I first read about Microsoft announcement to release Windows code in La Jornada, a Mexican newspaper. Microsoft hace públicos los códigos de programación de Windows [Microsoft makes public the programming code for Windows]. By the time anybody reads this post, this will be all over the news (see CNET News, BBC, CBC, CNN) .
These seem to be the main reasons for Microsoft’s “generous” offer to share:
- The ongoing investigation by anti-trust regulators at the European Commission: this is something that they are definitely worried about. Microsoft has already lost a previous anti-trust appeal.
- The upcoming vote on OOXML (Office Open XML) for ISO standardization (Feb 25-29 2008): Some of the issues with this format is that it would mandate the use proprietary technology – Windows Metafile. As the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (U of Toronto) suggest “…energy would be better spent in the ongoing effort to improve the existing ISO ODF standard (with which OOXML would overlap and compete if it is adopted).” Microsoft is unlikely to do this since ODF is the standard used by Open Office, the free open source office suite that continues to attract users and therefore is starting to be a competitor for Microsoft Office.
The pledge to offer free access to some of Microsoft software is still vague:
- ensuring open connections
- promoting data portability
- enhancing support for industry standards
- fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities [Source:Microsoft PressPass]
During the press conference where this was announced it was also mentioned that “Microsoft is providing a patent covenant not to sue open source developers for development, or noncommercial distribution of implementations of these protocols” so, theoretically, they will not go after developers any more… or that is the theory anyway.
I don’t know why but keep coming up with analogies with organic farming… I’m thinking: Is Microsoft’s “open source” the equivalent of industrialized organic farming?
Note: In the last couple of days I also came across another sample of Microsoft “generosity”: it’s donation of $3 Million to the Library of Congress (of course, the donation is in products and services). It seems like a very nice way to promote Silverlight, their flash-like application. See:
- Library of Congress sells itself out to Microsoft for a mere $3 mil [BoingBoing post by Cory Doctorow]
- Library of Congress, Microsoft Announce Agreement to Support New Interactive Experience for Visitors [Press Release]