Microsofts Motives

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-11-23 Print this article Print

Updegrove also speculates on why Microsoft put out an inferior covenant. He thinks there are three possible reasons. "The first is that it has evil entrapment plans afoot, but I really dont think that is likely to be the case, and certainly not in each instance, since it would be rightly pilloried for doing so," said Updegrove.
"The second is that it hasnt gotten far enough through the knothole to bring itself to go as far as Sun did. The third is that it has made the calculated decision that this is as far as it needs to go to obtain the objective that it is trying to achieve, which is to head off ODF [OpenDocument Format] at the pass," he said.
"My guess is that its a combination of two and three. Im told by those I know in Microsoft that making such a covenant was a difficult and contentious decision internally, and it would be tough to sell internally more than the absolute minimum necessary to arguably do the job," said Updegrove. Click here to read David Courseys commentary on whether Microsofts move to open the Office XML format comes with strings attached. Still, in a Ziff Davis Internet interview, Updegrove said, "I was surprised on a few points, only because I think that Microsoft could have narrowed the gap a bit more with Sun without really giving away much that matters." "As it is, there are so many differences that every serious analysis should yield the same conclusion--the Microsoft covenant doesnt cut it, even if Ecma does adopt their formats, unless the covenant is beefed up. If Monday was meant to be a bombshell, this turns it in large measure into a dud." Some open-source figures arent happy, not just with Microsofts patent efforts, but other, more superficially open-source friendly patent efforts such as the OIN (Open Invention Network) and OSDLs (Open Source Development Labs) Patent Commons Project. At the UN World Summit on the information society in Tunis, Tunisia, open-source leader Bruce Perens said in a speech, "We fought the software patent camp off successfully in Europe last year, but theyve already started a new offensive, and now they are using ineffective patent pools to deceive legislators that the problem is solved for open source and that laws supporting software patenting can now go ahead. Planning to defend open source with a patent pool is like planning to hold off the avian flu with a box of tissues." Florian Mueller, European anti-patent activist and founder of the campaign, agreed. "Those announcements by the OIN and the OSDL grossly overstate the effectiveness of those partially ill-conceived approaches. By misleading people, they dont put us any closer to a real solution, but even further away from one." For these people, a complete revision of patent law, not patent pools or patent protection covenants, is the only real way to open software standards. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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