Just before Christmas I wrote a fairly strongly-worded condemnation of what I saw as the imminent betrayal of open standards by the UK Cabinet Office. This was based on reading between the lines of a new Procurement Policy Note, plus my thirty years' experience of dealing with Microsoft. At the time, I didn't have any specific proof that Microsoft was behind this shameful U-turn, but Mark Ballard has, it seems:
The British government withdrew its open standards policy after lobbying from Microsoft, it has been revealed in a Cabinet Office brief leaked to Computer Weekly.
The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) also formerly opposed the policy before Cabinet Office withdrew it. BIS supported Microsoft's position against open standards, the backbone of the government's ICT policy. The Business Software Alliance, infamous for its lobbying against open standards policy in Brussels, also lobbied against the government policy.
Microsoft took up direct opposition to the ICT Strategy's pledge to give preference to technologies that supported open standards of interoperability between government computer systems, said the briefing paper.
The software supplier was concerned this would prevent companies from claiming royalties on the point of exchange between those systems.
Read the rest of the post for the full, shocking details of how the Cabinet Office has apparently decided it is more important to ensure that Microsoft's profit margins remain obscenely high than supporting the indigenous computing industry through true open standards, not the bogus kind pushed by Microsoft.
Although I am not surprised by this revelation, I remain incredibly angry about it – and I think everyone who cares about computing in this country should be too. It confirms that the UK government's fine words about supporting open source and open standard are truly the typical and cynical political sweet-talking before you are stabbed in the back at the behest of lobbyists that wield so much power. No one should take anything the UK government says in this context seriously again.
What's truly shocking about this episode is not that Microsoft has once again interfered with a sovereign nation's decision to create a level playing-field – that's just par for the course for the convicted monopolist. What's really disgusting is that UK government has let them. This is a total scandal: anyone involved with this pathetic kowtowing to US business interests with any sense of decency would resign immediately. And those that don't should be fired.