Microsoft: Open For Business?

Microsoft announced today that it is embracing certain interoperability principles in connection with its bread-and-butter products such as Windows Vista including the .NET Framework, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Office 2007.  This means making technical specifications and information available to make it easier for third-party software to operate with Microsoft’s products.  Presumably the thinking is that if more third-party products can work with Microsoft software, then this will increase sales for Microsoft.  It does not mean that Microsoft software will be made available under an open source model.

In short, while this will result in lots of headlines that couple the word “Microsoft” with the word “Open”, this does not signal a move by the software giant into open-source territory.  For Microsoft, some form of openness is inevitable – particularly in light of two unavoidable forces: market imperatives (read: Google) that show the success and value of open-source and collaborative technologies; and the decision against Microsoft by the EU’s Court of First Instance last fall, that ordered Microsoft to open up (Judgment of the Court of First Instance in Case T-201/04 Microsoft / Commission).

As part of its announcement, Microsoft has promised not to sue open source developers for “development and non-commercial distribution” of software that draws on these open protocols.  But developers of commercial applications must still come back to Microsoft to obtain a license, on “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, at low royalty rates”.  It remains to be seen how this will play out with developers in practical terms.  Many developers are understandably skeptical given Microsoft’s antagonistic history with the open source community.  


Calgary – 13:15 MST 


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