Linux vendor Red Hat says it's heard it all before and views Microsoft's latest move with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Competitors in the open-source community responded with skepticism to
Microsoft's Feb. 21 announcement that it is committing itself to
greater openness and interoperability for its software products. Others
tentatively welcomed the move.
Microsoft said it would adhere to a set of new interoperability principles
to increase the openness of its high-volume products and drive greater
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer went so far
as to say Microsoft's long-term success depended on its ability to deliver a
software and services platform that was open and flexible and provided
customers and developers with choice.
Linux vendor Red Hat did not mince words in its reaction to the news, with
General Counsel Michael Cunningham saying it was not surprising to hear
Microsoft finally state that interoperability across systems was an important
requirement and that it was changing its approach on that front.
"Of course, we've heard similar announcements before, almost always
strategically timed for other effect. Red Hat regards this most recent
announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism," Cunninham said in a blog post.
If Microsoft really was committed to greater interoperability and openness,
it would commit to open standards and stop pushing forward its proprietary,
Windows-based Office file format
for document processing, and rather
embrace the existing ISO-approved,
cross-platform Open Document Format, the industry standard for document
processing, he said.
The software giant also needs to commit to interoperability with open source
and extend its Open Specification Promise
to all of the interoperability
information that it has announced, instead of offering a patent license for its
protocol information on the basis of licensing arrangements it knows are
incompatible with the GNU General Public License, Cunningham said.
"There is no explanation for refusing to extend the Open Specification
Promise to high-volume products, other than a continued intention on
Microsoft's part to lock customers into its monopoly products, and lock out
competitors through patent threats,
" he said.
Microsoft also needs to commit to competition on a level playing field
rather than forestall competition from the open-source community, which the
latest announcement appears carefully crafted to achieve, Cunningham said.
"How else can you explain a promise not to sue open-source developers
as long as they develop and distribute only noncommercial implementations of
interoperable products? This is simply disingenuous. The only hope for
reintroducing competition to the monopoly markets Microsoft now controls is
through commercial distributions of competitive open-source software
products," he said.
For his part, Novell Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon said he was
encouraged by and in support of Microsoft's move to expand
interoperability, although he acknowledged that it could have gone farther.
Dragoon said in a blog post
Novell believes the best way to advance the "open" agenda is through
transparent and factual interoperability, adding that "one size doesn't
fit all. Never did. Never will."
This latest announcement by Microsoft on expanded interoperability was
a positive step for developers, customers and partners because it expanded
choice, Dragoon said.
"Could it be bolder and broader? Of course. If the market demands it to
be so, it will likely happen. In the meantime, I'm proud that Novell took a
bold first step in accelerating the conversation around openness and
interoperability with our Microsoft partnership over 15 months ago," he
Dragoon said Novell has found Microsoft to be a good partner that has kept
their commitments, even though the two companies still compete aggressively on
many fronts. "To the extent Microsoft pursues an agenda of open and
interoperable, we are in full support," he said.
To Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, some of the
announced details still seem less than ideal for open-source developers.
"But it is a first step. The world of software development has been
marching in a steady direction toward being open and transparent. As Linux use
continues to rise, so does the demand [by] customers to enable it to
interoperate with Microsoft products. This announcement by Microsoft seems to
indicate they want to participate in that march," Zemlin said.
Open-source enterprise content management provider Alfresco Software
believes in offering customers a choice of the underlying stack on which
it runs as well as the third-party software with which those users choose
to integrate Alfresco, said Matt Asay, its vice president of business
"We applaud Microsoft's efforts today to open its APIs and protocols to
enterprises and third-party software vendors alike, making it easier for
companies like Alfresco to interoperate with Microsoft products," said
Asay, who has been asked by Microsoft to serve as a consultant on these
"We look forward to putting Microsoft's data portability pledge to the
test with an Alfresco-SharePoint integration, a combination that an increasing
number of our customers want," he said.
Alfresco also hopes to work with Microsoft to bring open-standards-based,
integrated content solutions to their joint customers, Asay said.
Dominic Sartorio, president of the Open Solutions Alliance,
which recently issued a report saying interoperability issues were hampering
also welcomed Microsoft's overtures, saying they were an admission
of the changing nature of the software industry and Microsoft's attempt
to try to evolve by embracing openness.
But he too expressed caution, saying, "We will,
however, wait and see how all this translates in the coming months."