Microsoft's Open Protocol Announcement

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News: Microsoft's Open Protocol Announcement

  1. Microsoft's Open Protocol Announcement (9 messages)

    Microsoft announced a commitment to publishing its document formats this past week under the umbrella of Interoperability Principles, including document formats for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more - with an intent to document most if not all of their communication formats. Naturally, there are still issues, but it's still a good thing to see. From Microsoft:
    Microsoft recognizes that in an increasingly interconnected computing landscape, enabling interoperability between products from different vendors has become more important than ever. Spurred in part by the standards-based nature of the Internet, the computing industry has made great strides toward achieving effective interoperability between a wide range of products to meet customer needs. But customers are demanding more from all software companies. For its part, Microsoft recognizes the important responsibilities that it bears by virtue of the mission-critical use of its products by customers worldwide on a daily basis. Certain Microsoft products (Windows Vista including the .NET Framework, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007, and future versions of these products, referred to in this document as "high-volume products") have become so central to operational continuity of customers’ businesses that interoperability and data portability solutions are more valued than ever.
    What's good about this is that they've done it: the Word document format looks like it's, well, real. (It's listed along with PPT and XSL formats on their Microsoft Office Binary (doc, xls, ppt) File Formats page, distributed in PDF and XPS format.) Red Hat wants more, saying that MS should make three more commitments:
    • Open standards - ODF instead of OOXML, for example. The release from RH says, specifically, "Microsoft, please demonstrate implementation of an existing international open standard now rather than make press announcements about intentions of future standards support."
    • A commitment to interoperability with open source, claiming that Microsoft isn't going far enough.
      Instead of offering a patent license for its protocol information on the basis of licensing arrangements it knows are incompatible with the GPL – the world’s most widely used open source software license – Microsoft should extend its Open Specification Promise to all of the interoperability information that it is announcing today will be made available. The Open Specification Promise already covers many Microsoft products that do not have monopoly market positions.
      This one confuses me; I've tried to read the restrictions MS places, and while I can see it not being compatible with the GPL, I think a legally binding statement on MS' part that says "We won't sue you if you won't sue us" is ... enough. (Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and it's possible I'm misunderstanding some issues here.)
    • Lastly, Red Hat wants a commitment to competition on a level playing field:
      Microsoft's announcement ... appears carefully crafted to foreclose competition from the open source community. How else can you explain a "promise not to sue open source developers" as long as they develop and distribute only/non-commercial" implementations of interoperable products?
      The reference here is to the Interoperability Principles, Part I.5, which states:
      Open Source Compatibility. Microsoft will covenant not to sue open source developers for development and non-commercial distribution of implementations of these Open Protocols.
    It's an interesting problem. The last point - about not prosecuting those who distribute non-commercial implementations of the protocols - does seem to be a bit scary - lacking further clarification, it could be that any vendor who does sell a product to access these document formats might be open to a lawsuit, on the assumption that use of the binary format implied use of the interoperability promise. (In that case, I'm already out of the running for commercial use of the protocols; I've read the .doc format. Again, I am not a lawyer, nor do I wish to play one on TV or anywhere else.) What does the TSS community think? Is this a good thing altogether, or not enough of the right thing? Anyone want to step up and work out the exact ramifications of the promise, from a licensing/legal standpoint?

    Threaded Messages (9)

  2. Incompatibility with the GPL[ Go to top ]

    This one confuses me; I've tried to read the restrictions MS places, and while I can see it not being compatible with the GPL, I think a legally binding statement on MS' part that says "We won't sue you if you won't sue us" is ... enough. (Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and it's possible I'm misunderstanding some issues here.)
    It doesn't take a lawyer (IANAL) to spot the field of use restriction. :-)
    Open Source Compatibility. Microsoft will covenant not to sue open source developers for development and non-commercial distribution of implementations of these Open Protocols.
    Which will probably make it incompatible with ALL OSI approved licenses Of course lawyers will tell you that covenants and licenses aren't quite the same thing, so as usual, "hire a lawyer".
  3. Re: Incompatibility with the GPL[ Go to top ]

    This one confuses me; I've tried to read the restrictions MS places, and while I can see it not being compatible with the GPL, I think a legally binding statement on MS' part that says "We won't sue you if you won't sue us" is ... enough. (Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and it's possible I'm misunderstanding some issues here.)


    It doesn't take a lawyer (IANAL) to spot the field of use restriction. :-)
    True enough. But the full implications of the field of use restriction aren't my specialty, thus the disclaimer.
    Open Source Compatibility. Microsoft will covenant not to sue open source developers for development and non-commercial distribution of implementations of these Open Protocols.


    Which will probably make it incompatible with ALL OSI approved licenses
    Of course lawyers will tell you that covenants and licenses aren't quite the same thing,
    so as usual, "hire a lawyer".
    Yep. I'm way far from being a lawyer, so I hesitate to make legal-sounding conclusions on stuff like this. I'd rather look the fool than prove the fool. :)
  4. Great news for Apache POI project[ Go to top ]

    This is great for Apache POI project! They can update theirs Java classes with the latest spec from MS! Great for everyone! Step in right direction!
  5. This is great for Apache POI project! They can update theirs Java classes with the latest spec from MS!

    Great for everyone! Step in right direction!
    This documentation from MS refers to the POI page :-) I did not have the time to read it all over, but the word documentation is almost unusable. The excel one seems to be usable though. I hope POI & OpenOffice can benefit from this, and might be able to read eg. Pivot tables correctly. The EU court will hire a company to find out whether this information is enough to implement competitive applications, as they did with the source code in the previous lawsuit. Cheers, Tamas
  6. Microsoft just needs to do enough to appease the European Commission not RedHat. We could also thank the general progression and adoption of open-source if not open-source licensing.
  7. I'd like to see the PST format.
  8. It's a good thing[ Go to top ]

    lacking further clarification, it could be that any vendor who does sell a product to access these document formats might be open to a lawsuit, on the assumption that use of the binary format implied use of the interoperability promise. (In that case, I'm already out of the running for commercial use of the protocols; I've read the .doc format. Again, I am not a lawyer, nor do I wish to play one on TV or anywhere else.)
    I think you're getting the promises mixed up, the file formats are covered by the Open Specification Promise. http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx. That one explicitly allows you to sell an implementation. There are already several commercial and open source implementations that have been around for years. POI, Aspose and SoftArtisans to name a few. Microsoft didn't sue these entities off the map. It is disturbing that it's called a "promise" and not a "license". There seems to be an implication that they can break a promise easier than a license. On the ODF vs. OOXML issue. I think it's really just theatrics by companies that have investments in ODF. IMO, documented xml format > undocumented binary format, nuff said.
  9. The real question is whether they will continue to issue these formats as new versions of their software are released. This seems familiar to a trap I've been in before. There's this vague notion that you aren't locked in because 3rd party products can work with MS formats. Then the formats change. There's a lag between when the new formats come into use and when the 3rd party support catches up. To users who don't care about these issues, you look like a bozo when you require they keep using an old version of the MS product and the number of support requests for users trying to use the new formats becomes an unwelcome burden on support staff. Do they provide any SLAs on when the formats will be published relative to the release of a new product? Is there anything more here than a general 'commitment'?
  10. +1 about the bozo commmet. How many times have we read articles by non-programmers saying that programmers have dropped the ball because they don't have Vista drivers out yet? Or don't support all browsers? Or don't work with a new file format?