr 27, 2012
Governmnet Digital Service - On 4th April 2012, Dr Andy Hopkirk facilitated a roundtable on behalf of ICT Futures on Competition and European Interaction. Liam Maxwell, Deputy Government CIO, examines the appropriateness of this facilitation based on information which has since come to light.
Those in the Open Standards community will be aware of our recently re-launched consultation on which we have been soliciting your views since 9th February 2012. One of our first discussion roundtables held on the 4th of April (Competition and European Interaction) was facilitated by Dr Andrew Hopkirk who blogged about the event for Computer Weekly and who was engaged by Cabinet Office as an independent facilitator on a pro-bono basis.
Dr Hopkirk is a respected advocate for “openness and interoperability of systems, of people, processes and information technologies”.
However, at the time he was engaged to facilitate the Open Standards roundtable, while we were aware that he represented the National Computing Centre on the Microsoft Interoperability Executive Customer Council (along with 40 other CIOs/CTOs across the public and private sector who participate in a voluntary capacity) he did not declare the fact that he was advising Microsoft directly on the Open Standards consultation.
- FOI shows bureaucratic bungle behind open standards u-turn Apr 26, 2012
Computer Weekly - Standards institutions persisted in their opposition to the UK's open standards policy after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude reassured them their fears about it were unfounded, according to letters released to Computer Weekly under Freedom of Information.
The revelation raises questions about the minister's subsequent withdrawal of the UK policy, on 30 November, which was by then under no substantial pressure bar lobbying from large US software companies and, bizarrely, the record industry.
A letter sent by Maude in June last year, and obtained by Computer Weekly, showed how he had even then already extinguished threats and fears raised by opponents of the UK open standards policy in official standards bodies in Chiswick and Geneva.
The International Standards Organisation and its UK franchise, the British Standards Organisation, had threatened that the coalition government would be in breach of international agreements if it persisted with the policy. This would have meant expulsion from the international standards community, a threat so severe that it sent the Cabinet Office into a tailspin of public consultations.
But the standards bodies had got it all wrong - and this they later admitted.
The letters now obtained by Computer Weekly suggest they either misunderstood the policy because their executive officers did not understand software standards issues, or they wilfully misinterpreted it to protect their business interests. Neither organisation was available for comment.
- Support for ODF from the Hungarian government Apr 26, 2012
The H Open - The Hungarian government has committed to invest just over a million pounds (370 million HUF) in the development of applications that use the open document format (ODF), according to a report on the European Union's Joinup web site. Two organisations will benefit from the funding: the Department of Software Engineering at the University of Szeged and the open source development company, Multiráció. In December of last year, the Hungarian government announced that from April 2012 all official documents would need to be prepared in internationally recognised open-standards-based formats
- OSI Supports Open Standards Apr 26, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Simon Phipps - The Open Source Initiative agreed what made a standard open back in 2006 and today collaborated with the Free Software Foundation on a press statement about it.
Back in 2006, a detailed discussion at the Open Source Initiative - where I am today a director - led to the creation of a statement about what makes a standard open, and a set of criteria for determining if the requirement was met and a standard compliant. Both are very simple as well as fully explained.
To save you the click-through, here's the OSI Open Standards Requirement and Criteria in full:
- UK Open Standards experts publish joint statement on Government consultation Apr 25, 2012
At a meeting yesterday, hosted by the British Computer Society's Open Source Specialists Group, We the Undersigned called upon the Government to do the following:
- Not do anything which will result in the imposition in a stealth tax upon citizens, for example by requiring them to purchase specific products for interacting with online public services
- Ensure that anybody and everybody be able to participate in public sector procurement, regardless of their businesses model
- Leverage truly open innovative technologies to achieve long term savings
Commitment to these points is critical if The Government is to achieve its stated aims of a more competitive and diverse market for public contracts, reduction of barriers to participation in public sector IT affecting small and medium size enterprises, and realisation of the potential benefits of its existing Open Data strategy.
We believe that it is important that The Government moves quickly from setting Open Standards policy to practically implementing it, and we look forward to participating in the next steps of this process.
Howard Thomson, Martin Houston, Free and Libre Open Source Software UK,
Sam Tuke, Free Software Foundation Europe,
Graham Taylor, Open Forum Europe,
Gerry Gavigan, Open Source Consortium
- The debate about the UK open standards policy – is it a story like the one of the spider and the bee? Apr 25, 2012
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - A fierce debate is going on about the UK open procurement policy and the open standards consultation that was issued by the UK government and where final submission is due by end of this month. It is the same (old) debate about open versus closed that we have seen so often before. It is discussed in almost every organisation around the globe, it seems, and culminates in a series of workshops around the topic to which the UK cabinet office has invited.
And as we have seen before, there is a good deal of confusion around and a good deal of FUD is created. There are some articles and blog posts from the workshops that give a bit of an idea of the debate. On ComputerWeekly Mark Ballard published an article where he did some research on how the first workshop went: “Open standards supporters who attended complained it was stacked with opponents who easily dominated a meeting motion against the government's open standards policy.” This was, in a way, countered or put into more balance by a statement from Andrew Hopkirk, moderator and facilitator of the round table – also published in ComputerWeekly.In a blog post Linda Humphries, member of the UK cabinet office, asks “Are open standards a closed barrier?” And she outlines in some detail what the actual objective of the UK policy makers is:
- Interview with Charles-H. Schulz on Open Standards Apr 25, 2012
That's because he's one of the leaders of The Document Foundation, home to the LibreOffice fork of the ODF-based OpenOffice.org, and he's also on the board of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). The following is an interview exploring his views about standards - open and not so open.
- UK Government Open Standards Consultation closes soon Apr 25, 2012
The H Open - The UK Government's Open Standards Consultation period will come to an end soon and open standards advocates are calling on interested parties to submit their comments as soon as possible. The debate has predominantly centred around the question of FRAND (Free Reasonable And Non Discriminatory) and RF (Royalty Free) patent licences, with proprietary software companies reported to be lobbying for the former. Open standards advocates are calling for an RF patent policy as this allows open source developers to implement the standards without having to pay for patent licences.
The Open Rights Group (ORG), the UK non-profit digital rights group, is among those calling on people to respond to the consultation before it closes on 1 May. According to ORG Campaigner Peter Bradwell, the new consultation process, which began as the result of the UK Government withdrawing its previous recommendations, has already come under "intense lobbying" since it started in early February.
The consultation itself is organised into three chapters: criteria for open standards, open standards mandation and international alignment. The first section covers a proposed specification policy which describes, among other things, how patents should interact with open standards. The second section discusses how the government should mandate open standards within the public sector. The final section asks questions about how the policy will align with international standards bodies and other organisations outside the UK.
- Does Microsoft Office Lock-in Cost the UK Government £500 Million? Apr 20, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - In may last column, I wrote about Microsoft's efforts last year to derail any possible adoption of ODF. That's very telling, because in a way it's quite separate from the issue of open standards, and it shows that one of Microsoft's chief fears is losing the extremely lucrative office suite business. But just how lucrative is it? An email from Microsoft that is apparently circulating around the Treasury department sheds some interesting light on this. Here's what it says:
As a strong supporter of openness and inter-operability in software and systems, Microsoft feels there would be risks associated with a narrow definition of an open standard or a restrictive single standard mandate. Moreover, we believe that this would actually the increase costs of procuring IT right across the Government estate rather than reducing costs.
Microsoft a "strong supporter of openness"? Well, that's an interesting claim given that it has spent the last fifteen years spreading FUD about the horrors of openness. But maybe it's seen the light now, so let's look at the second part of the above. Notice that it moves from open standards to restrictive single standard mandate: as far as I am aware, nothing in the current open standards consultation talks about single standard mandates - it's another of Microsoft's straw men.
The email goes on:
- Microsoft Adds ODF, Short UK, 300MB file Uploads To Skydrive Apr 20, 2012
ITProPortal -Microsoft has added support for the Open Document Format (ODF) which is more widely accepted than the proprietary Microsoft Office formats (docx, xlsx, pptx etc) to its online cloud storage solution, Skydrive, ahead of the impending launch of Google own solution, Google Drive.Microsoft said in a release that it will add Share to Twitter, 300MB file uploads in the browser as well as a short URL (sdrv.ms) for Windows Phone images sharing via Twitter. In addition, the team has confirmed that they have "some really big things coming soon" without dishing out more details on what to expect.
- How Microsoft Fought True Open Standards II Apr 18, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - In yesterday's post about Microsoft's lobbying of the Cabinet Office against truly open standards based on RF licensing, I spent some time examining the first part of a letter sent by the company on 20 May last year. The second part concentrates on the issue of open standards for document exchange. This touches on one of the most brutal episodes in recent computing history - the submission of Microsoft's OOXML file format to ISO for approval.
That story is told in unmatched depth and authority by Andy Updegrove on his Standards Blog, and for those who want the gory details, I strongly recommend looking through some of the literally hundreds of posts Updegrove has written on this extremely complex subject.
I won't go into the details of that story here. Instead, I want to concentrate on just one aspect, as revealed in this post by Updegrove:
- Dear open standards lobby: SHOUT LOUDER!! Apr 18, 2012
Computer Weekly - There is a hugely important debate taking place in the UK IT community at the moment, one that will have equally huge significance for almost everyone who buys IT in this country.
It's about open standards - and in particular, what definition the UK government will use for the open standards policy that will determine much of the future of public sector IT procurement. But this isn't just an issue for IT chiefs in government - the longer term implications will affect every IT leader in every sector. With government being such a major influence on IT suppliers, the policy it adopts will have a big input into the product development of any vendor that wants to sell to the public sector, and hence to the products they sell to the private sector too.
It's a complex and often emotional debate.
For the layman, when software types start talking about patents and intellectual property and throwing around jargon and acronyms such as RF (royalty free) and FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory), there's a natural tendency to switch off.
Don't worry - I'm not going to get into that sort of detail here, although if you read on I will point you to other articles on Computer Weekly and elsewhere that will help to explain some of those finer points.
Instead, I want to point a finger at the supporters of open standards and open source - simply because they need to make their opinions heard more widely and loudly in this critical debate.
Let me explain.
- How Microsoft Fought True Open Standards I Apr 17, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glym Moody - Regular readers may recall that I was not a little taken aback by an astonishing U-turn performed by the Cabinet Office on the matter of open standards. As I pointed out in a follow-up article, this seemed to bear the hallmarks of a Microsoft intervention, but I didn't have any proof of that.
So, without much hope, I put in a Freedom of Information request through the wonderful WhatDoTheyKnow site (highly recommended), asking for details of all the meetings that Microsoft had had with the Cabinet Office on this subject. To my utter astonishment I was sent a real cornucopia of briefing notes and emails that Microsoft used to lobby against Restriction-Free (RF) open standards and in favour for standards based on FRAND licensing of claimed patents.
Over the next few days I shall be presenting some of the astonishing things that Microsoft has been saying behind closed doors in its attempt to derail truly open standards. These are extremely timely given the current UK government consultation on open standards, which I've already urged you to respond to several times.
- Proprietary lobby triumphs in first open standards showdown Apr 16, 2012
Computer Weekly - Software patent heavyweights piled into the first public meeting of the Cabinet Office consultation on open standards on 4 April, conquering the meeting ballot with a resounding call to scrap the government's policy on open standards.
Open source and open standards campaigners complained they hadn't been invited to the Round Table event, the proceedings of which Cabinet Office will use to decide the fate of its beleaguered open standards policy.
Government supporters felt a growing sense of urgency over the consultation. Scattered and underfunded, they looked incapable of standing up to the big business interests that induced the consultation with backroom lobbying and have stepped forward now the debate has been brought out into the open.
Linda Humphries, Cabinet Office open standards official, said yesterday in a blogged report of the meeting: "The consensus was that the... proposed policy would be detrimental to competition and innovation."
Graham Taylor, chief executive of Open Forum Europe, which has worked closely with Cabinet Office IT policy makers, said he was "disappointed" the meeting hadn't been "representative".
- Are open standards a closed barrier? Apr 13, 2012
Ask a seemingly simple question, ‘So what exactly is an open standard?’ and a multitude of variations and interpretations are likely to head your way – a quick scan of Wikipedia will give you a flavour. So how do we decide which definition is right for the Government when we are applying it to our IT?
The trick is to look at what we’re trying to achieve.
- Of Microsoft, Netscape, Patents and Open Standards Apr 11, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - I still remember well the day in October 1994 when I downloaded the first beta of Netscape's browser. It was instantly obvious that this was a step beyond anything we'd had until then, and that it was the dawn of a new Internet era.
Netscape went on to become the key Internet company - indeed, its highly-successful IPO probably did much to establish the credibility of this new-fangled cyberspace thingy with the business world. Of course, after just a few years of glory, Netscape's management made a series of missteps, and the company gave up its leading position in the browser world to Microsoft, which retained it until Mozilla came along to claim back the crown that its progenitor Netscape had lost.
Against that background, this news is pretty rich:
Here’s a deal that would have made many minds explode back in the 1990s: Microsoft is buying Netscape. Or at least most of the important parts of the company that used to be synonymous with “Internet.”
- EU Legal Package on Standardisation: legal process taking up speed - some key issues for the ICT part Apr 10, 2012
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - Since the European Commission presented the EU legal package on standardisation in June last year (see my blog post from then) the legal process has taken place in the European Parliament, where the IMCO committee has the lead, and in the Council, where a working group of the competitiveness council deals with the topic. .Both institutions recently finalised their positions. Once both institutions have given their chair or rapporteur, respectively, a mandate to negotiate the formal trialogue discussions between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission will take place. For the time being informal probing talks are held.
- Open Standards Open Opportunities Apr 05, 2012
The Open Sourcerer - Flexibility and efficiency are perhaps not two words that have been traditionally associated with the public sector in general, and certainly not with government IT. This might change though, and you can help nudge it in the right direction. Last week, just before the budget was announced in front of a packed house of commons there was this little exchange:
- Microsoft redeploys OOXML in open standards battle Mar 30, 2012
Computer Weekly - Microsoft has been trying to persuade the British government to break its promise to back a single document format, Computer Weekly has learned.
If Microsoft's lobbying succeeds it will require the Cabinet Office to erase yet another crucial element of its flagship ICT Strategy, giving the software giant trump cards over the standard that set the terms of competition for its competitors.
Microsoft advised the UK Cabinet Office to appoint two official document standards, one of which should be its own Microsoft Office Open XML format. The other, Microsoft said in private lobbying, should be the one government officials have favoured and has been widely assumed to be the one sure thing in the coalition government's technology policy: the Open Document Format.
The government's ICT strategy made a single, open document format the primary objective of its open standards policy when it was published last year.
- "What's an open standard?" says ISO Mar 23, 2012
Computer Weekly - The International Standards Organisation has admitted it doesn't know what an open standard is, despite trying to have the UK's open standards policy quashed.
The situation has left ISO and its franchise partners, such as the UK's British Standards Institution, looking a lot less authoritative. While open standards are being branded onto statutes around Europe, and after more than half a decade of controversies so great it caused street protests against ISO's treatment of the open standards issue, the legal authority on standards now refuses even to acknowledge its existence.
Yet ISO and its partners had so successfully lobbied against the UK open standards policy last year that the Cabinet Office withdrew it. And its lobbying, like that of all those who opposed the policy, concerned one specific question: what is an open standard.
ISO and its partners said the UK had got the answer wrong. So what then should it be? That's what Computer Weekly has been pressing ISO to say since January.
"ISO does not have a definition of 'open standard'," is what ISO said finally this week.
It sounded incredible. But it exposed how frail ISO's position had become.
- Microsoft's Open Standards Fairy Tale Mar 16, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Regular readers of this column will know that I often write about the issues of open standards and FRAND vs. RF licensing. One particular column that explored this area appeared back in October 2010.
I was interested to see that it was quoted in a paper written by Stephen Mutkoski, Global Policy Director, Microsoft Corporation. That paper was referenced and discussed briefly in a new post by Mutkoski entitled "Public Procurement of ICT: Debunking Myths around Open Source Software and Royalty Bearing Standards" (provocative, lui?). You will not be surprised that I have a few comments to make on these.
Here's the abstract of that post:
- European countries aligning their interoperability policies Mar 14, 2012
Joinup - Seventeen out of 29 European countries now have national guidelines on interoperability, a recent case study shows. Nine of these seventeen national interoperability plans are well-aligned to the European Commission's Interopability Framework (EIF).
The case study, a collection of 29 factstheets, is one the results of the NIFO (National Interoperability Framework Observatory), a project by the European Commission's ISA work programme (Interoperability Solutions for European public administrations). The observatory is hosted on ISA's collaborative platform, Joinup.
- Interoperability, Standards and Market Power Mar 06, 2012
...to assess whether The MathWorks Inc., a U.S.-based software company, has distorted competition in the market for the design of commercial control systems by preventing competitors from achieving interoperability with its products.The press release states that the investigation was triggered by a complaint, but does not disclose which company alleged that it had been denied a license for reverse-engineering purposes.This latest investigation arises in the context of a broad array of litigation, investigations and policy announcements in the EU focusing on the importance of standards in achieving interoperability, principally involving mobile device manufacturers and technology owners, such as Motorola Mobility and Samsung. It also highlights the different strategies that dominant companies may adopt in relation to market demands for interoperability, and also the divergent positions that U.S. and EU regulators sometimes take in response.
- The bright future of LibreOffice Mar 05, 2012
InfoWorld - A year ago, the storied quest for a viable open source office suite was in peril. The LibreOffice project turned all that around -- and exciting new innovations promise another leap ahead
February 2012 was a coming-of-age for the LibreOffice open source productivity suite. Multiple announcements show the project is well-supported and thriving. But what of the future?
February saw multiple significant events. The most important was the release of LibreOffice 3.5, full of subtle improvements and a few larger features such as support for Microsoft Visio files. InfoWorld's Neil McAllister summed it up in his review:
- New ISO brochure focuses on force multipliers of ICT standards innovation Mar 02, 2012
ISO - ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has just published a new brochure providing a concise overview of how information and communication technologies (ICT) standards can be a force multiplier for achieving positive results. It focuses on the work developed by the joint technical committee of ISO and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) pervade all sectors of economic activity and the daily lives of most people worldwide (business, industry, home, administration, education, charity, etc.). They are key components of economic growth, offering significant employment. The effectiveness and growth of the ICT industry are determined by the ability of the component parts to "talk" to each other – to interoperate.
The 24-page brochure is entitled The force multiplier for ICT innovation – ISO/IEC JTC 1 Joint Technical Committee 1, Information technology, standards. It explains how ICT standards developed by ISO/IEC JTC 1 are absolutely essential to the interoperability of different component parts and products from different manufacturers.
- UK Open Standards Consultation Submission Feb 29, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Somewhat belatedly (apologies), here is the second part of my analysis of the UK government's Open Standards consultation. As well as a quick look at the remaining two chapters, I include my responses to individual questions at the end.
Chapter 2 is entitled "Open standards mandation", and concerns the practicalities of how open standards should be required:
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About FRAND (But didn’t know who to ask) Feb 22, 2012
The Standards Blog - Andrew Updegrove - The acronym “FRAND” is very much in the news today, and with good reason. The battle to control, or at least share in the bounty, of the mobile marketplace has motivated technology leviathans like Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Apple to bring every tool and weapon to the fore in order to avoid being left in the dust. So intense is the competition that not only standards, but the finer details relating to the pledging of patents to facilitate the implementation of standards, have become the subject of headlines in the technology press.
The purpose of this blog post is not to report on the skirmishing that is still ongoing, but to peel off and explain the multiple layers of nuance and tactical opportunity that underlie the seemingly simple concept of “FRAND.” How many layers? Let’s just say that you may lose count before we cover everything you need to know to make sense out of what is really going on behind the scenes.
Given the complexity of the subject, I’ll revert to a device I picked up from Stephen O’Grady at Redmonk - the self-interview – because I’ve found it to be a very useful way to cover material that is not only complicated, but which also needs to be related to specific events in the news. So here we go.
- Open Season on Open Standards Feb 21, 2012
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - The increasingly heated debates about the traditionally dull area of computer standards is testimony to the rise of open source. For the latter absolutely requires standards to be truly open - that is, freely implementable, without any restrictions - whereas in the past standards were pretty much anything that enough powerful companies agreed upon, regardless of how restrictive they were.
In the face of the continuing move to such open standards, there has been a rearguard action by traditional proprietary software companies to push FRAND - Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory - as an acceptable default for "open" standards. Except that it is not, as I have discussed at length before.
Aside from its incompatibility with open source software - which means excluding the most vibrant part of the computer world - FRAND-based standards don't even succeed on their own terms. That can be seen in the increasing concern about the use of "standards-essential patents" to block rivals. Apple is accusing Motorola of doing that, and the European Commission is starting to make threatening noises about the practice.
This shows the folly of allowing companies to have such a stranglehold on standards - and why we need to move to restriction-free (RF) licensing. That would ensure a truly level playing field, and would avoid the danger of arguments breaking out afterwards about what exactly "fair and reasonable" means, since different companies will have different interpretations, and will always change their minds if it suits them.
- Questions over open standards lobbyists Feb 15, 2012
Computer Weekly - The power of large software corporations is demonstrated by the immense trouble an elected government has when it attempts to act in a way that doesn't put their interests before the public good.
That's been the UK experience this last year since the Cabinet Office introduced its open standards policy.
The way the rights holders were acting, anyone would think the government was trying to outlaw proprietary standards. Microsoft and Oracle threatened trade wars with China. The British Standards Institution and ISO threatened the UK with expulsion from their powerful club.
Never mind that the government was elected on a promise that it would promote open standards. When Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude pulled his open standards policy, his lieutenants said the matter was going to public consultation so they could avoid being sued by those "vested interests" who were opposed to it. Those vested interests were Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and the Business Software Alliance. What do they care about Britain's public good?
There might be a case for outlawing proprietary standards, but that is not what the government is trying to do. It is merely trying to implement a procurement policy.
- Paper on Standardisation and Innovation Feb 14, 2012
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - Last September I gave a presentation on "Making Innovation Happen: The Role of Standards and Openness in an Innovation-friendly Ecosystem" at the SIIT (Standards and Innovation in Information Technologies) conference in Berlin. See my blog post where I shared my slide deck.
I had also produced a more detailed paper on the topic addressing all the different aspects around standardisation and innovation and at the respective policy context. This paper was published in the proceedings of the SIIT 2012 and is available online for download from the IEEE Xplore digital library.
For reading online I shared the paper on Slideshare - see below. For downloading please go directly to IEEE Xplore via this link.
- Cabinet Office: no lobby influence on open standards Feb 10, 2012
ZDNet - The government has launched a consultation on the definition of 'open standards' for government IT, while denying claims that lobbying from proprietary software vendors led to the withdrawal of an earlier official definition.
The consultation was launched on Thursday, and will focus on the definition of open standards for software interoperability, data, and document formats.
"There's a lot of strong opinion on this subject — so I'm urging people to take this opportunity and let us know what they think," Cabinet Office director for ICT futures Liam Maxwell said in a statement on Thursday.
- Extended Call for Tender for Improvement of OOXML Support in LibreOffice / OpenOffice Feb 06, 2012
OSB Alliance - The call for tender by German and Swiss IT authorities regarding improvements of OOXML support in LibreOffice / OpenOffice has been prolonged until February 29, 2012. In addition to the German specification the coordinating OSB Alliance Working Group "Office Interoperability" has published the English version of the specification.
- ODF Toolkit gets first Apache release Jan 30, 2012
The H Open - OpenOffice is not the only Open Document Format (ODF) project that is currently incubating at the Apache Software Foundation. The ODF Toolkit project has just announced its first release since it entered Apache's project Incubator in August 2011, labelled "0.5-incubating".
The ODF Toolkit is a set of lightweight Java modules for processing Open Document Format (ODF)/ISO/IEC 26300 documents, the standard format used by OpenOffice and LibreOffice among others. The toolkit allows a developer to programatically create, scan and manipulate ODF documents but does not have the overhead of an office suite. The developers say this makes it ideal for use on servers to allow web applications to import the open format. It includes ODFDOM, a document model for examining ODF documents, a high level Simple API for manipulating the ODFDOM, an ODF validator and XSLT Runner for applying XSLT stylesheets to ODF documents.
- Hope shines through crack in lid of open standards coffin Jan 13, 2012
Computer Weekly - Woah there, cowboy. The UK hasn't broken its open standards pledge quite yet.
The Cabinet Office may have rescinded its open standards policy. It might even be about to put it to public consultation after it had already received a democratic mandate as manifesto commitments of both parties in the coalition government. And it may be that this reversal was done despite the government having already turned that mandate into a civil service edict and a central tenet of government ICT Strategy as well.
And it might have done this after lobbying from companies like Microsoft that opposed it.
But it's not killed the policy dead. Not yet.
- UK Government Betrayal of Open Standards Confirmed Jan 10, 2012
ComputerWorld - Glyn Moody - Just before Christmas I wrote a fairly strongly-worded condemnation of what I saw as the imminent betrayal of open standards by the UK Cabinet Office. This was based on reading between the lines of a new Procurement Policy Note, plus my thirty years' experience of dealing with Microsoft. At the time, I didn't have any specific proof that Microsoft was behind this shameful U-turn, but Mark Ballard has, it seems:
The British government withdrew its open standards policy after lobbying from Microsoft, it has been revealed in a Cabinet Office brief leaked to Computer Weekly.
- Microsoft hustled UK retreat on open standards, says leaked report Jan 09, 2012
Computer Weekly - The British government withdrew its open standards policy after lobbying from Microsoft, it has been revealed in a Cabinet Office brief leaked to Computer Weekly.
The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) also formerly opposed the policy before Cabinet Office withdrew it. BIS supported Microsoft's position against open standards, the backbone of the government's ICT policy. The Business Software Alliance, infamous for its lobbying against open standards policy in Brussels, also lobbied against the government policy.
Microsoft took up direct opposition to the ICT Strategy's pledge to give preference to technologies that supported open standards of interoperability between government computer systems, said the briefing paper.
The software supplier was concerned this would prevent companies from claiming royalties on the point of exchange between those systems.
It complained specifically about the wording of UK procurement policy, which in January 2011 established a definition to explain its edict that open standards should be used in government computing wherever possible. UK policy specified that "[open standards] must have intellectual property made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis".
- UK Government Open Standards: The Great Betrayal of 2012 Dec 23, 2011
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Back in February of this year, I wrote about PPN 3/11, a Cabinet Office “Procurement Policy Note - Use of Open Standards when specifying ICT requirements” [.pdf], which contained the following excellent definition of open standards:
- UK government pulls open standards recommendation Dec 23, 2011
The H Open - The UK Government has withdrawn the procurement guidance it issued in February which defined open standards for public sector use as royalty free. The government issued the procurement policy note (PPN) PPN03/11 which committed the government to implementing open standards in the public sector, but more significantly, defined open standards as being royalty free. Now, though, in a newly issued PPN, PPN09/11, the government says it stands by its commitment to open standards but says that a survey it held to "gather views on the definition of the term open standard" and select particular standards has "raised many questions that need to be investigated in more detail".
- Open standards rift tears UK policy to shreds Dec 22, 2011
Computer Weekly - Cabinet Office scrapped its open standards policy before opening it to consultation last month, opening the way for a major policy U-turn.
It issued a procurement policy edict on 30 November that erased a standards policy that had been in place since 31 January. It was revoked after a period of lobbying by powerful companies lined against its open standards policy that included Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance.
The 30 November edict to procurement officers, Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 09/11, said it superseded the 31 January policy, PPN 3/11. But it contained no superseding policy. It deferred to a forthcoming public consultation on open standards the Cabinet Office had announced 5 days earlier.
"PPN 3/11 has therefore been withdrawn," it said.
The policy had required public bodies to specify open standards "wherever possible" and had defined an open standard as something produced in an open forum, sanctioned by an international standards body, and made available irrevocably at zero or low cost without payment of royalties.
- Brazilan State Mandates Preference To ODF Dec 22, 2011
Muktware - The government of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest state in Brazil, passed a new law which mandates public entities and companies in Rio de Janeiro to give preference to open document formats, in particular ODF. The publication of Law #5978/2011 was celebrated in an official event with representatives from the government, several state companies, and the FLOSS community.Several Brazilian government entities heavily involved with IT had already signed the "Brasilia Protocol" in 2008, a mutual commitment to Open Data Formats. Similarly, many government sectors were already implementing changes towards open source internally. This new Law formalizes this commitment and extends it to the whole of the public administration in the State of Rio de Janeiro.
- 'A standard is open when implemented in open source' Dec 01, 2011
OSOR - A public sector organisation should only refer to a software or file format standard if the standard has been implemented in a sustainable open source software implementation. Without such implementation there is significant risk for the organisation, recommends Björn Lundell after a review of public administration's policies. Lundell is a researcher at the University of Skövde in Sweden.
The implementation of a standard in open source is a good sign of openness, says Lundell, who presented the most recent results of his research into the longevity of electronic documents at the ODF Plugfest on 18 November in the Dutch city of Gouda.
- Government opens consultation on definition of IT open standards Nov 29, 2011
Computer Weekly - The UK has put its year-old open standards policy up for public consultation after months of opposition from the British Standards Institution and proprietary software vendors.
The move clarifies uncertainty about the coalition government's commitment to the open standards policy it nurtured in opposition, declared in January and made a central plank of its IT strategy in March. But while it suggests the Cabinet Office is prepared for a U-turn, it may raise support from interested parties that have not been represented by the powerful industry lobby that has been pressing for the policy to be diluted.
Computer Weekly has learned that Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) have been lobbying the Cabinet Office to rewrite its open standards policy. Similar lobbying led the European Commission to water down the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), its own open standards policy, last year.
Liam Maxwell, Cabinet Office director of ICT futures, told Computer Weekly the consultation was intended to reach a broader constituency than he had reached through trade association Intellect informally since taking his post in September.
- Analysis: EU data-sharing projects show early promise Nov 28, 2011
Computing - Vice-president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes is never short of things to say, but the constant flow of words masks a digital agenda which, despite lofty ambitions, has seen slow progress to date.
Pushing standardised e-government services across member states, along with the ICT system interoperability to support those services, has been a big focus for the EU for some time. It wants 50 per cent of individuals and 80 per cent of businesses to use e-government tools by the end of 2015, for example.
The EU has fostered a small number of projects designed to showcase working examples of successful implementation of e-government initiatives. These are intended to make it easier for smaller businesses in the region to set up shop in other member states.
Launched in 2008, the Pan European Public Procurement OnLine project (PEPPOL) was designed to ease communication between companies or suppliers and government bodies responsible for procurement processes in the EU, for example.
- Linus Torvalds: Locked Down Technologies Lose in the End Nov 21, 2011
“Technologies that lock things down tend to lose in the end,” said Torvalds when asked about Microsoft’s secure boot feature, which he likened to Apple’s use of DRM technology. “People want freedom and markets want freedom,” he added.
- Libraries face a digital future Nov 15, 2011
The Guardian - It's a time of radical change for libraries. During the summer they were told by the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and the Local Government Group to exploit digital technologies to survive the spending cuts. In a report on the government's Future Libraries Programme the two bodies also argued that the latest IT developments present a huge opportunity for libraries to deliver more efficient and effective services.
Allen Weiner, Gartner's research vice president in the US, took a similar line when he shared his thoughts about the role of technology in libraries at the Re-Thinking Libraries event in London this November.
Weiner urged libraries to adopt open standards rather than cater for any one type of reader. "The iPad is the world according to Apple, it is not an open standard," he said. "If you think of the democracy a library represents, it should be built on open standards."
- Open standards: UK dithers over royalty question Oct 26, 2011
Computer Weekly - UK and Portugal are both about to decree a list of open standards that must be used in all public computer systems. But while the UK is still trying to decide what an open standard is, Portugal has already passed a definition into law.
The UK has been paralysed by disagreement over the matter. The crux has been whether an open standard should permit royalty payments - whether an open standard should be both free as in speech and free as in beer.
Portugal answered the question by fudging it. The British Standards Institution, backed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO), has been pressing the UK to do the same. If it gets its way it would force the coalition government into a damaging reversal.
BSI has been in a face-off with Cabinet Office over its definition of open standards since May. They met last Tuesday. But neither twitched. The problem remains unresolved, even after the publication Friday of a progress report on Cabinet Office's ICT Strategy.
Cabinet Office can't back down without either conceding defeat or admitting it made a dreadful mistake. It made the UK definition of an open standard official in February. Open standards became the keystone of its ICT Strategy in March. They have long been the fulcrum of Prime Minister David Cameron's rhetoric on government IT failures and the Big Society.
- Europe calls for open standards on ebooks Oct 17, 2011
PCPro - The European Commission has taken aim at the ebook industry, calling for open standards and reduced taxes on electronic publications.
Neelie Kroes, vice-president responsible for the EU's Digital Agenda, told a meeting of the Federation of European Publishers in Frankfurt that consumers should be able to read books bought for one ebook reader on another device if they chose.
“As the e-publishing sector develops, we may also have to consider how to deliver interoperability,” Kroes said. “That might mean, for example, that people can buy content for any device from any supplier, transfer that content between their own devices, and keep possession of it even beyond the device's lifespan.
- HTML5 The proprietary standard Oct 17, 2011
ComputerWorldUK - The good thing about standards is that they are uniform across different vendor implementation. Well that is at least the primary goal. So how does a vendor make a standard proprietary?
Well it’s quite easy really you provide extensions to the standard for features that are not yet implemented in the standard. Vendors wouldn’t be that unscrupulous would they? For example would they create application servers following standards but add their own extensions to “hook you in”, sorry I mean to add value beyond what the standards provide ;o)
- Flash's departure clears way for format stand-off Oct 11, 2011
ITWorld - With the announcement that the Windows 8 Metro UI's browser would be plug-in (and therefore Flash) free, a major milestone on the road to HTML5 adoption was reached. But we're still not out of the woods yet.
Apple was the first major operating system company to really start the trip down this road, with Steve Job's insistence that iOS, the core OS for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad product lines, would no longer support Abobe's Flash, citing instability and battery life concerns.
Instead, Apple went with HTML5-based protocols for video and dynamic content. This week, we saw Microsoft joining suit, also promoting HTML5 standards.
At this point, advocates of software freedom should be happy that finally the major software makers are getting on board with the idea of standards for development and content delivery.
Except, unfortunately, that's not what's happening at all.
OSWALD The Open Source Law Weekly Digest editorial - Here's the problem: while Microsoft and Apple's browsers will be supporting the <video> tag to view content, they are only supporting the H. 264 video codec by default. H. 264 is a proprietary format with patents controlled by a consortium of companies known as the MPEG Licensing Authority (MPEG LA).
- Statements on OpenOffice.org Contribution to Apache Oct 05, 2011
Trond's Opening Standard - "With today's proposal to contribute theOpenOffice.org code to The Apache Software Foundation's Incubator, Oracle continues to demonstrate its commitment to the developer and open source communities. Donating OpenOffice.org to Apache gives this popular consumer software a mature, open, and well established infrastructure to continue well into the future. The Apache Software Foundation's model makes it possible for commercial and individual volunteer contributors to collaborate on open source product development." -- Luke Kowalski, vice president, Oracle Corporate Architecture Group.
- ODF 1.2: Approved as an OASIS Standard Oct 05, 2011
Rob Weir - To quote the immortal words of Otis B. Driftwood, “Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor”.
The day has finally arrived. Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2 has been approved. It is now an OASIS Standard.
If you are regular reader of this blog, you know all about ODF 1.2, the enhancements we’ve made with OpenFormula, with RDFa/RDF XML semantic metadata, the digital signature support, etc. I’ve discussed this all before, on this blog and at conferences.
Most likely your office suite already supports ODF 1.2 today. If not, ask your vendor when they will be adding support for it.
- Spreadsheets come to ODF as version 1.2 wins approval Oct 03, 2011
InfoWorld - The ODF (Open Document Format) 1.2 specification, which aims to perfect the spreadsheet workflow, has been approved by the members of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).
"ODF 1.2 is approved as on OASIS standard," said Chet Ensign, director of standards development and TC administration. The specification itself will be published next week, he added. While OASIS rules require that 49 members vote in favor of a standard, ODF 1.2 drew 76 positive votes, a strong sign of support for the spec, Ensign said.
The new Open Document Format specification is a huge improvement over ODF 1.1 which was released in 2006, said Michiel Leenaars, director of the Internet Society Netherlands (ISOC). ISOC is the parent corporation for international organizations that strive to assure the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet by developing standards and protocols.
- The Lurching Landscape of Mobile Sep 30, 2011
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Anyone paying attention to technology news lately knows that the Titans are clashing for control, or at least a share of the monetary rewards, in the mobile marketplace. When technology historians look back on this era, they'll likely see this as a time when the tectonic plates suddenly shifted, wrenching apart corporate monopolies and rearranging the terrain upon which the next great age of technical innovation and adoption will play out. These sudden shifts have predictably sent tremors reverberating across the competitive landscape.
The least violent of these actions have involved acquisitions of patent portfolios at eye-popping valuations (the Nortel and Novell patent sales provide prominent examples). They have also included large cross license agreements, such as the recently announced deal between Microsoft and Samsung. More forceful shocks have emanated from several recent lawsuits between vendors, such as the one launched by Oracle against Google. One immediately notes a common thread in much of this seismic activity: it's all about the operating system. Why? Because whether on OS is open or closed, and in the latter case who holds the keys, dictates so much about whose forces will prevail on a computing platform landscape increasingly dominated by smartphones, tables and other mobile platforms.
- Standardisation and Innovation - Conference in Berlin Sep 30, 2011
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - Yesterday I gave a presentation at the 7th international conference on Standardisation and Innovation in Information Technologies (SIIT) which is held in Berlin this year, perfectly hosted by the Technical University of Berlin and Prof. Knut Blind. I was the fourth in a row of speakers from industry following speakers from Oracle on the Java Community Process, from Microsoft on defining open standards and from SAP on the economics of open innovation.
In my talk I tried to elaborate on the potential of innovation that lies in the implementation of standards and in technology integration. My slides are available on slideshare:
1109 siit jfriedrich v02
- Openness: An Open Question Sep 29, 2011
ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Last week I went along to OpenForum Europe, where I had been invited to give a short talk as part of a panel on “Tackling “Societal Challenges” through Openness”. Despite my attendance, the conference had some impressive speakers, including the European Commission's Neelie Kroes and Google's Hal Varian.
Unfortunately, I missed both of these because I was still travelling then, but fortunately, the ever-efficient European Commission machine has put Kroes' speech online.
This began with some comments about standards:
- Government open source must have an open standards plan Sep 16, 2011
TechEYE - More pressure mounted on the government to use open source software, with calls from MP Tom Watson and the open source community to increase its presence.
Following a number of freedom of information requests, it was recently revealed that government departments were ignoring open source in the face of proprietary software, despite promises by Cabinet Officer Francis Maude.
Maude had declared there would be a “level playing field” for open source as a way to slash public spending. Yet it is evident that significant sums are still finding their way into the pockets of big firms.
- UK Government: Open Standards Must be RF, not FRAND Sep 12, 2011
ComputerworldUK - Glyn Moody - As regular readers of this column will know, one of the key issues for open source - and openness in general - is what is meant by open standards. Too loose a definition basically allows the other kinds of openness to be undermined from within the citadel.
The key issue here is whether open standards mean Restriction/Royalty-Free (RF), or Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). As I wrote at the end of last year, one of the biggest defeats in this area was the downgrading of the European Interoperability Framework's definition of open standards from RF:
The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.to RF or FRAN
- You will comply: government to mandate technical standards Sep 05, 2011
UKauthorITy - The UK government is set to publish a list of 10-12 key open technology standards, including web and document formats, that it will require all public sector bodies to use, a senior civil servant has told ITU Live.
Bill McCluggage, director of ICT strategy and policy at the Cabinet Office, reveals the details in this week's ITU Live broadcast, Open standards and the future of public sector ICT.
The government's last attempt to define technology standards for public sector use, the 'e-GIF' document first published in 2000, was "ahead of its time", too complex, and fell out of usage by 2005 without being updated, McLuggage said.
- EU legal package on standardisation: some aspects discussed in depth (I): The global nature of fora/consortia Jul 26, 2011
Jochen Friedrich's Open Blog - On June 1 the European Commission adopted its legal package on European Standardisation with two major documents: The Commission Communication “A strategic vision for European standards: Moving forward to enhance and accelerate the sustainable growth of the European economy by 2020” (COM(2011)311) and the draft Regulation on “European Standardisation” (COM(2011)315). I blogged about this right after the adoption when the documents were available.
Since then the documents have been widely read and public comments are made and the documents are debated. With this post I am starting a series on discussing some aspects a bit more in depth that are raised in public discourse – or at least add some thoughts to points that are raised and discussed. So here's part one – on
- ODF Plugfest: "ODF still needs to establish itself" Jul 18, 2011
The H Open - Five years after being adopted as an official ISO standard, the Open Document Format (ODF) still appears to have a long way to go, despite the support it has received from politicians and administrative agencies. Andreas Kawohl from the civic centre and IT processing department at Freiburg City Council told Friday's session of the ODF Plugfest in Berlin: "ODF is a long way from being able to function as a standard format for exchanging documents". According to Kawohl, 2000 administrative staff in Freiburg are now using both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice, with 70,000 OpenOffice documents generated over a six month period, but hardly anyone outside of the organisation is able to use them.
- UK finally moves on Open Standards Jul 01, 2011
Karsten on Free Software - When it comes to Free Software and Open Standards, the UK has long
lagged way behind other countries. There were a few policies that
sounded good on paper, but that’s exactly where they stayed.
This may be finally changing. The UK Cabinet Office has issued a “procurement policy notice” (.pdf) that is, well, surprising. In a good way. It tells public bodies in the UK how they should go about buying software. It says the right things:
- UK open standards commitment cut back Jun 20, 2011
The H Open - Bill McCcluggage, deputy government CIO and Cabinet Office director of ICT policy, has sharply curtailed the government's previous plans to mandate royalty-free open standards. According to reports, McCluggage was speaking to the Guardian Computing Conference in London when he said that the government only intends to implement a handful of open standards.
Referring to government ICT policy, McCluggage said "It doesn't say we will mandate all open standard, it says we will decide upon a series of open standards and then we will decide which ones to almost fixate upon in terms of delivery."
Although the policy described by McCluggage may have a better chance of success, it is a step back from the previous policy declaration of open standards mandated across government. That policy had already drawn criticism from standards organisations who objected to the royalty-free element of the UK Government policy.
- June 2011 - More Standards for Europe and faster Jun 02, 2011
Europa - More Standards for Europe and faster: this is the main objective of a series of measures that the European Commission proposed on 1 June 2011. Standards are sets of voluntary technical and quality criteria for products, services and production processes. Nobody is obliged to use or apply them but they help businesses in working together which ultimately saves money for the consumer.
- OpenForum Europe Response to UK Government Standards Survey May 24, 2011
General Comments on the UK procurement policy and the Open Standards Survey
OpenForum Europe supports a strong stance on openness
OpenForum Europe (OFE) very much welcomes the recent UK procurement policy which takes a clear stance on openness and expresses the intention to mandate open standards in public procurement, and commends it for its leadership on this important issue. Mandating openness is both a key element in creating a level playing field between proprietary and open source licensed software solutions as per the Coalition programme - and a key requirement for communication between government bodies and the between government and its citizens that is not encumbered with potential legal and financial liabilities nor restricts their choice.
- FTC Seeks Input on Patent Holdup in Standards Development May 18, 2011
The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - At intervals, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DoJ) have undertaken public initiatives intended to support the standards development process from the antitrust perspective. In each case, I've found the regulators to be open minded and genuinely interested in understanding the marketplace. Often, the goal of their information gathering efforts is to later issue guidelines that encourage good behavior, and make clear what they consider to be over the line. The result is that it makes it easier and safer for stakeholders to participate actively in the standard setting process. Regulators in the European Union follow the same practice.
Last week, the FTC announced a new standards development process fact-finding effort, this time announcing a workshop intended to help them better understand whether "patent holdup" is causing a problem in the marketplace. It's open to the public, and you're free to submit written comments as well.
- International alarm rings over UK ICT policy May 16, 2011
Computer Weekly - International standards bodies have raised an alarm over the UK's game-changing techno-economic policy, breaking with protocol to fire warning shots at the Cabinet Office and calling for a reversal of the open source commitments it made the backbone of its ICT Strategy.
The policy has pitted competition honchos, invigorated by the reforming tide of networked ICT, against trade policy wonks, who preside over a system of international standardisation that encompasses intellectual property law, an immense bureaucracy of engineers, and age-old trade flows.
Back home it already threatens a rift between Cabinet Office and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills which usually sets standards policy. The British Standards Organisation, operating under BIS mandate, has taken the unprecedented step of warning government to scrap the offending policy or risk breaching its international obligations.
- Universal phone charger to work with tablets, cameras May 12, 2011
ZDNet - The universal phone-charger standard has been amended to accommodate more kinds of devices, while also making it more power efficient when not plugged in. On Monday, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said the universal charger — first specified in 2009 — would be targeted not only at phones, but also at MP3/MP4 players, tablet computers, cameras, wireless headphones, GPS units and other devices. The result will be that such devices will no longer have to be shipped with their own chargers.
The universal charger is based on a power adaptor and a detachable cable with standardised USB and micro-USB end connectors — a specification that means it can be used for data transfer as well as charging. According to a statement from the ITU, the organisation's membership has agreed to maintain no-load power consumption for the adaptor component of less than 0.03W, which is "the most efficient available today".
"Other standards claim to be universal and energy efficient, but only ITU's solution is truly universal and a real step forward in addressing environmental and climate-change issues," ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said in a statement. "This updated standard will bring the benefits of the universal charger to a wider range of devices and consumers. I am sure it will be welcomed by all ITU's membership — 192 governments and over 700 private-sector entities."
- Google and friends wrap open video codec in patent shield Apr 27, 2011
The Register - Google has announced a patent-sharing program around WebM in an effort to guard the open source web video format from legal attack.
On Monday, with a blog post, the company introduced the WebM Community Cross-License (CCL) initiative, which brings together companies willing to license each other's patents related to the format. Founding members include AMD, Cisco Systems, Logitech, MIPS Technologies, Matroska, Mozilla, Opera, Samsung, Texas Instruments, and the Xiph.org Foundation, as well as Google.
CCL members are joining this effort because they realize that the entire web ecosystem – users, developers, publishers, and device makers – benefits from a high-quality, community developed, open-source media format," said Matt Frost, Google senior business product manager for the WebM Project. "We look forward to working with CCL members and the web standards community to advance WebM's role in HTML5 video."
- Portugal's New Interoperability Law Apr 15, 2011
Trond's Opening Standard - Portugal's New Interoperability Law, adopted by Parliament on 29 March 2011, establishes the adoption of open standards in the computer systems of the State. Wonderful!
This law provides for the adoption of open standards for digital information in the public service, promoting technological freedom of citizens and organizations and interoperability of computer systems in the state. Right on!
The law contains a definition of open standards that is a good starting point for debates on interoperability. The definition seems to allow for recognizing fora/consortia deliverables. Great!
- Open Standards law approved in Portugal Apr 13, 2011
ESOP - The Portuguese Parliament approved on the 6th of April 2011 a Law for the adoption of Open Standards on public IT systems. This law represents the consensus reached by the represented parties following two proposals submitted by PCP and BE, that were discussed and merged on the Working Group that produced the final text.
- EU Puts Standardization at Forefront of Cloud Computing Mar 24, 2011
PCW - The head of the European Commission's digital agenda has put interoperability and standards at the forefront of the cloud computing agenda.
"Users must be able to change their cloud provider as fast and easily as changing one's Internet or mobile-phone provider has become in many places," said Commissioner Neelie Kroes at the launch of Microsoft's cloud computing center in Brussels on Tuesday. "Interoperability is essential for the cloud to be fair, open and competitive.
- Open Networking Foundation Pursues New Standards Mar 23, 2011
NYT - Acknowledging that so-called cloud computing will blur the distinctions between computers and networks, about two dozen big information technology companies plan to announce on Tuesday a new standards-setting group for computer networking.
The group, to be called the Open Networking Foundation, hopes to help standardize a set of technologies pioneered at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, and meant to make small and large networks programmable in much the same way that individual computers are.
- France appoints CIO but takes interoperability off task list Mar 15, 2011
OSOR - The French advocacy organisation for free sofware and open standards, April, fears that the country's government is changing cource on the use of open standards and open source software by public administrations. April notes with alarm that interoperability is no longer part of the mission statement of the Interdepartmental Directorate for ICT (Disic), created on 21 February.
- Government takes action on open technology Mar 10, 2011
The Guardian - Graham Taylor, chief executive officer of Open Forum Europe, applauds the government's recent moves on open source and open standards.
It's been an interesting few weeks in regard to open source. From being what in the past I classified a 'laggard' (that was the polite form) in Europe, the UK government is now intent on matching its Action Plan on Open Source, Open Standards and Re-use with....well, action! And in doing so it has shamed some other European countries that have been content to limit deliverables to a paper strategy.
- True Open Standards; Open Source Next? Mar 01, 2011
ComputerWorld UK - The really key part is “have intellectual property made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis”. This is precisely what was missing from the benighted European Interoperability Framework v2, which I discussed a little while back.
- Government crowdsources open standards review Feb 28, 2011
Computer Weekly - The government has launched a crowdsourcing review of elements of public sector IT with an online survey to determine which open standards should be supported in its IT systems.
- UK Gov supports EIF1 in guidance for use of Open Standards Feb 23, 2011
Cabinet Office - "When purchasing software, ICT infrastructure, ICT security and other ICT goods and services, Cabinet Office recommends that Government departments should wherever possible deploy open standards in their procurement specifications"
Government defines “open standards” as standards which:
• result from and are maintained through an open, independent process;
• are approved by a recognised specification or standardisation organisation, for
example W3C or ISO or equivalent. (N.B. The specification/standardisation
must be compliant with Regulation 9 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006.
This regulation makes it clear that technical specifications/standards cannot
simply be national standards but must also include/recognise European
• are thoroughly documented and publicly available at zero or low cost;
• have intellectual property made irrevocably available on a royalty free basis;
• as a whole can be implemented and shared under different development
approaches and on a number of platforms
These extracts are from the Procurement Policy Note (PPN) Use of Open Standards when specifying ICT requirements issued 31 01 2011
- Why India’s open standards policy is a historic development Feb 14, 2011
InformationWeek - Due to the enormous size and scope of e-governance in India, open standards are critical to the flow of information among various e-governance applications. For example, if a Central Government Ministry requests a certain set of information from state governments in India, and each state government submits the data in a different format, enormous amounts of time will be wasted in converting the data into a common format. There is also risk that data could be lost in the process of converting data from one format to another. If the government stores its data in a closed format, it could permanently lose access to that data if the owner of that format goes out of business or refuses to provide access to that format.
- Position paper from German organisations on ICT standardisation reform Jan 28, 2011
BDI, BITKOM, DIN and DKEhave released a position paper on the European Standardisation System(ESS).
The ESS has proven to be extremely successful. It efficiently and effectively regulates the development of standards, there is therefore no need to
make any major changes to the current ESS. The ESS should be strengthened by the review currently underway. The underlying principles of the ESS are transparency, openness, the appropriate representation of interests, the coherence of the standards collection, an open public enquiry procedure in
the language of each Member State, and adherence to the principles of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
- Adoption of Open Standards in Portugal Dec 03, 2010
ESOP - On December 9th, 2010 a proposal on Open Standards adoption for public information systems will be discussed at the Portuguese Parliament. It is of utmost importance to adopt Open Standards in Portugal, similarly to what already happens in countries like Spain, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Germany and France.
formats or protocols that are:
a) subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
b) without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves;
c) free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model;
d) managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
e) available in multiple complete implementations by competing vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.