Andy Updegrove writes: While it's not been widely recognized or reported, open source foundations are taking over the role that open standards consortia used to play. But an analysis of what the press does write about confirms that transition. Over the last two years, the number of stores focusing on open standards has been dropping, while those reporting on open source have dramatically increased. Meanwhile, the number of launch announcements of new standards consortia has dropped in rough proportion to the increase in the number of stories reporting on the launch of new, significantly funded open source foundations. The explanation is that the top IT companies are increasingly opting to use open source software to solve problems that they used to address with open standards. The reasons are many and obvious: time to market is faster, interoperability is often more easily obtainable, development economies are dramatic, and the number of standards ultimately needed is far less.
Andy Updegrove writes: Humanity today is almost completely dependent on huge pharmaceutical companies to create the drugs we need. But these companies focus exclusively on drugs that can be sold at high prices to large populations — in other words, to patients in developed nations. This means that those who live in the emerging world that suffer from the remaining "neglected diseases," like Malaria and drug resistant TB, have no one to depend on for relief except huge charities, like the Gates Foundation. They also have no way to afford many of the patented drugs that do exist. But there is another way, modeled on open source software development, which relies on crowd sourced knowledge, highly distributed, volunteer efforts, and advanced open source tools. That methodology is called Open Source Pharma, and it has the potential to dramatically drive down drug development while saving millions of lives every year.
Andy Updegrove writes: During the mobile platform patent wars of recent years Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola and the rest of the major vendors sought injunctions against each other to prevent their competitor from selling their products at all. The suits were often based on claims that a vendor had to pay a reasonable royalty on a “standards essential patent.” The resulting litigation clogged up the courts, and the regulators were not amused. Now, after almost two years of vigorous debate, the standards development organization behind WiFi and thousands of other ICT standards (IEEE-SA) has received the blessing of the U.S. Dept. of Justice to forbid members that have pledged to license such patents from seeking an injunction until all other remedies have been exhausted. Whether other standards organizations will follow suit remains to be seen.
Andy Updegrove writes: The Linux Foundation this morning announced the latest addition to its family of major hosted open source initiatives: the Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV), Its mission is to develop and maintain a carrier-grade, integrated, open source reference platform for the telecom industry. Importantly, the thirty-eight founding members include not only cloud and service infrastructure vendors, but telecom service providers, developers and end users as well. The announcement of OPNFV highlights three of the most significant trends in IT: virtualization (the NFV part of the name refers to network function virtualization), moving software and services to the Cloud, and collaboratively developing complex open source platforms in order to accelerate deployment of new business models while enabling interoperability across a wide range of products and services. The project is also significant for reflecting a growing recognition that open source projects need to incorporate open standards planning into their work programs from the beginning, rather than as an afterthought.
Andy Updegrove writes: The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the Open Document Format (ODF) by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant. The announcement was made today by The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. Henceforth, ODF compliance will be required for documents intended to be shared or subject to collaboration. PDF/A or HTML compliance will be required for viewable government documents. The decision follows a long process that invited, and received, very extensive public input – over 500 comments in all.
Andy Updegrove writes: A decade ago, the standards war between ODF and OOXML was just about to launch. At stake was not only breaking monopoly control of the desktop, but more importantly, issues such as whether archived documents would remain accessible in the future, whether you could use software and hardware of your choice to create documents, and how much the ability to create and exchange documents would cost. That war died down, but the issues remained — unresolved. Today is Document Freedom Day, which is dedicated to turning the tide and achieving true document freedom. If that sounds like a pretty low priority, just remember this: it’s not a question of whether the documents you save may be your own. Rest assured, it IS your documents that will be saved — or not.
Andy Updegrove writes: Three weeks ago, we heard that Francis Maude, a senior UK government minister, was predicting the conversion to open source office suites by UK government agencies. Lost in the translation in many stories was the fact that this was based not on an adopted policy, but on a proposal still open for public comment — and subject to change. It should be no surprise that Microsoft is trying to get the UK to add OOXML, its own format standard, to the UK policy. Why? According to a messaging sent to its UK partners, because it believes that a failure to include OOXML "will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don’t support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office or, for example, Pages on iOS and even Google Docs." Of course, that's because Microsoft pushed OOXML as an alternative to ODF a decade ago. If you don't want the same objection to be valid a decade from now, consider making your views known at the Cabinet Office Standards Hub. The deadline is February 26.
Andy Updegrove writes: Everyone seems to agree today that the Cloud is the place to go, and that going Green is the way to get there. As Cloud services commoditize and competition intensifies, the cost of electricity will also factor heavily. Inevitably, this will lead to enormous data farms adjacent to lowest-cost, greenest energy sources, like hydroelectric dams, wind farms, and cheap power supplies. At the same time, all processing software, as well as all data and information, will move to the same sites, housed in lowest-cost industrial buildings. The result? Incredible vulnerability to physical attack, including attacks of a type we are not prepared to defend against. Here's how things could turn out, unless we start burying these sites deep underground. Warning: it's not pretty.
Andy Updegrove writes: On Tuesday, OASIS — the standards group that developed the OpenDocument Format — made an extremely rare announcement for an information technology consortium: that it has successfully completed the process of becoming accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). As a result, it is now able to submit its standards to ANSI for recognition as American National Standards (ANS), and also to directly submit its standards for adoption by ISO and IEC. Whether or not other consortia will follow OASIS’s lead remains to be seen. But in approving OASIS, ANSI has opened the door for more consortia to take the plunge — including those that want their standards to able to be implemented in open source software. Specifically, it has for many years been an open question whether an SSO with an IPR policy that requires (at least in some working groups) that essential patent claims be made available on a royalty free basis could meet ANSI’s accreditation rules that bear on IPR matters. To its credit, ANSI had taken the time and effort to seriously think through that question, as well as what types of controls or other guarantees might be advisable to ensure that the rights of IP owners are properly respected. With the accreditation of OASIS, it’s now clear that such a policy, properly constructed, can pass muster.
Andy Updegrove writes: "According to a press release issued today by the Portuguese Open Source Business Association, the government of Portugal has decided to approve a single editable document format. And that format is not Microsoft's OOXML.
In a move reminiscent of the action by the CIO of Massachusetts that ignited the fiercest standards war of the last decade, the Portuguese government has opted to mandate compliance with ODF, the OpenDocument Format, as well as PDF and a number of other formats and protocols in furtherance of a law passed by the Portuguese Parliament on June 21 of last year. The decision is the latest in a series of actions taken by a variety of European nations in support of all things open: open standards, open source, open data, and more, notwithstanding the success of proprietary interest groups in watering down similar actions at the EU level."
Andy Updegrove writes: "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: W3C, IETF, IEEE, Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and the Internet Society. Joint announcements by SSOs on topics other than jointly developed standards are rare, and the subject matter of this announcement was more so: each organization was endorsing a set of five principles that they assert support a “new global paradigm for standards” development. In so doing, they sought to define not only the parameters (always controversial) of truly "open standards," but also the characteristics (rather than the historical categorization) of the SSOs that should be entitled to equal treatment in government procurement and world trade.
In the new world order envisioned by the five organizations, they see a more collaborative network of SSOs true to a common set of principles that ensure that all stakeholders have equal ability to participate in the development and implement of the essential suites of standards necessary to enable crucial, cross-sectoral, standards-dependent projects, such as the SmartGrid. And the standards selected to achieve these goals should be judged by factors such as technical excellence, scalability, and most importantly of all, market adoption."
Andy Updegrove writes: "Between 2005 and 2008, an unparalleled standards war was waged between Microsoft, on the one hand, and IBM, Google, Oracle and additional companies on the other. At the heart of the battle were two document formats, one called ODF, developed by OASIS, a standards development consortium, and Open XML, a specification developed by Microsoft. Both were submitted to, and adopted by, global standards groups ISO/IEC. But then Microsoft never fully adopted its own standard. Instead, it implemented what it called "Transitional Open XML," which was better adapted for use in connection with documents created using older versions of Office. Yesterday, Microsoft announced In a blog entry — http://tinyurl.com/c5ppkwz — that it will finally make it possible for Office users to open, edit and save documents in the format that ISO/IEC approved."
Andy Updegrove writes: Last Thursday the European Commission took a major step forward on the â½Â½Â½ÂÂ½ÂÅ½Â"opennessâ½Â½Â½ÂÂ½ÂÂ½Â scale. The occasion was the release of a new version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) which definitively endorsed the use of open source friendly standards when providing â½Â½Â½ÂÂ½ÂÅ½Â"public servicesâ½Â½Â½ÂÂ½ÂÂ½Â within the EU.This result was rightly hailed by open source advocates like Open Forum Europe. But the EC took two steps backward in every other way as it revised its definition of "open standards,"presumably reflecting IT industry efforts to preserve the value of software patents. For whatever reason, it appears that the EC has abandoned the leadership position it previously maintained for setting the bar on standards suitable for government adoption. Those that believe that open standards, liberally defined, are vital to open government will now have to look for innovation and leadership elsewhere.
Andy Updegrove writes: In 2005, Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn set off the biggest standards war of the last decade when he decided that ODF did, and OOXML didn't, meet the Commonwealth's definition of an open standard. Implementing that decision proved to be much harder, but into the breach rode Sun Microsystems, which created the first and still most populart plug-in to provide reasonable interoperability between ODF-compliant software and Microsoft’s Office. Without it, ODF would doubtless never have made the advances that it has. So what will be the impact on ODF now that Oracle wants to charge the same fee for the plug-in that it does for a new, supported copy of Sun's former StarOffice productivity suite? The impacts will be both good and bad, but the best news is that while Massachusetts and Sun were essential to launching ODFon its way, neither the Commonwealth's procurement policies nor Oracle's plug-in pricing matter that much for ODF today.
Andy Updegrove writes: Those who followed the ODF-OOXML Standards War will remember that Alex Brown, the Convener of the Geneva Ballot Resolution Meeting, helped broker the final approval of OOXML as a formal, global standard. He's defended his actions and OOXML ever since — until now. Yesterday, Alex wrote a blog entry stating that "without a change of direction the entire OOXML project is now surely heading for failure," and even recommending that antitrust regulators take note. If he's right, then the whole ODF-OOXML saga will prove to have been less a gripping drama than a rather pathetic farce.