Coincidence when it comes to timing? Surely they would jest. Last week we saw some rather useless (and incomplete) binary formats being released which are potentially doing more harm than good. Microsoft was then raving about a patent ‘promise’ (semi-valid as long as you're not one of those 'ugly' GPLers). which is by no means a binding contract.
“Microsoft really wants to world to think that the company suddenly loves openness..”“It’s advertisers, advertisers, advertisers,” as Steve Ballmer once said (watch the video). It’s a question of perception rather than reality. He more recently described the solution to Windows Vista’s problems as one which is hinged on advertising. And that’s what the latest announcement is all about. Microsoft really wants to world to think that the company suddenly loves openness and some journalists are innocently falling for it, making the press coverage a total disaster.
Antitrust, Antitrust, Antitrust
Bear in mind that there are 3 ongoing antitrust investigations (happening simultaneously) at this very moment. They all involve Microsoft and these include the abuses against ISO. Microsoft’s watcher in Seattle puts the news rather well with the headline “Microsoft tries to appease EU by sharing secrets”.
Microsoft, reacting to the rejection of its antitrust appeal in Europe last year, said this morning that it’s giving outside software developers new levels of access to its biggest programs.
Antitrust regulators in Europe were emboldened by last September’s ruling against the company by the European Court of First Instance, opening two new antitrust investigations into Microsoft’s activities last month.
Kroes Doesn’t Buy It
The European Commission is not naive. It does not blindly follow the press coverage and it can read between the lines. According to Associated Press, it’s not overly impressed by Microsoft supposedly ‘opening up’ (we’ll get to the substance of this news at the end, so bear with us).
EU skeptical on Microsoft sharing plan
European Union regulators are expressing skepticism over Microsoft’s latest offer to share more information about its products and technology.
Patents, Patents, Patents and Patents
Four software patent deals have been signed with GNU/Linux distributors and it was made very clear that Microsoft intends to use GNU/Linux to its own advantage. If it cannot defeat GNU/Linux (and more broadly FOSS), then it is tipping over itself to make it possible to warp GNU/Linux such that it’s owned by Microsoft, at least in the ‘intellectual’ sense. Microsoft can then turn GNU/Linux into another Microsoft cash cow. With that context in mind, think about Mono.
The 451 Group looks at the recent events and concludes that patents are a major ingredient of this latest development, even though Microsoft did not place emphasis on this. Well, not based on announcements which it made (high note on ‘open’, quiet on the ‘tax weasel’).
It is worth noting that the new strategy will see Microsoft providing a list of the patents and patent applications that relate to the protocols and formats it uses for the named products. This should mean that open source developers are able to identify some of the 235 patents Microsoft previously claimed were infringed by free and open source software and will be able to license them (on RAND terms), attempt to develop around them, or challenge their legitimacy.
Don’t Cry for Ron Hovsepian, Argentina
Matt Asay, the former Novell employee who is neither there anymore (nor a fan of the company) explains why Novell ends up with an egg in its face.
Microsoft’s pledge to truly interoperate with the rest of the planet, including open-source developers (both commercial and community), leaves two clear victors in the Linux camp: Red Hat and Ubuntu. While Novell capitulated to Microsoft’s early demands for a patent stooge, Red Hat and Ubuntu stood firm.
Well, Novell gained a few quarters of “coupon cash” from the deal (though my sources at Novell say that customers aren’t renewing their subscriptions at a rate that Novell would like), but I hope it recognizes the value in standing firm for openness. What little wind it got puffed into its sails from its interoperability lock-up with Microsoft just dissipated.
There is an interesting sort of ‘leak’ there (inside information) about poor levels of subscription renewal, indicating that former Novell customers may be walking away after the deal with Microsoft.
A regular reader has E-mailed to inform us of the news stating rather sarcastically that he’s “sure we’ve seen the ever-spreading news that Microsoft are, er, ‘embracing’ Open Source today…”
“Like me, I’m sure you’re not fooled for an instant,” he writes.
The reader summarises what we are seeing in the following concise way:
It’s simply the next step in their plan to enclose the commons.
They understand that Free Software is going to win.
They have accommodated themselves to that, and are working on their best chance of retaining their abusive monopolist position in the new world.
So their answer is “Fine. You can have your ‘Open Source’. So long as you pay us a royalty for every single piece of Open Source you use. In fact, as long as they get their royalty stream, the are quite happy for us ‘filthy hippies’ to develop, unpaid, for them.
- It’s all about the patent encumberment.
- It’s all about owning the ‘standards’ (we saw their view of ‘standards’ in what they did to ISO).
- It’s all about enclosing (and hence owning) the software commons.
If you want to drink the Microsoft Kool-Aid, read articles in the press. They have to be 'politically correct' and follow the Microsoft press release, as well as face the wrath of prodding from Microsoft’s PR arms. If you have some different views, feel free to share them. It remains clear that Microsoft is motivated by profit, not goodwill, which it only sees as a route or a tool for making more money. █
Image from Wikimedia