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A Quick Look at More Reactions to Microsoft’s Taxoperability

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Interoperability, Microsoft, Patents at 8:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Quick summary, for completeness and diversity of minds

Glyn Moody’s take reflects on the important fact that Microsoft is setting some convenient new precedence, having made some arrangements with the European Commision and gained membership in the OSI (it’s part of the “Open Source” family, who can ever deny this?).

Note, by the way, that Microsoft has effected the marvellous sleight of hand that it – not the OSI, not the Linux Foundation, but *Microsoft* – is setting up an Open Source Interoperability Initiative.

In some ways, the most amazing paragraph in the whole announcement is not the protestations of undying love for openness, but the following:

The interoperability principles and actions announced today reflect the changed legal landscape for Microsoft and the IT industry. They are an important step forward for the company in its ongoing efforts to fulfill the responsibilities and obligations outlined in the September 2007 judgment of the European Court of First Instance (CFI).

This is certainly true, as shown by the fact that Microsoft is effectively applying the agreement with the EU to most of its product range…

Mark Taylor’s take very much concurs with our very old (and by no means antiquated) observation that Microsoft seeks to redefine everything, including what “Open Source” means, how it works, what its ‘obligations’ are and so forth. You can read all about it here.

The 20th February 2008 was one of those ‘Microsoft moments’, when suddenly, the world changed. Just like when they ‘got’ the network (and we got NT), or they ‘got’ the Internet (and we got ‘Internet Explorer’). This time they ‘got’ Open Source and Open Standards and the company is about to make another of their legendary radical transformations… or so they would like you to believe.


So you can have your ‘Open Source’ software if you really insist… just so long as you pay a royalty to Microsoft for every copy that gets shipped. It’s great if all those ‘non-commercial’ people want to develop software for Microsoft and their ring-fenced group of ‘authorised’ ‘Open Source’ partners. They generously promise that they wont even sue their unpaid workforce.

Mark Taylor also makes a few comments which add balance to an article about the EU’s response.

But Mark Taylor from the Open Source Consortium said the Microsoft announcement is “smoke and mirrors.”

“Microsoft is saying it will give access to open APIs, however, but there are terms,” said Taylor. “It’s the same old story. Patent protection applies, and people can use the APIs commercially as long as they pay Microsoft a royalty. They are trying to enclose open commons by trying to apply their business model, which is all about owning technology, to open source.”

A reader of ours, Sunsonica, sent us a direct link to the Statement by Thomas Vinje of the European Committee for Ineroperable Systems (ECIS) [PDF]. In a variety of contexts we have already mentioned Thomas Vinje’s work in the past few months [1, 2, 3, 4]. He is hopefully making use of some resources that we have make available for understanding the problem at hand.

Here is the official statement from the EU:

The European Commission takes note of today’s announcement by Microsoft of its intention to commit to a number of principles in order to promote interoperability with some of its high market share software products. This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past.

Red Hat’s response is quite a blast. It’s presented as a press release:

Commit to interoperability with open source: Instead of offering a patent license for its protocol information on the basis of licensing arrangements it knows are incompatible with the GPL – the world’s most widely used open source software license – Microsoft should extend its Open Specification Promise to all of the interoperability information that it is announcing today will be made available.

Microsoft expected the world to embrace its ‘opening up’ with open arms, or so it wishes to press to believe. Judging by the bits above, it’s hard to say that Microsoft’s latest ‘big announcement’ (a colossal and huge pile of nothing) meant so much to very many people. Microsoft’s target audience might just be those people attending the BRM next week (“look! We’re open!!!”), which is the subject of the next post.

Gutmann, Peter and Steve Ballmer

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  1. Skeptic said,

    February 22, 2008 at 8:58 pm


    Richard Stallman long ago predicted the redefinition of “open source”. E.g., As Eben Moglen observed,

    “What Microsoft did to ‘Open Source’ was what Stallman always said could be done to it: first you take the politics out, and when the veal has been bleached absolutely white, you can cover it with any sauce you like. And that’s what Microsoft did, and ‘Open Source’ became the sauce on top of Microsoft proprietarianism. And once that process has been completed they have to go after the next vocabulary.”

    (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/20/eben_moglen_on_microsoft_novell/page2.html )

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 22, 2008 at 9:02 pm


    I’m back to using the term Free software (since last year). Also watch this from the news:

    Philippines open source bill gets Sun’s support

    Familiar battle lines are being drawn over pending legslation mandating free and open source (FOSS) software for government and educational use in the Philippines.

    While Microsoft and the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) are opposing the controversial free and open source software (FOSS) act (House Bill 1716) filed in the Philippine Congress, Sun Microsystems Inc. plans to support the bill.


    That’s why Microsoft hates FOSS (it wants to redefine ‘open source’) and Sun does not. That’s why I worry about Microsoft, not about IBM, Sun and Google.

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