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Microsoft Wants to Give RAND Terms to Free Software

The Rand Tower, downtown Minneapolis
The Rand Tower, downtown Minneapolis



Summary: Microsoft's promise of so-called 'interoperability' leaves much to be desired

Microsoft very well understands that RAND terms are incompatible with Free software, but in its latest overture with the European Commission Microsoft offers exactly that. Andy Updegrove looks at the general details and provides cursory background.



If you've been reading the reams of articles that have been written since then, you may have noticed that the vast majority of the virtual ink spent on the story has been directed at the terms relating to browser choice. Typically, and as an afterthought, most of these stories have added a brief mention that a settlement has also been provisionally reached relating to "another" dispute, this one relating to interoperability.


And indeed, when it comes to "interoperability" (not the same as open standards), Microsoft has the usual gotchas. As Glyn Moody notes:

Now, as I've noted several times before, such “reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms aren't necessarily much use to free software, since they can be both and still incompatible with major licences like the GNU GPL.

[...]

This seems to mean that free software projects will be able to pay a relatively small upfront fee, with no per copy licensing – necessary to allow copies to be made and passed on without worrying about such fees.


Heise's coverage of this references Moody.

Moody believes that, given the detail of these proposals, Microsoft already had these plans in place before they made the original proposal and that it was "being as awkward as possible". Despite the commitment to ODF as a document format, there are still issues over interoperability with Microsoft applications and other applications which produce and consume ODF documents.


This is a subject that we wrote about in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Microsoft is harming rival office suites, aided by hypocrites.

Essentially, the news are about Microsoft discussing OpenOffice.org as a competitor. That’s interesting, usually Microsoft does not like to speak about competitors coming from the Free Software Community, except when it’s about patents on code it allegedly infringes.


Patents too are a last resort to Microsoft (against OpenOffice.org).

"In one piece of mail people were suggesting that Office had to work equally well with all browsers and that we shouldn’t force Office users to use our browser. This Is wrong and I wanted to correct this."

--Bill Gates [PDF]

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