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Microsoft gets little sympathy from federal (non)fan base

In response to our recent coverage of a court ruling against Microsoft, numerous readers posted comments expressing their ambivalence about their reliance on the company’s software. Even some readers who wrote to say the case had no merit qualified their comments by noting they were “no fan of Microsoft.”

The case itself involved a Canadian company called i4i that asserted Microsoft had infringed on a patent for technology that makes it possible for Microsoft Word software to handle XML code. A federal judge ruled in favor of i4i and ordered Microsoft to stop selling its software beginning in mid October. (Read more about the ruling here and about its potential impact on federal customers here).

Some readers do not like what they see as Microsoft’s predatory business practices.

“They seem to be a company choking on their own hubris,” wrote M. “Gates got out of ‘Dodge’ just in time. They clearly were beginning to lose traction on users. There are those who say Microsoft bought, stole, intimidated and stole their way to the top. Have they finally been caught?”

“Microsoft isn't going to stop selling word processing software just because some judge hits them with an injunction,” another reader said. “They might not be selling Word, but you can bet that whatever the renamed product is, it will contain the same functionality as Word. The bottom line is that the federal government needs Microsoft far more than Microsoft needs the federal government.”

For others, the case is just an opportunity to complain about the software itself, especially Word 2007.

“Perhaps i4i has done us all a favor,” a reader concluded: “As far as I am concerned, Office 2007 fixed something that was not broken. I still have a hard time finding what I need on those 2007 'ribbons.' Office 2003 is well known, easy to use and capable of serving almost everyone's needs.”

But most readers took a more pragmatic view, concerned about what would happen if the injunction were allowed to stand.

“The federal government is essentially a Microsoft house, bought and paid for,” according to RayW. “How WILL this affect us? Will we get/have to upgrade back to an earlier version of Office or will the big guns in the fed system put the screws to the judges and say ‘No way, we have a vested interest in this not happening'?”

“The problem here is that Microsoft is being punished for using an open document standard,” Scott wrote. “Office 2007 is actually a step forward in usability, and this ruling will force them to patch out the ability to use the new file formats, which will in turn cost everyone, private and government, in terms of server space used for end-user documents.”

“Maybe the folks of the previous postings forgot what it was like when software was plain 'incompatible' and documents sent all over the country and/or within a business couldn't be read,” another reader says. “Wake up. You're probably using Microsoft's product to make you more productive.”

“The fine may or may not stand, but the ruling to stop selling Word will never stand,” says ChrsAntiThesis. “I don't think the system as a whole has lost its marbles that much yet.”

A few other people took it a step further and advised their fellow commenters, in short, to get over it.

Keninmo wrote, “If you don't like Microsoft, don't buy it, simple, go buy WordPerfect. :-) Nobody forces a person to buy MS Office, and you are perfectly free to reformat your hard drive and install a non-Window OS.”

Which prompted this from Ken: “Oh no, don't tell me Word Perfect is making a comeback -- I removed my F10 key!”

Posted by John S. Monroe on Aug 18, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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Reader comments

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 Phil

"'The problem here is that Microsoft is being punished for using an open document standard,' Scott wrote." You can barely call what was cobbled together at Micro$oft an open standard. Microsoft's ISO submission was rejected repeatedly and finally only squeaked in by cynical gross manipulation of the voting. It was made in an attempt to stall growing adoption of the enthusiastically endorsed OpenDoc standard (ISO/IEC 26300). You can hardly cry crocodile tears when they are "hoist with (their) own petard".

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 Scott California

I see no reason why the Fed Gov't isn't standardizing on OpenOffice at this stage. This is a HUGE upgrade from Mr. Dunlap's "Office 2003", and yes, you can open MS Office documents in OpenOffice. Only moneyed interests and predatory practices keep Microsoft in the Fed software game. Time to fire Microsoft.

Thu, Aug 20, 2009 Charles Jacks WPB FL

It seems to me that the feds ought to take this as an opportunity to standardize to open office. It can read old word files and i4i has stated that it does not infringe.

This would save the tax payer billions in upgrade costs and make the US more compatible with the rest of the world.

Let this filter down to the SBA and educational institutions and one inhibitor to the development of the US’s future is reduced considerably. (The high cost of startup, business and experience.)

Just as the government pushed to have the electricity (TVA and the rural electrification program), communications (AT&T monopoly in exchange for rural access) and transportation (federal highway system) systems become ubiquitous, the government needs to make a computing utility ubiquitous as well. This means cheap (as in free) computing capabilities to every home based on some standard. Think of the possibilities in bring the US back to first world status.

Wed, Aug 19, 2009

The suit includes Word sold since 1992 or thereabouts. Have read that companies often wait years to file suit to maximize $$ from lawsuits.

Wed, Aug 19, 2009 matth san francisco

I'm surprised none of my federal colleagues (especially those who pointed out the overwhelming, and anti-competitive dominance of M$ on the federal desktop (reference, for example, the so called Federal Desktop Core Configuration--Windows, Explorer, and MS Office!) suggested going FORWARD to an open source alternative, like OpenOffice.org, rather than BACKWARD to Wordperfect. Given the Obama administration's views on open source(read the spec on the software behind federalreporting.gov, which grew from the Recovery Act), I would expect more of a push.

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