Microsoft Lobbying Practices Accused Again

Once again, Microsoft has been accused over it’s UK government lobbying practices, according to an article in Computer Weekly yesterday.

In the article by Brian Glick, a former director of strategy to David Cameron while opposition leader and as prime minister, Steve Hilton has claimed that Microsoft threatened to shut down research facilities in Conservative constituencies over Tory plans for government IT reforms.

According to The Guardian, Hilton told an event in London to promote his new book that, “When we proposed this, Microsoft phoned Conservative MPs with Microsoft R&D facilities in their constituencies and said, ‘We will close them down in your constituency if this goes through’.”

It appears that Microsoft has lobbied for years to prevent the government pursuing its open standards policy, which arguably levels the playing field for other software vendors. After a somewhat controversial consultation process, the adoption of the open source Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard for document formats was confirmed by government in July last year.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) had previously approved the open source Open Document Format (ODF) as an international data format standard. The ODF Alliance, a cross-section of industry associations with more than 150 members worldwide, academic institutions and suppliers, had all been lobbying for the decision. The ODF Alliance was created to resolve the potential problem of proprietary software limiting the ability of governments to access, retrieve and use records and documents in the future.

While it is often good sport to knock Microsoft for being a giant of the industry, and stifling (or buying up) the competition, if these accusations are true then the criticism is justly deserved. Round the office, we suspect that the motivation may be less about open standards, and more about potential market share and loss of revenue. If government should enact the long threatened Open Source initiative, then the writing may be on the wall for the big ticket software packages, at least in public service.

Perhaps that would be a good thing for consumers in general, and tax payers in particular.

For more on the story of the open source Open Document Format see the following links:

UK government Confirms Open Document Format

In a move that goes against proposals by Microsoft, the UK government has confirmed Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard government document format. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has today announced that the ODF will be the standard for sharing or collaborating on government documents, with PDF or HTML also approved for viewing.

The decision follows a long and often controversial process that first started in 2011, and led to a consultation that concluded in February. The possible open standards were published on the Government Standards Hub website, with requests for ideas and comments. Microsoft had urged the government to include Open XML (OOXML) which is the standard used for its Word documents, however opponents say is not a truly open, vendor-independent format.

According to the article in Computer Weekly, the government said that the benefits of Open Document Format would include:

  • Citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations will no longer need specialist software to open or work with government documents.
  • People working in government will be able to share and work with documents in the same format, reducing problems when they move between formats.
  • Government organisations will be able to choose the most suitable and cost effective applications, knowing their documents will work for people inside and outside of government.

It would be interesting to know how much the delays and procrastination over open standards, has cost all the users, citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations who interface with government. Meanwhile revenue for Microsoft continues unabated. Go figure!

To find out more about Open Standards Principles visit Government IT Standards Hub

More on Internet Explorer 6

As most people who visit this site will be aware, TechCo Support have been patient voices calling for the scrapping of Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), and a move to newer standards based applications which support tabbed browsing. With a large number of web developers in our stables, the persistence of IE6 and its numerous bugs, odd interpretation of standards and peculiarities is a consistent drain on resources and a barrier to progress.

We came across this resource for dealing with the persistent bugs in IE6 which contains lots of usefull information and further links to IE6 nuggets:

Other Usefull Links and our earlier rants about IE6 may be found below:

Finally, if you missed our posting on IE6 and SEO, see:

A Few More Nails in the Coffin of IE6

A number of well connected people have been asking about the article we wrote back in January about the persistent use of Internet Explorer version 6 (IE6) in Government circles (click here to read). This is particularly relevant as Microsoft are working on IE9, while some IT Suppliers, who can not be named for legal reasons, are busily planning to deploy whole new infrastructures including IE6.

A few bolder people in Government IT have asked us, off the record, for links and references to some of the criticism of IE6 on the web. Although they are clearly concerned about using an obsolete browser, they wisely do not want to raise their heads over the parapet! After very little searching, we have come up with the following links on the subject:

For a quick sample of IE6 Vulnerabilities check out:

It is also worth a visit to Ed Bott’s blog, to check out It’s time to stop using IE6, which contains the immortal line that
Any IT professional who is still allowing IE6 to be used in a corporate setting is guilty of malpractice“.

Finally, for anyone in the development community who is interested in the direction Microsoft is going with the next browser release, or any senior manager wanting to make a strategic decision on which browser version their next infrastructure upgrade will deliver, take a look at the comment from Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager, Internet Explorer on The Windows Internet Explorer Weblog..

If you are wondering about the direction to take with your next browser release, and policy, dogma or contract clauses prevent you from considering Chrome, Firefox or Opera, then you should consider An Early Look At IE9 for Developers when making your decision. If you find that the detail there is incomprehensible, or that you can’t see the reason why it makes any difference, then maybe the questions you should really be asking yourself are: “Am I qualified to make such a decision?”, and “Where do I get my advice? “.

If you want partisan advice about your choice of browser, on which to build you next corporate infrastructure, you can click here to contact Bruce Thompson

Google to Drop Support for IE6

It appears that Google is about to Drop Support for IE6, which might be the final straw for the outdated browser.

On the Official Google Enterprise Blog, under the tile of Modern Browsers for Modern Applications there is a post that confirms what right minded people have been pressing for for a long time: IE 6 is on it’s way out. The entry posted by Rajen Sheth, Google Apps Senior Product Manager, starts with the compelling reason why IE6 must go:

The web has evolved in the last ten years, from simple text pages to rich, interactive applications including video and voice. Unfortunately, very old browsers cannot run many of these new features effectively. So to help ensure your business can use the latest, most advanced web apps, we encourage you to update your browsers as soon as possible.

Although IE6 has been a staple for millions of users in the past, it is time to move on and embrace the future with tabbed browsers like IE8, Firefox, Chrome and Opera. On behalf of web users and developers everywhere, we thank you, Google!

To read more about this subject see: