Microsoft is expending an awful lot of time and energy to try to derail the next version of the Free Software Foundation's General Public License (GPL).
On May 22, yet another in a long line of Microsoft-commissioned open-source studies made its debut. The latest, conducted by Harvard Business School professor Alan MacCormack in conjunction with Keystone Strategy Inc., is titled "A Developers Bill of Rights: What Open Source Developers Want in a Software License."
You probably can guess what the study concludes, given Microsoft's decision last week -- in the name of attempting to derail the looming GPL version 3 -- to claim that open-source software violates 235 of its patents.
The Bill of Rights study found that rank-and-file open-source developers don't want the GPL to dictate policy on patent-protection deals, like the one forged last year between Microsoft and Novell. The methodology (as detailed by eWEEK): "Researchers sent out 354 e-mails between Feb. 28, 2007, and April 4, 2007. Of those, 332 reached their destination, from which 34 responses were received, giving a response rate of 11 percent."
In other words, this was a study based on 34 responses that was conducted more than a month before Microsoft decided to go public with its 235-patents-infringed claim.
Why am I harping so much on Microsoft's open-source moves lately?
I'm stunned that after taking a number of seemingly positive steps vis-a-vis its thinking and strategy around open source, Microsoft has decided to blow away any bridges it built in a matter of weeks. Until recently, it was primarily CEO Steve Ballmer who was championing publicly Microsoft's old "closed source is good/open source is bad" rhetoric. (For every three steps forward others at Microsoft took toward understanding and articulating ways that open source and proprietary source could coexist, Ballmer only managed to take two steps back.)
This newest Microsoft-sponsored study adds insult to injury. The company's decision to go public with an alleged count of patent infringements has backfired and turned into a three-ring circus (If you doubt that, check out the list of nearly 300 individuals who've lined up on a public Wiki asking for Microsoft to "sue me first" for patent violations.)
I think it's time for an independent study on Microsoft's practice of funding open-source studies. Do the resulting white papers actually convince anyone to abandon open-source in favor of Microsoft products and technologies?