The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) has referred Microsoft to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for alleged anti-competitive practices in the schools software market. Becta, the government's education ICT partner, made the complaint on 19 October 2007. It also relates to concerns over Microsoft's …
"Schools and colleges should only deploy Office 2007 when there is satisfactory interoperability with alternative products, it added."
MS has an offfer to students in the UK whereby they can pick up Office 2007 for £40, so even though the college doesn't have 2007 installed we've had to install the filter/convertor so the students can work with our 2003 suite.
The Old Dope Peddler
Why is it that when ever I read an article about Microsoft and educational establishments I'm reminded of Tom Lehrer's Song - "The Old Dope Peddler":
He gives the kids free samples,
Because he knows full well
That today's young innocent faces
Will be tomorrow's clientèle.
BECTA also said ..
Vista and office2007 was crap :-
Just say no.
What are they on about?
Have they used OpenOffice? We have our entire company on Office 2007, but I've set a GPO so that the default format is to Office 2003 - e.g. OpenOffice will work with it fine.
Although I don't understand how they can say this, after MS no longer uses binary but XML for it's 2007 file formats. Surely it's more open that it every has been?
Not sure why you've HAD to install a filter. Most colleges seem to set standards for interfacing.
Can you interoperate with OO?
That's a bit rich...
Quite frankly that is a bit rich from Becta seeing as they restrict the companies who can work with them by going through Catalist. So small companies have to find a partner that they can work with on Catalist just so they get the opportunity. Then Becta beat you up over the price, expect you to drop your price considerably but still deliver the same amount of functionality. So you either do the job and make a loss or significantly restrict the job opportunities for small and medium sized good companies. And they think this is being competitive! Not competitive when we don't even get a chance to compete fairly.
Funny that ...
Funny that their press release coincides with the OSA conference in Liverpool today at which Becta was to receive a right grilling over their close relationship with Microsoft.
Press releases *rarely* go out on Fridays.
Platitudes, dear boy, platitudes.
OFT already have this on file
I made a complaint about exactly this issue to the OFT about 4 years ago. There was a full investigation and the OFT left it on file - the irony was collecting the right sort of evidence is difficult when no-one complains because they think theree is no alternative. Now BECTA has had time to research this properly (They have more resources than I did) There must be a reasonable chance of success. Its really a bit of a no brainer that Schools Agreement is illegal. Schools have to pay a fee for computers by the processor not the operating system so they pay MS a license fee for running Linux. Its outrageous. If it's illegal here, it will be throughout the EU because our competition law is based on EU law. A billion fine would not be too little for another offence so soon after the last one methinks :-)
Add to this that the Specialist Schools unit also give MS preferential treatment in providing sponsorship to schools to lock them into Schools agreement and the government is also implicated in illegal state aid.
@ Steven Hewittt
>>> Have they used OpenOffice? We have our entire company on Office 2007, but I've set a GPO so that the default format is to Office 2003 - e.g. OpenOffice will work with it fine.
But the students won't be using GPOs on their laptops, so they'll be busy creating documents in 2007 format that the 2003 software can't natively read. The correct answer of course is to just throw the document back as unreadable and tell teh student how to set the default format to 2003.
>>> Although I don't understand how they can say this, after MS no longer uses binary but XML for it's 2007 file formats. Surely it's more open that it every has been?
Well it's true that it's slightly less closed than it used to be, but really - Office XML is far, far from open (and it DOES include proprietry & undefined binary bits).
to get MS out of bed with the present goverment? AFAICS HMG has some sort of orgasmic relationship with Bulmer's bully boys.
On another, related point, my son's school (typical urban State school) is running a mixture Windows 98 & XP. Office 2007? I don't think so, 2000 more likely. Vista? I want my son's school to spend money on education not junkware.
The format's only open if it's actually documented properly and useable by other applications—that applies whether it's a raw memory dump, XML, or some other format. XML's just a representation that can be easily parsed into a tree, but actually parsing the basic structure of the files into a tree is something we've been able to do with Office's DocFile format for over a decade: the problem is what you do with that data tree once you've got it; if you don't know how a part of it's supposed to be rendered because no specification tells you in reasonable detail, then you can't really call it an “open” file format.
"But the students won't be using GPOs on their laptops, so they'll be busy creating documents in 2007 format that the 2003 software can't natively read."
You don't tell them to retry, you fail them so they won't be so stupid next time.
1) Why won't students be using GPOs on their laptops? Rather depends on the individual institution's setup, doesn't it?
2) I'm the network manager at a school that has the School's Agreement and for us it makes much more sense to use it but I agree that other licensing agreements may be better for other institutions. However, if educational institutions are going for "it's the latest, so we'll install it" then they are stupid. Although I have had the disks to install Vista and Office 2007 for some time I haven't gone anywhere near either yet. 300 PCs, 100 laptops of various makes and specifications run XP and Office 2003 with no problems and I ensure that any new hardware is capable of running Vista but also has drivers for XP. I believe that the best solution where I work is to ensure that it is currently reliable but also as future proof as possible within budgetary constraints.
3) BECTA are the organisation that decided on standards for Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and then happily allowed one of their preferred vendors to ignore those rules. This was reported to the European Commission in January and reported on these pages.
When we were looking at VLE solutions from different providers BECTA accreditation wasn't really an issue, ease of use and interoperability with other software was.
Government Policy vs Microsoft Policy
Whilst no great supporter of MS licensing regimes I must make an observation here.
Becta reports MS to the OFT for demanding that every PC in a school is licensed to run MS software, even if some PCs will never run a MS operating system.
Well, I have a television at home. I only play DVDs through it and do not watch BBC channels. Never-the-less, the government demands that my TV is capable of receiving BBC transmissions so I must pay a license fee to support the BBC.
Where's the difference?
More interestingly, if the OFT rules favor of Becta - that a machine capable of running MS OS's doesn't need a license unless it is actually using an MS OS - does my TV no longer need a license for the BBC if it isn't used for the BBC?