Yesterday, Microsoft announced a new strategy in relation to “openness” and made basic proclamations with regards to interoperability. The press release entitled, “Microsoft Makes Strategic Changes in Technology and Business Practices to Expand Interoperability” really just served as a general plan of what Microsoft intends to do with making themselves interoperate better with other projects, specifically in the open source arena.
Microsoft officially flip-flops more than Kerry on the 2004 campaign trail. In the past 3 years Microsoft has made at least 2 other claims to be more open while at the same time threatening open source companies and users with intellectual property lawsuits. This seems contradictory to me, maybe because it is a contradiction in the fullest sense of the word. How can you want openness and interoperability but threaten to sue those that want to connect to you and your products? It just doesn’t make sense.
Now, this time around they have some form of game plan and they publicly state that they will allow non-commercial use of Microsoft patents, while commercial use of these patents will need to acquire a license at low-royalty rate. They mention that they will be releasing documentation on every programming interface for all their high volume products so that people can develop around these technologies. I wonder if this means that we will see better communication on Samba based technologies (Samba is an open-source technology that allows non-windows machines to communicate with Windows file shares). I also wonder if there will be more communication with the Mono project so that there is better integration between .Net and Mono. I would love to see Mono become more complete as a result of this. Somehow though, I doubt that this will occur.
Like I said before, Microsoft continually changes their position on being “open” and this time, I believe, will be no different. I think that we will see another flip to this flop in six to eight months time. While I applaud the general idea behind this initiative, I just don’t see it being fully fruitful. We will just have to wait and see if this time Microsoft actually bears fruit with this round of openness.