Microsoft Spins Legal Defeat into PR Fool's Gold

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2008-02-21 Print this article Print

title=The Timing Is Suspicious}


But is it even really doing that? Microsoft, for example, has had to open up its network and server protocols. It even came to an agreement with The Samba Group to let Samba, an open-source group, at its network protocol crown jewels.

But now, if you look at the fine print of what Microsoft is promising, you'll see that Microsoft is only promising not to sue open-source programmers creating non-commercial software. If say, oh I don't know, Red Hat, Canonical, or Mandriva were to use Samba, Microsoft seems to be saying that it's business as usual and we just might sue you for patent violations.

I doubt they would. The EU is already hot on their trail. Microsoft also runs the danger of what I like to call patent MADness (Mutually Assured Destruction), but Microsoft loves to keep talking up its open-patent FUD.

One final thought for today: Isn't it interesting how Microsoft is now all about document interoperability? What's so special about today? It's the day before the question of whether Microsoft is open is once more considered by the ISO.

To quote Andrew Updegrove, a partner with the Boston law firm Gesmer Updegrove LLP and a well-known standards expert, from his blog on today's news: "I expect that there it is no coincidence that this announcement comes just two business days (and only one, for most of the world) before the Ballot Resolution Meeting convenes in Geneva next Monday. This will effectively give those participating in the discussions of Microsoft's OOXML document format no opportunity to fully understand what Microsoft has actually promised to do, while reaping the maximum public relations benefit."

You think?

I'd like to think that Microsoft really is willing to work and play well with others with open standards. Really, I would. But if you take a close look at this PR stunt, and that's all it really is, and then look at Microsoft's long history of making, and breaking, interoperability promises, well I don't believe it for a New York minute.

At this point, the only Microsoft promise of peace and cooperation I'm willing to believe would be one drafted by SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) head Eben Moglen and written in Steve Ballmer's blood. Short of that, as far as I'm concerned, it's still business as usual for Microsoft.

Or, to make this even clearer, here's a LOL Cat version, which does a nice job of reflecting my views. For those of you without your Microsoft and open-source leader score cards, from top to bottom, that's Steve Ballmer, Eric Raymond, Bill Gates and Richard M. Stallman.

I'm editor-at-large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. That's a fancy title that means I write about whatever topic strikes my fancy or needs written about across the Ziff Davis Enterprise family of publications. You'll find most of my stories in Linux-Watch, DesktopLinux and eWEEK. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, I worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects.

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