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04.02.08

Microsoft Latest Incursions and Subversion of Open Source

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Novell, OSI, Windows at 10:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This may be an unpleasant subject to read about, yet without realising what Microsoft strives to achieve here, more companies might fall victim and become hostile just like Novell. Here is a quick roundup of stories that ought to shed light on Microsoft’s ramming of its presence and influence down the Open Source world’s throat, ISO-style

Microsoft and Lobbyists Throw a Party

This seems like the perfect recipe for some sellouts. And haven't we seen this before? Microsoft is inviting all sorts of open source figures to a extravagant party and even bothers to bring in all sorts of consultant whom it pays. Meeting of the minds of just pure brainwash? Your call.

Last week I spent two days on campus in Redmond with about 40 of my industry colleagues at the Microsoft Technology Summit, an annual invite-only event where Microsoft selects a swath of people from all over the world — key technology influencers — to learn about what the company is doing in its development labs and to preview advanced technology and new products, as well as to provide an environment for face to face dialogue and direct feedback.

[...]

With the exception of Rob Enderle and myself – who were the only two “Professional” journalists and analysts present at the event as far as I could tell — the entire guest list was stacked with Open Source community folks, such as William Hurley, BMC Software’s Chief Open Source strategist and David Recordon, the the founder of OpenID. It wasn’t all Penguinista heavyweights either – there were a bunch of people who ran OSS-heavy IT shops at major corporations and even academic types from developing countries in Africa who were using Open Source software to put technology in the hands of underprivileged kids, like the guy who was deploying Ubuntu and Linux Terminal Server thin clients to students in his home country of Namibia.

As you can clearly see, even GNU/Linux folks are brought over to Redmond. Microsoft and its affiliates are trying to buy love again.

We recently summarised the problems with OSBC 2008. Then, yesterday we came to find out that the organiser has also some questionable friends at Microsoft. We are not suggesting that there is a cabal here, but rather that Microsoft is approaching and wooing key figures in the open source world in order for them to obey and permit Microsoft’s entry. At the end, all you get is Microsoft standing there up in an supposedly open source conference where it redefines the rules, which then propagate into the press.

Smith also outlined what he said were Microsoft’s four big principles when it comes to intellectual property issues and open source software: First, a “well-functioning patent system” is a good thing. Second, there needs to be a bridge between different development, distribution and business models. Third, patents are best sorted out by “industry leaders [read: Microsoft and other big companies], so developers and customers don’t have to deal with these issues themselves.” And finally, everybody needs to make some compromises.

Microsoft doesn’t quite stop there. After repeated abuse of Web standards and criminal abuse of ISO Microsoft now enters MIT’s Kerberos Consortium.

Microsoft Corp. has joined the executive board of MIT’s Kerberos Consortium, an organization that oversees development of the widely used network authentication standard. Rivals Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are also on the board.

Microsoft might ruin this one just as it ruins Web standards, JavaScript and a variety of other accepted standards or recommendations. In the past, Microsoft was already accused of doing harm to the role of Kerberos, among many more. There is no trust here because trust must be earned, by deeds. Just watch how, unlike any other company, Microsoft already needs to make promises and “vow not to hoard” in the Kerberos Consortium, as Wired Magazine puts it.

According to Cameron, the company wants to ensure interoperability between Microsoft and non-Microsoft privacy platforms, and has no intention of hoarding U-Prove. Cameron intends to integrate Brands’ algorithms into Microsoft’s existing identity-access-and-management platform by mid-2009, and plans to open the application programming interface to the world.

Moreover, Brands says Microsoft is placing the technology under its Open Specification Promise, which amounts to a pledge not to sue anyone for patent infringement unless someone tries to sue Microsoft first. The intention, he says, is “to make it possible for anyone to use this technology whether they use Windows or not.”

See that little bit about the OSP? Remember how Microsoft uses the OSP to exclude the GPL.

“Involved parties seem to be trying to ‘inject’ and force upon us the Microsoft-reliant and compliant idea of open source.”Meanwhile, also in yesterday’s news, Microsoft’s Gartner (or "Partner") Group conveniently confuses or mixes SaaS with “Open Source”. It’s adding more confusion and dilution to this pool of terminologies. Over in ZDNet, it’s said that Garner brings some “bad news” (and “good news”) about Open Source. As we asked recently, is someone paying to change perception?

Involved parties seem to be trying to ‘inject’ and force upon us the Microsoft-reliant and compliant idea of open source. We are still just trying to show you that Microsoft bends Open Source, not embraces or helps it. It wants to devour other developers’ revenue, and that’s just nothing new. Just look again at antitrust cases and witness history's lessons.

Microsoft’s approach to this fighting disruptive phenomenon can be described briefly as: commercialise, redefine, then change rules and generalise. It’s a case of invading, then expanding. Here is what Gartner, which is funded by Microsoft to a large degree, had to say and scare us with. It’s not related to the widely-circulated description of SaaS as a sort of open source-like thinigie (which in itself in harmful to the recognised “open source” label).

But for open-source vendors, the SaaS trend isn’t all good news.

In next couple of years SaaS providers will also challenge open-source vendors, and become the preferred method for lowering IT costs.

Mind the dash in “open-source”. I typically pronounce it “open minus source” because it pretty much describes what it is. It’s an attempt to get around the rules of “Open Source” with something that sounds identical.

ComputerWorld welcomes Microsoft as part of the ‘open source family’ in this new interview with Sam Ramji. This further illustrates how Microsoft partly hijacks presence (limelight time) in the very same area that it perceives and describes as its main threat (“keep your enemies closer”).

Zend, which has for quite some time seemed like a Microsoft apologist (especially after their deal), is now doing some more ‘PR work’ for its partner. It helps Microsoft change people’s perceptions about its willingness to change rules. And yes, it’s about software patents.

What did you think of Microsoft’s February 21 announcement about interoperability principles, basically opening up some of its APIs and technical documentation? What was the general reaction in the open source community?

This is obviously a multi-dimensional issue. I think on the one hand there is obviously, the legislation, especially in Europe, which is kind of forcing Microsoft to do that. I do think there is another constituency within Microsoft which actually believes that opening up more and becoming more heterogeneous is obviously going to benefit Microsoft. Because the ecosystem around the Windows platform is then going to be able to emerge that is going to add value to the Windows operating system. I think overall in the open source community, people have been cautiously optimistic about it. I think in general it is a good thing. I think it is a step in the right direction but I do think that there are a lot of details which aren’t clear today.

And there you have it. Another Microsoft partner gives the nod to taxoperability and lends credibility to Microsoft’s demand. Is this manufactured consent in the making? Also in the news, the following press release seems rather benign.

IONA’s commitment to Open Source software is an integral part of its 15-year heritage. With a high degree of Open Source community involvement, IONA supports the efforts of its developers who are members and contributors to a number of ASF projects.

The only possible concern is that Microsoft has just gotten close to IONA and announced a deal/collaboration at a very similar time (almost an identical time). There is no intersection between the two, but it’s important to remember where money flows from because it sometimes leads to expectations or implicit obligations.

By all means remember that Microsoft tries to get cosy with Apache, which it’s still unable to beat. Apache’s market share has climbed for several consecutive months, according to Netcraft. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Might Microsoft be on to something? Microsoft’s attempted ‘hijack’ of open source remains one of the least covered big stories. And that’s in addition to the software patent maneuvers, which are equally if not more concerning.

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