Microsoft: No Near-Term Plans to Seek Open-Source Licensing Approval

Open-source backers are jubilant over Microsoft's three new Shared Source licenses, predicting that some of them may end up as OSI-certified. But Microsoft officials maintain that they have no near-term plans to go that route.

While Microsoft Corp. has no current plan to apply for Open Source Initiative approval of the new licenses that will govern its Shared Source projects going forward, the Redmond, Wash., software maker has not ruled this out as a possibility going forward.

As eWEEK first reported, Microsoft has cut the number of licenses it will use for its Shared Source Initiative going forward from more than 10 to just three template, or core, licenses.

Several prominent Webloggers on Wednesday jumped the gun with expectations that the OSI would designate the new licenses as OSD-compliant.

"The big news today at EuroOSCON is the fact that Microsoft has posted new source licenses, and a couple of them might actually be OSD [open-source-definition]-compliant!!" blogged Danese Cooper, Intels self-professed "open-source diva" on her personal Web site.

Tim OReilly, an open-source activist and founder and CEO of OReilly Media, seemed to have similar expectations.

"Based on a quick read, the non-limited versions of these [Microsoft] licenses look like they might well be able to meet with OSI approval as open source licenses," he said.

"Id urge Microsoft to go ahead and to go ahead and submit them to License-Discuss for OSI Approval, and become a full-fledged member of the open-source community," OReilly added.

"They are clearly getting closer and closer to a tipping point. Lets encourage them to go all the way. Be nice. "

But Jason Matusow, the director of Microsofts Shared Source program, told eWEEK in an interview from Amsterdam on Wednesday that such a move was not on the cards--yet.

"At this time, we are not submitting our new licenses to the OSI, but we are having conversations with them and look forward to working with them in the future," he said, adding that this is an opportunity to build trust on both sides and to understand what the parameters are of working with each other.

"We also greatly look forward to hearing from the community at large, and that is what is happening now with all the blogging around this. The whole point of releasing these licenses rather than attaching them to programs was to solicit comment. We are always looking for ways to improve, and the idea of talking to the open-source community and developers from other types of communities is great for us," he said.

Asked to be more specific about Microsofts future plans, Matusow said that "if we were to submit our licenses for OSI approval, we would do so through the normal process that they have set up for submission of licenses. We would not want to be treated in any special fashion, as we would be just another organization putting licenses forward for approval, if we decide to do that," he said.

But before that can happen, the dialogue has to be established and trust built to move forward with that kind of a relationship, he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about how Microsoft invited OSI president Michael Tiemann to meet and start a constructive dialogue.

Asked why Microsoft was reluctant to submit the licenses for OSI approval given that they seemed to meet all the criteria, Matusow said the OSI had previously indicated that its two goals were to put forward a neutral standard as to what was open and to advocate open source.

"In their choice of advocacy, they have at times taken positions that have made it more difficult for us to work with them. I think people should be able to say critical things about Microsoft, but that should be completely separate from being a neutral body for any and all the players in the industry to be able to make use of your standard," he said.

Whats needed is a neutral environment that is comfortable for all participants in order to build consensus, and "I think that is a wonderful role for the OSI to decide to play, and that is why we are eager to talk to these guys. They have made changes to their board and are looking at building a workable definition of open for open-source licenses and what it means to wrestle with the issues that come with that," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about Russ Nelsons resignation as head of the OSI.

In an interesting move Wednesday, the OSI moved the "Halloween documents," the name for a series of confidential Microsoft memoranda on potential strategies related to open-source software and Linux, off its official site and onto the personal site of Eric Raymond, one of open sources founding fathers and a former OSI president.

Microsofts Matusow declined to comment on that, while an OSI representative could not be reached for comment by the time this article was published.

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