EU: We're A Kinder, More Open Microsoft

It's pretty clear what Microsoft's intentions are behind opening up the trade secret kimono to give us a look at product interoperability protocols, data APIs and document file formats. We're nice guys now, EU... See?

It's interesting how this move is being spun as "open", as it implies something to do with open source. Well, it indirectly does, but it's not about any open source software from Microsoft. Open source developers can utilize the specifications information in their open source software, and Microsoft has issued a covenant not sue to open source implementations. Enterprises can use these specs too within their internally developed software. But it's not "open" to everyone.

Commercial products are shut out of this announcement. Yes, the knowledge and information about these protocols is open and accessible to everyone but it better not show up in a commercial product, or you'll still be infringing on Microsoft's patent rights. Now, will commercial product development teams have to "clean room" work that involves anything that could resemble a potential violation? Openly accessible Microsoft trade secret information opens up commercial software developers to potential future claims.

This will of course make open source projects, such as a Samba, much easier to create and implement. Rather than reverse engineering the protocols used, hoping you remain under Microsoft's legal line of sight, projects can more freely and easily create software interoperating with Microsoft technology. My greatest hope about this announcement is that we see many more open source projects spring up.

First Microsoft's push for security, and now publication of interoperability protocols. Microsoft even trotted Ray Ozzie out for the announcement, but it looks like Ballmer still did almost all of the talking. (Ray, we're still waiting for your coming out party!)

We'll see if the EU blesses Microsoft's efforts here but I suspect they'll want more before deeming Microsoft is behaving better.

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