September 15, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Is open source getting to Microsoft?

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The current Open Specification Promise does not specifically cover CardSpace, formerly called InfoCard. But the promise not to assert patents could be extended from current Web services standards, said Michael Jones, Microsoft's director of distributed systems customer strategy and evangelism.

"Licensing additional specifications under these same terms should be much easier to do at this point, but I obviously can't make public commitments yet beyond those we already have buy-off on," Jones said on a discussion group at OSIS, the open-source identity selector project.

Old concerns
Web services standards are authored by several vendors, often including Microsoft and IBM, and are built into products from many vendors.

IBM lauded the move in a statement on Wednesday. "We've provided open-source friendly licenses for Web services specifications and have made non-assert commitments for a broad set of open-source projects including Linux," said Karla Norsworthy, vice president for software standards at IBM.

Web services specifications are standardized in the World Wide Web Consortium and in the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. Both bodies allow people to license standards either royalty-free or on so-called RAND terms (reasonable and non-discriminatory terms).

But Microsoft's Open Specification Promise goes a bit further. It means that developers at Apache projects, for example, no longer have to worry about Microsoft asserting Web services patents down the road, said Apache's Schmidt.

Similarly, Rosen said that the "OSP is compatible with free and open-source licenses."

That clarity is a far cry from the early days of Web services, which took shape around 2000, when Microsoft and IBM teamed with others to improve system interoperability using XML-based protocols.

Lingering concerns remained among outside developers and were points of dispute in some Web services standardization efforts.

In 2000, Anne Thomas Manes was the chief technology officer of a Web services start-up called Systinet. The venture capitalist backers of the company were nervous that implementing these newly published specifications, created by other companies, could lead to lawsuits down the road, she said.

Until now, there was still a "niggling concern" that Microsoft would sue people. Back in 2000, Systinet decided to accept the risk of creating software based on specifications created by others, even though they did not have a license, she said.

"We went ahead and did it anyway despite the risk, because we were of the impression that Microsoft and IBM really wanted people to implement it," she said.

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29 comments

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Now we can talk!
When Microsoft begins to create a Unix-based operating system
that will be backward compatible to their programs (Windows-
based like MS Office), then I will support it! But until then...
Posted by benjiernmd (123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Check your history
MS wrote the code that's used for the PC versions of Unix. If you think there's something special about Unix, you really don't know anything about OS architecture.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Win32 already POSIX compiant
I'm pretty sure Win32 is already POSIX compiant, including SOCKETS structures. Is that what you mean by "Unix-based OS?"

I've ported a lot of Unix code to Windows in my day. In most cases, it was just a matter of recompiling the Unix code in Windows with minimal adjustments. In fact I had more work to do when porting Unix code from one vendor (Solaris) to another (HP-UX) then to Windows.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft Rocks
Open Source would sure be a slap in the face to all those who appose Microsoft for just that reason... then what are they going to whine about? It works too well? Apparently, even without open source, I (and 96% of the market) like paying for it anyway.
Posted by zeeboid (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is very good
I think that it is good that Microsoft is trying to appeal to other community than just it's standard following.
Posted by hanyou (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
MS & open source
Let me say, it's about time. But also let's not mistake this as generosity on Microsoft's part. They have no choice and they know it. They only way they can stay relevant is to become part of the community.

I'm Guessing
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://imguessingblog.blogspot.com/" target="_newWindow">http://imguessingblog.blogspot.com/</a>
Posted by imguessing (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
doubt it
Microsoft has no interest in joining the "community." If IBM agreed not to sue over use of its web service specifications, then its implementation will be more widespread than Microsoft's. If current and future MS technology is based on the MS specification, then they need to increase usage and compete against IBM. the goal, obviously.. which will be missed by nearly every pro-oss person out here, is to further their implementation of web services.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
.NET ripe for the plucking
Java is open source now completely .NET will always be incompatable until it open sources completely.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mono
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mono-project.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.mono-project.com/</a>

There are more C# applications delivered on a modern Linux Gnome desktop than in Windows XP or even Windows Vista desktop.

- rmjb
Posted by rmjb (28 comments )
Link Flag
I'm not sure that I understand
The .NET framework is OOP based. If there is something that I don't like about the way that it handles something, I can write code to change it without knowing a single line of code within the original class or object.
Posted by MythicalMe (51 comments )
Link Flag
MS being generous?
Well, given the fact that 100% of all software patents are bogus, maybe MS is tired of being on the wrong end of patent litigation and are realizing that every single item in their patent portfolio is uneforceable.

Perhaps not.

Just do not think that MS is starting to be more friendly towards open source. MS has never been friendly to direct competitors. They have spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to stop open source through misinformation campaigns and funding other companies through unfounded lawsuits.

The only way MS will start playing fair is when incompetants like Gates and Balmer leave and people with a clue take over.

Perhaps Balmer and co are realizing how inconsequential Microsoft has become, and are trying to join the 21st century. I would not bet on that though.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
software patents are bogus?
Run that by us again, please?
Posted by fuser197 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Watch your back
I'm still a little too leary about this. This is Microsoft we're talking about, and they have a bad track record about promises. I would still advise the OSS community to set the standards and not use anything Microsoft holds the patent to. It just looks like a really big Trojan Horse to me.
Posted by KevinWPeters (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
OSS people are not stupid
MS can fool ignorant end-users like Arbogast, but can not fool the computer science educated people involved with OSS.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft promise
Oh and we are suppose to believe that they never break a promise.

I would rather stick with Open Source. At least it is protected by Law.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
exactly
So they hold a gun to your head but say dont worry we promise that we wont shoot! What the hells wrong with a proper open and free licence enforced by law. They just wont take the finger off the trigger even if it will beef up microsoft profits by gaining more developer support.

Just wait and see what happens when they have a change of heart theres a reason redmond's comprised of 10% software programmers and 40% Managers the remaining 50% are lawyers.

(thats a metaphor for those of you to argumentative to notice!)
Posted by sprogg2001 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Least we forget ...
OpenSourceSoftware and FreeWare are like Dr Who's "Tardis". It's much bigger once you're inside. In fact, the more I look around this OSS world the bigger and bigger it gets. I think Microsoft knows it too. Luckily for them (for the moment) most consumers don't understand OSS, so misstrust it. I don't need to explain how OSS is as good, if not better than most retail software, and once enough people realise that and become comfortable with it people will feel foolish about having payed for it for so long.

In the future we won't be paying for software because there will be 1,000's more people writing it for free, for the same reasons they do it now, and the Internet has been the Catalyst in bringing it to your desktop - no marketing costs, no supply chains. Enjoy.

I've been saying to people lately ... "The big software companies are the only ones more amazed than me that you still pay for software".

One thing you have to say about MicroSoft is they make good decisions. They built their monopoly on them and rightly screwed us for every spare software cent we had. The monopoly is crumbling and I beleive they will market themselves more and more on how they are the good guys and how they are joining the OSS revolution ... the one they couldn't crush.

Least we forget.
Posted by xaKira (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed to a point
I agree, Linux is way better then Windows.

All but Gaming... MS in investing a lot of money
to include some attractive features into next version of Vista.

I am a Apple fan boy my self, but one can't ignore that... Linux on the other hand is doing that too in many places, but right now the hottest topic is Games/Gaming, you can't really do that on Linux well, sure some games play and some can serve, but not as well as Windows does it now.

Linux needs to match this atelast to have a chance competing.

Anyways, I love Linux and OS X.
Posted by rmiecznik (224 comments )
Link Flag
Disingenuous Thugs: Their IP is Unassertable!
The reason MS is allegedly making nice is because they know their alleged IP is completely unassertable. Not only are their patents and claims largely spurious, they know that the moment they sued anyone, they'd be torn to shreds by hundreds of suits against them all a firestorm of assaults against their alleged IP. MS has been losing IP suits in the past couple of years, you might notice.

Ballmer might as tell the EU that he won't sue the union for using the metric system. "You know, you people, MS has had the metric system included in Excel for close to a decade WITHOUT ONCE ASKING FOR ROYALTIES," he would say before being laughed out of the room.

CNET really needs to look coldly at the claims of this vendor. Follow-up story idea: call 30 intellectual property attorneys and ask them, hey, professor what *would* happen if MS actually tried to assert the IP it claims it is giving away to the world.

Once you have the answer to that - and I think anyone with a heartbeat would know - you can move onto murkier questions, like what are these grinning hyenas up to with this tactic.

Roberto
Posted by Sumatra-Bosch (526 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's sad really
I agree.

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." A famous quote used by Isaac Newton to explain how his knowledge and discoveries was built on prvevious works.

I believe nearly all work done in the software field is just incremental steps on top of work done before. It has more to do with a natural selection of ideas or code that work better or fills a niche, than it does with real intellegence, and I'm not saying programmers are dumb, it's just the way programming is. That's why the open source environment is so conducive to creating great software. It allows all these ideas (program code) to fly around multiply, mutate, fail, improve, until you have the best result at any given time. The scale of the opensource community means the above procces is running at a very healthy pace. It's why Firefox leaped ahead of IE in usability seemingly out of nowhere and is gaining popularity even though it needs to be downloaded and installed on Windows where'as IE is bundled with Windows and can't be uninstalled.

The article states:-
"To be sure, Microsoft, which spends more than $6 billion a year on research and development, remains committed to generating proprietary intellectual property."
That's a hell of a lot of "alleged" IP! I wish they would use some of it in their software. :-)

May I suggest Microsofts' IP standards are something like this:-
CompanyX comes up with the idea that 1+1+2=4. Microsoft comes up with the idea that 2+2=4. Then claim it as IP and probably buy out CompanyX anyway because they found a solution to 4 before they did.

I'll leave you with another quote:-
"It all make perfect sense, expressed in dollars and pence"

Ciao ...
Posted by xaKira (4 comments )
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