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.
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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