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Brits Bitch to EC about Microsoft

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Brits Bitch to EC about Microsoft

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Becta, the British Educational and Communications and Technology Agency, has taken its gripes against Microsoft’s allegedly “anti-competitive” licensing policies for schools and the “interoperability impediments” in Office 2007 to the European Commission, as a contribution to the new antitrust investigation of Microsoft and its OOXML file formats – among other things – that the EC opened in January.

Becta objects to Microsoft’s native support for its own OOXML format in Office and its lack of equivalent support for the rival OpenDocument Format (ODF). The agency claims that having to download converters to interoperate creates a barrier to adopting ODF by non-technical users.  

It says that, even if the user succeeds in installing the converters, the outcome would be “unsatisfactory” because of their “limited functionality” and poor integration into Microsoft’s user interface and so form a further barrier to competition.  

Before complaining to the EC, Becta asked the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), UK ’s competition regulator, last October to investigate Microsoft and tried negotiating with Microsoft.  

Becta claims that Microsoft’s lack of interoperability limits choice, which results in higher prices for education and a “range of other unsatisfactory effects” that “have a negative impact on wider policy initiatives,” like “improving education outcomes, facilitating home school links and addressing the digital divide.”  

It wants the OFT to review the barriers to using other application software or interfacing with Windows and remedy them.  

Apparently the OFT is considering what to do about Microsoft’s School Agreement licensing model.  

Becta has advised schools not to sign Microsoft’s School Agreement for Office 2007 – or to save any documents in OOXML – and to use a three-year Academic Select license instead; if they have signed a School Agreement it suggests they “consider their renewal and their buyout options.”  

Becta argued against Britain supporting OOXML as an ISO standard, preferring the existing ODF standard instead.


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