Microsoft May Not Have

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-17 Print this article Print

the Right to Expect Compliance"> Others, like Dan Ravicher, the executive director of the Public Patent Foundation in New York, go even further and suggest that those in the free-software and open-source communities need not comply with the license, as it is questionable whether Microsoft actually has any rights for which people would need a license. "If they do have rights and a license is needed, then the term in the license to Microsofts rights that requires attribution by the licensee of all of its downstream licenses is in fact not compatible with the GPL, just like the original BSD license, which required a similar attribution, is not GPL-compliant," he told eWEEK.
"However, we should not presume that Microsoft has any valid rights here. They might like to give that impression, but it is not clear. If they dont have any rights, then no one needs a license from them, so whatever terms such a license may contain are irrelevant, because no one needs to abide by them," he said.
The beginning of the patent license where this requirement is set forth states that "Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for you to license in order to make, sell or distribute software programs that read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas," Ravicher said. "If they had any applicable patents, theyd most assuredly tell people what those patents are. I cant see that they have done that. So, all theyve said is that they may have patents and, if they do, these are the terms under which theyll license them to you. While it is true the terms of such a license are GPL-incompatible, there is no need to comply with them until we are certain they have something that must be licensed," he said. Others, like Iyer Venkatesan, the product line manager in Sun Microsystems Inc.s client systems group, said they feel that it remains to be seen whether Microsofts decision to make its Office Open XML Formats available is a good move or not. "Customers and partners may meet the new file formats with resistance or skepticism, since Microsofts XML file format is not compliant with the OASIS [ Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards] OpenDocument file format, which is the industry-standard XML file format," Venkatesan said. Asked whether the move would make it easier for Suns office competitor, StarOffice, to interoperate with Office in the future, Venkatesan said it would. "XML in general is much easier to import and export than Microsofts previous binary file formats. But Microsofts XML file format is still very closely related to their Office applications and, as a result, they did not design their XML file format to be vendor-independent. It could still be difficult for other vendors to adopt the Microsoft format," he said. Also, unlike an openly developed file format like the OASIS OpenDocument format, Microsoft could change the format without other parties being aware of the change until Microsoft released the next version of its product. While StarOffice will continue to support any new Office file formats, "We would prefer to see Microsoft adopt the open and broadly supported OASIS OpenDocument standard, which has been endorsed and supported by companies like Sun, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Adobe, KOffice and AbiWord," Venkatesan said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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