Microsoft is taking a big step today by opening their arms to the open source world. According to their press release their goal is to “promote greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for customers and developers.“
This is an interesting step for Microsoft since they have always done everything they can to fend off open source development, or so it seemed. Starting today they are publishing over 30,000 pages of trade secret documentation, and they have also decided that they won’t sue open source developers who create non-commercial products:
- As an immediate next step, starting today Microsoft will openly publish on MSDN over 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols that were previously available only under a trade secret license. Protocol documentation for additional products, such as Office 2007 and all of the other high-volume products covered by these principles, will be published in the upcoming months.
- Microsoft will indicate on its Web site which protocols are covered by Microsoft patents and will license all of these patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, at low royalty rates.
- Microsoft is providing a covenant not to sue open source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols. These developers will be able to use the documentation for free to develop products.
- To promote user choice among document formats, Microsoft will design new APIs for the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Office 2007 to enable developers to plug in additional document formats and to enable users to set these formats as their default for saving documents.
I think Microsoft expects this to make up for all of the things they’ve done wrong in the past against the open source community, but people don’t easily forget those things. From what I gather Microsoft is trying to regain control that they have already lost, such as governments moving to open formats. Give it some time and Microsoft will probably go even more “open” to counteract any open source movements that might be going on.