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By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-04-06 Print this article Print

Embrace and extend works, and Microsofts first dabbling of releasing its own, formerly proprietary code under a real open-source license is just another example of this business philosophy in operation. Indeed, its part of the Halloween plan, where one of the suggestions to derail open source is to "put out parts of the source code [to] try to generate hacker interest in adding value to MS-sponsored code bases."

The WiX release does more than just that, though. Looking more closely, WiX enables developers to translate programs from Windows Installer Databases (.msi/.msm) formats to a text-based, XML-file format. XML is an open standard, but to work with MSI/MSM, those XML files have a very specific format. Now, what company has already sought patent protection for specific expressions of XML code? The answer is, of course, Microsoft, with its Office XML formats.

Has Microsoft done this with WiXs XML formats yet? I dont know. But if the pros from Redmond havent yet, they will. They did it for Office XML document formats; theyll do it for this. Thus, Microsofts open-source code will work only on Microsoft-proprietary XML to produce Microsoft-proprietary installation programs. With open source like this, who needs proprietary programs?

This is also right out of the Halloween playbook. In it, Microsoft cites merging open protocols such as Directory Name Services (DNS) with Active Directory and changing "the rules of the game in the file-serving space" (aka Microsofts Longhorn WinFS) as examples of beating open source by extending commodity protocols. Microsoft is now in the process of doing this to XML, and WiX is just one more step along the way. Now, while it may look like Microsoft is doing something new, or perhaps even something helpful to the open-source community, its not. What Microsoft is really doing is putting more of the Halloween memos plans into action. Why shouldnt it? The Halloween plans are just an elaboration of Microsofts time-tested embrace-and-extend technique. The only embrace Microsoft is really giving the open-source community is a stranglehold. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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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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