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back to article Microsoft asks pals to help KILL UK gov's Open Document Format dream

The UK Cabinet Office is close to adopting Open Document Format (ODF) as the official standard for government documents, but it hasn't happened yet – and it won't, if Microsoft has anything to say about it. The software giant has issued an open letter to its partners in the UK, urging them to submit comments on the Cabinet …

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Anonymous Coward

Oh...

the wailing and gnashing of teeth and the sound of breaking rice bowls.

My heart bleeds for these poor souls - please, please feed these poor parasites.

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Re: Please feed these poor parisites.

Yes. Feed them!

A nice generous portion of Wormex(TM).

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Linux

There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

Right there in the headline. Microsoft has "pals"? Nope - only paid shills, many of whom frequent these very forums.

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Re: Oh...

I like the way they 'accuse' the government of trying to save money. Well DUH, they obviously don't read the news and are unaware that everyone's skint.

More like they're accusing the Government of conspiring to not give money to Microsoft.

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Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

How does one become a paid shill? It Given the number of them allegedly frequenting just about every tech forum or website it must be quite the career.

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Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

I'm not sure about the paid bit, but writing anything not critical of Microsoft may well lead to accusations being levelled at you.

Back to the subject at hand, I vote ODF, with a rigorous approach to styles, ensuring that even if you can't make documents look identical across suites, you can at least make the differences predictable and presentable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How does one become a paid shill?

http://waggeneredstrom.com/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh...

the wailing and gnashing of teeth and the sound of breaking rice bowls.

My heart bleeds for these poor souls - please, please feed these poor parasites.

I predicted that the whole ODF sage would bring MS acolytes out in force, and frankly, my answer to them would not be printable in this fine mag because there is simply no appropriate response that would not use a lot of bad words.

I have seen this vermin infest government IT from the moment New Labour entered (and yes, it did coincide with a change in government), and scam the tax payer for all it was worth for over a decade. I hope the government guys cook up a response a response a la Peru because they damn well deserve it. Nothing has worked well since they got their claws into the public purse (well, them and consultants) so the further they can be kept from what's left the better.

Heck, I'm going to get in touch with some friends. Enough is enough.

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Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

How does one become a paid shill? It Given the number of them allegedly frequenting just about every tech forum or website it must be quite the career.

Like any job that is easy and pays well, yet brings no benefit to the public, you have to know somebody.

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Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

Dunno, I suspect its the same place we CAGW sceptics get paid from.

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Unhappy

Microsoft has "pals"? Nope - only paid shills,

That's not fair. It also has:-

Hardware companies that rely on the next generation of Windows to bloat up even more, so people need to refresh their hardware.

VARS, who make a living fixing the problems their software and file formats cause.

Training companies, who train users how to use the work arounds the VARS have developed.

Competitors, who it has not managed to destroy yet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh...

Microsoft Office is by far the best solution for ODF too, so they are unlikely to loose out even if this stupid decision is made.

Microsoft are simply pointing out the insanity of not supporting the format that pretty much everyone on the planet uses....

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Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

"Nope - only paid shills, many of whom frequent these very forums."

As of this reply there are 8 downvotards who have identified themselves as shills.

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Re: Oh...

"unlikely to loose out"

Precisely. They do have most users in a noose!

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Re: Oh...

>I have seen this vermin infest government IT from the moment New Labour entered

The vermin have been around much longer than that, suggest you explore the history of: MAP/TOP, UK GOSIP 3.0, US GOSIP etc. etc.

By 1990 these had reached a reasonable level of maturity - although many of the underlying application file format standards were still at the draft International Standard stage. However, it seems that a combination of lobbying and 'user' demand for the cheaper PC based applications, lead to all falling by the wayside and the rest is history as they say and has directly lead to the mess governments (and large user enterprises) are in today.

So as per then we can expect MS acolytes to lobby MP's et al to get them to overrule the Cabinet Office. Expect MS to fly in Bill Gates et al to have one-on-one's with David Cameron.

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"The letter further accuses the Cabinet Office of backing ODF primarily out of a desire to save money on software by switching to open-source applications"

This bad because ?

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I suppose they want their partners to believe it's bad for them if good for the customers. But it also shows that OpenXML is not open.

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Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

A fundamental requirement for a specification to be open is to have more than one interoperable implementation.

Both of these are guilty as charged here. There is _NO_ interoperable implementation capable of catering for the minimal set of features required in a templated structured document. These do not ineroperate between themselves either - I will believe them to be interoperable on the day when libreoffice will successfully read-in a DOCX index and bilbiography and vice versa. That is still a decade ahead as it was a decade ago.

In any case, on pot-kettle/kettle-pot. With the practical demise of KDE and Koffice there is no second implementation for ODF anyway so it fails to be an open standard. Same as MSFT. None of them is and none of them will be until there is one.

Lesson for both of them. If you want to establish a standard _BUILD_ a second interoperable implementation. Slap a GPL2 (if not 3) on it for good measure so it is usable as a reference implementation but cannot be commercialized in a way which is adverse to you. And be done with it. Yes, I know, this trivial idea is a bit too difficult for people who have drank too much of Redmond water supply.

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

This is actually the problem with Microsoft and where they have totally lost their way since slowly having their Monopoly ebbed away.

They have two options -

a) fight like dogs to keep their monopoly (a battle they will eventually loose even if this approach keeps them going for another 20 years)

b) Embrace the opportunity to compete fairly on merit and actually implement the Open standard.

You can't deny office is good (and I'm no fan of Microsoft) but they got to the top by not playing fair with wordperfect, borland, lotus and the like. They don't like that open office is starting to scrape away at (potentially) government. They know its a slippery slope from there.

If I'd been Microsoft I'd have gone for the second option and use the "positive PR" to show what damn good eggs we are these days and how oh we've changed. (Even if on the inside you are fuming) By doing what they are doing people just think Microsoft are a bunch of scum bags and that in actual fact the decision for open standards is actually the right way to go. (Which it is btw)

As I've said before, the government need to really kick this bunch out to field and make them compete on a fair and even basis.

We need to save money and Office isn't cheap. How many people use more than 10% of word (I don't and I use it every day!) or 10% of excel (again, its my tool of choice for presenting data and I use this A LOT). Could I do my job with Libre Office - er... yes I could. In fact, importing data in Libre Office is a damn sight better than with Excel (Excel does make prettier document though)

I guess the question is would we save enough money rolling out Open Office to the government vs paying the licence fees and sticking with the shitty standards....

Well here is a thing - turns out all the XP desktops have got to be replaced anyway so sticking a different office into the build is a negligible cost - you'll be retraining the staff anyway if they end up on Windows 8 or the latest office if they've been stuck on 2003. So, yes, it is cost effective. In fact, this **is** the opportunity to save money!

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WTF?

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

" the practical demise of KDE and Koffice"

KDUE4 is alive and kicking (KDE-4.12.2 is the current version). KOffice was succeeded by the Calligra suite 3-4 years ago.

Abiword etc. support ODF in the Gnome environment. And besides LibreOffice and OpenOffice there are others for Free, Open, and proprietary environments.

Of course it will always be possible to create document loaded with macros, etc. that will need a specific environment to work optimally, but for the most part ODF allows the essential transfer of information between collaborating users. For finished wore the Cabinet Office specified the use of PDF.

The most important thing is that government offices should not mandate the purchase/use of any particular manufacturers software by citizens or businesses. This is what MS is trying to achieve by vigorously promoting its own closed document formats. Our government should be acting on our behalf, not promoting the profits of a forign corporation and its associates.

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Go

They've left themselves wide open here

Tax row turns to Microsoft over £1.7bn of online revenues

"The row over the amount of tax multinationals are paying has taken another turn after it emerged that Microsoft pays no UK tax on £1.7bn of online revenues."

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

As vagabondo said there are several suites that support ODF: LibreOffice, OpenOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, WordPerfect Office, Caliigra Suite, AbiWord, NeoOffice Suite, Adobe Buzzword, StarOffice and Zoho Office Suite. That is pretty much all the major office suites online and offline bar the three from the big players Microsoft (who does offer some support for ODF), Apple (TextEdit apparently allows some editing of ODF) and Google (Google Docs doesn't support ODF). There are enough implementations of ODF to ensure that everyone on almost any major OS can use ODF. The same cannot be said for Microsoft's format. I am pretty sure that when Governments start using ODF the big three will support it right away.

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

I have no idea how to vote for you, Voland's right hand

On the one hand, you seem to miss the point that a standard has to start somewhere and since ODF is already in existence and does not demand tithe, it's a good place to start. But I may be misreading your comment.

On the other hand, your final solution of a GPL and a standard that actually works easily and effortlessly is good.

But I've been hearing all this for years and at this time, anything to stop the Redmond juggernaut is good.

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Windows

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

Our government should be acting on our behalf, not promoting the profits of a forign corporation and its associates.

That's just crazy commie talk!

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

> The most important thing is that government offices should not mandate the purchase/use of

> any particular manufacturers software by citizens or businesses. This is what MS is trying to

> achieve by vigorously promoting its own closed document formats. Our government should be

> acting on our behalf, not promoting the profits of a forign corporation and its associates.

The government specifying that people use ODF versus closed proprietary file formats is no different than codifying the use of the English language in documents. It does not promote profits of any organization...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

The government specifying that people use ODF versus closed proprietary file formats is no different than codifying the use of the English language in documents. It does not promote profits of any organization...

Yes it does. I have to pay for something that can read, edit and spit out USABLE .docx format, whereas I have a massive selection of free tools that can handle ODF, so there is an economic incentive to force .docx, which simultaneously acts as an access barrier to those less well off. Stop twisting the truth.

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

VRH: "With the practical demise of KDE and Koffice there is no second implementation for ODF anyway so it fails to be an open standard."

What? There are three suites I can name off the top of my head that support ODF: OpenOffice, LibreOffice and the Android viewer. None of these solutions require a king's ransom for the general public to access, so they are both free as in freedom and free as in beer. A free standard simply provides a interoperability - there is no critical mass dictated to qualify as one.

KDE's current issue is their insistence on making every back-end, including those which most definitely don't need any more than a flat file with a few lines in it, into a bloody database and then changing the schema every time someone farts. For the vast majority of users whose OCD doesn't stretch to configuration, back-ends, process economy and wanting their e-mail client to work after a minor point upgrade, KDE is alive and kicking.

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@HollyHopDrive

"They have two options -

a) fight like dogs to keep their monopoly (a battle they will eventually loose even if this approach keeps them going for another 20 years)

b) Embrace the opportunity to compete fairly on merit and actually implement the Open standard."

History demonstrates that MS invariably goes with a), and if it fails gets their PR in to airbrush it out of history to maintain their "undefeated" mystique.

Recall "MSN" ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

Google Docs supports importing an exporting of odf very well.

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@Voland's right hand - Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

"Demise of KDE" ?? First I've heard of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Voland's right hand - Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

> "Demise of KDE" ?? First I've heard of it.

And last I've read of that post above. Whoever wrote it seems so ignorant of the matter, including being apparently unaware that KOffice changed name years ago, yet feels it worth his while to open his mouth.

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Anonymous Coward

"This bad because ?"

Because some people require a version of Office that actually works and can display and edit Office documents from other organisations properly to do their job....Open Office / Libre Office might be bearable if you are a one man band, or a home user with very limited requirements, but are a pale imitation of the real thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

"since slowly having their Monopoly ebbed away."

Erm, but Microsoft's revenue is still increasing, and Microsoft still have over 90% of the desktop / laptop market, over 95% of the Office market and 75% of the server markets...A few government decisions are unlikely to change that.

"Embrace the opportunity to compete fairly on merit and actually implement the Open standard."

Microsoft already have implemented by far the best ODF support on the market.

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Pale imitations

I remember pioneering computerised word processing in an arm of a government department, and I'd say that productivity has declined over the last decades with the increasing complexity of the MS Office tools. When we started, we used Volkswriter to edit material downloaded to a 5 1/4" floppy, as a great alternative to using cut and paste... that was cut, as in using scissors on fanfold printouts delivered by secure courier, and paste, as in glue pens, to generate a new document. Classifications were added using an impressive array of rubber stamps! Volkswriter did the job: one needed only to be able to move text around, delete spurious stuff, proofread it, and send it to a printer. Job done.

I submit that 90% of what a civil servant does now does not require anything so very much more sophisticated. Much later, our unit's documentation standards were weighty, specifying things down to typeface and point sizes, and full of MS Office-specific features, but our output would have been equally valuable if we'd used plain text. Civil servants are there to implement policy, not to be graphic designers, so I say bring it on. A pale imitation is what we need, the paler the better.

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Anonymous Coward

> Because some people require a version of Office that actually works

[Snide remark: That would be Word 97 then?]

> and can display and edit Office documents from other organisations properly to do their job

Do you realise this is precisely the problem that this change is attempting to address?

> Open Office / Libre Office might be bearable if you are a one man band, or a home user with very limited requirements

I better tell that to my current client (a 1,000 employee engineering company) or to the people of my home country, where LibreOffice *is* the de facto standard (probably because of the better localisation job being done by committed volunteers as opposed to a company--rightly--focused on RoI).

> but are a pale imitation of the real thing.

Whereas e.g., Word and Excel (which I assume you are thinking of) are indeed important, and in many if not all aspects, fine examples of word processing and spreadsheet software respectively, they are not the definition of word processing and spreadsheet software (respectively). Other products, free or not, do not seek to imitate, but to offer their own approach at addressing the task.

Thank you for your input, though.

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

> Erm, but Microsoft's revenue is still increasing

While not personally a customer, I am happy for Microsoft and for their shareholders if that is indeed the case. As a Linux and FOSS user, advocate, and contributor, I sincerely believe that Microsoft is still an important player with a role to play in and things to contribute to computing technology.

> Microsoft still have over 90% of the desktop / laptop market, over 95% of the Office market and 75% of the server markets

Even accepting your figures without challenge, may I point out that the desktop / laptop market has been continuously eroded in the last few years by the advent of other consumer computing platforms?

May I also express my scepticism of that "75% of server market" figure, using any of a number of plausible definitions of "server"?

> Microsoft already have implemented by far the best ODF support on the market.

I do beg your fucking pardon????

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

ODF works on LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org. That is your two competing implementations.

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Now here's the really sad part...

Microsoft has never tried to compete by producing better product. They have always tried to compete by body-slamming any competition. Rather than put their efforts into brilliant engineering and marketing, they put the effort into lawyers, FUDmeisters and other negative tactics.

MS have amazing resources. If they pointed those resources in a positive direction they could generate some astounding software that would blow away the competition and could compete on a level palying field. Stuff worth buying, at full ticket price. But no, they're so obsessed with trying to screw the competitors that they are no longer being of service to their customers.

As Ballmer has sometimes said: "We're taking the fight to Google." Well Mr Ballmer, why not ignore Google and just focus on brilliant customer service - that would bring customers to you and you would not have to worry about Google. Google only get a foot in the door because you're such a bunch of dicks to the customers. Cusomers now have choices and "assume the position" is not something they want to hear anymore.

It is sad that a company with such resources, that could be a force for good in the software tech world, has chosen to underdelivers and be so destructive.

Microsoft, you could be so much more than this.

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R69

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

Until large scale customers such as the public sector start heavily using (& therefore driving the improvement of) Open Source software such as the various Office Suite rivals, then it will lag a little behind the expensive proprietary stuff.

What the customers also need to realise is that to make a success of a move like this also requires investment in you internal IT capabilities & skills. A combination of those two can only be a good thing, leading to better quality Open Source software and er...'skillier' resources

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

"free as in freedom and free as in beer"

Unfortunately also free as in get what you pay for and are completely crap too...

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

"May I also express my scepticism of that "75% of server market" figure, using any of a number of plausible definitions of "server"?"

See http://www.trefis.com/company?hm=MSFT.trefis#/MSFT/n-0582/0657?from=rhs&c=top

Microsoft has a stronghold over the server OS space and had a unit market share of 75.2% as of 2012 as per our estimates. We expect Microsoft's share of the server OS market to remain around the same levels in the coming years.

"I do beg your fucking pardon????"

Granted.

In case you need more details. Office 2010 supported ODF 1.1 and Office 2013 supports ODF 1.2.

http://blogs.office.com/2012/08/13/new-file-format-options-in-the-new-office/

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

@HollyHopDrive

>We need to save money and Office isn't cheap. How many people use more than 10% of word (I don't and I use it every day!) or 10% of excel (again, its my tool of choice for presenting data and I use this A LOT).

Is it just me or is this 10% so full of bugs ? formatting anyone ?

>Could I do my job with Libre Office - er... yes I could. In fact, importing data in Libre Office is a damn sight better than with Excel (Excel does make prettier document though)

You do not know SVG so your opinion does not count, here.

BTW, OpenOffice, in all fairness, has an issue with Calc where you import CSV files with locales ... a , iso . for decimals, for example (1,5 iso 1.5 - French/German/... way of specifying decimals). But a bug has been filed and it should be fixed soon, if not already (I have not checked in a while).

Apart from that, great comment - I upvoted ;-)

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle @AC

" ... and had a unit market share of 75.2% ... "

As this came from a financial report it could well have a basis in truth. The market in question would be measured in terms of sales. The figures would be somewhat different if they were in respect of deployments.

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Anonymous Coward

"[Snide remark: That would be Word 97 then?]"

Well that's still signifcantly more powerful and capable than any of the freetard office suites....However you need Office 2010+ for ODF compatibility.

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Your trolling is starting to show, might want to cash that Redmond check in now.

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Re: However you need Office 2010+ for ODF compatibility.

You will find that the OpenXML/ODF Translator works with Office XP/2003/2007/2010. Okay it only produces ODF 1.1 and yes it is a third-party add-in rather than being bundled by MS.

However, if vendor support is important then with Office 2007 SP2, MS did deliver an ODF update to Office 2007 enabling it to be set as the default file format etc. One of the things that really sucks in Office (and third-party variants), is that if the default file format is anything other than .docx (in the case of MS Office) what you see on screen cannot be assumed to be what will be saved.

As for Office 97 being more powerful and capable than any other office suites, the laugh is that for many users it still contains more than enough functionality, as evidenced by people being satisfied by the "freetard office suites"...

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

If you wanted your implementation to be used you'd use the apache or bsd licence and not the gpl3.

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

I will believe them to be interoperable on the day when libreoffice will successfully read-in a DOCX index and bilbiography and vice versa.

Er....the difficulty in doing just that kind of thing is sort of why OpenXML isn't one of the formats mentioned if I'm not mistaken.

With the practical demise of KDE and Koffice there is no second implementation for ODF anyway so it fails to be an open standard.

Calligra Suite, AbiWord, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and I'm sure a few I'm not familiar with all fully support ODF. There's 4 implementations right off the top of my head (three if you want to count LibreOffice and OpenOffice as the same one since they have a common ancestrial code base -- a case which could be made). If StarOffice is still around (no idea, haven't look at it in ages) that'd be another one.

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Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

75% of the server markets

The rest of what you say rings true, but I suspect that 75% of the server market is based on sales. There's a healthy chunk of the server market not reflected in the sales data. I strongly suspect Microsoft's true share of the server market is closer to the 45-50% mark, but that's only a suspicion. I have neither the time nor the resources nor the care to properly research it without a dependence on sales data.

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Lets all say loud and clear -- if ifs anything to do with microsoft, its NOT a standard no matter how much microsoft might protest to the contrary.

We're all sick and tired of microsoft -- look how many unreadable emails we've all had over the years caused by microsoft non-standard and sub standard emails and microsoft still doesn't seem to be able to produce a browser that flawlessly renders web sites that work perfectly well in properly-W3C compatible browsers.

No, we must all stand up and INSIST that the government adopts a standard that's controlled by an independent standards committee not something which microsoft unilaterally and falsely claims to be a standard.

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