Microsoft to forge relationship with Open Source Initiative?

Microsoft to forge relationship with Open Source Initiative?

Summary: eWeek has a report  that quotes Open Source Initiative acting president Michael Tiemann as saying "Microsoft reached out to me as president of the OSI and they basically said they wanted to begin a productive conversation, and we agreed to take that at face value."  Later the report quotes Tiemann speculating on thepurpose of the invitation.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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eWeek has a report  that quotes Open Source Initiative acting president Michael Tiemann as saying "Microsoft reached out to me as president of the OSI and they basically said they wanted to begin a productive conversation, and we agreed to take that at face value."  Later the report quotes Tiemann speculating on thepurpose of the invitation. Tiemann characterized Microsoft's Shared Source program as an "attempt to quell an internal civil war" at Microsoft and said that "there are smart people at Microsoft who realize there is another side to the argument." Tiemann, who is serving as the OSI's temporary president until a permanent replacement for Eric Raymond is found (my vote has always gone to Spikesource CEO Kim Polese),  is also vice president of open source affairs at Red Hat (here's my interview of Tiemann).  Recently,  news of a meeting in a New York City restaurant between Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer did a good job of stirring up the industry's M&A rumor mill (guilty). 

Whether or not anything more will become of Microsoft's overtures to the OSI remains to be seen.  Unlike the Open Source Development Labs, vendors cannot yet join the OSI in any membership capacity.  That said, according to Tiemann and other OSI board members, the organization has been contemplating some sort of membership structure that allows the OSI to best serve the various open source constituencies (vendors, business users, developers, etc.).  Although some of the OSI's board members (Tiemann included) are also employees with certain vendors,  those employees claim that their involvement in the OSI has nothing to do with their day jobs.

Today, the OSI's relationship with various vendors  is primarily related  to vendor-specific open source licenses.  If a company like Sun wants to create a new open source license such as it did with the CDDL, it must go to the OSI to have the newly drafted license blessed as a true open source license.  Otherwise, the open source community will reject it.  Under the guise of its Shared Source program, Microsoft has released different bodies of code under various shades of open source license gray -- everything from an OSI-approved license to something far more restrictive, but not exactly proprietary.  Jason Matusow, Microsoft chief open source strategist, described this strategy in detail to me earlier this year.  But among those shades of gray, no code has been released under a Microsoft drafted license that also bears the imprimatur of the OSI.  Not only that, if Microsoft is interested in drafting its own open source license (as others have done) and is looking to consult with the OSI over how to best do that, the timing could not be worse.  One of the reorganized OSI's primary initiatives is to address the problem of open source license proliferation.  In other words, the goal is to trim back the number of licenses, not take on new ones. 

One reason for proliferation of licenses so far has to do with vendors that have wanted to participate in the open source community.  They want to join, but not in a way that allows their own intellectual property (or that which they are guardians of) to leak into competitors products.  Sun's CDDL, for example, is every bit an open source license.  But it prevents Sun-guarded code from finding its way into Linux where companies like IBM can turn it against Sun.  If Microsoft is seeking similar protection under the guise of its own open source license (and is seeking counsel from the OSI as to the next steps), the OSI will either have to allow another license onto its approved list (a capitulation no matter how you look at it), or tell Microsoft to work with one of the existing licenses. 

Today, Microsoft has truly open sourced some code, but all of it is published under the IBM-drafted Common Public License (the CPL).   Not only might the CPL not offer Microsoft the sort of legal comfort it wants before it will open source more code, but it's one of the licenses that the OSI would probably prefer to get rid of as a part of its new non-proliferation initiatives.  Because of the very broad reciprocation language it contains, the CPL's language essentially exposes licensees to patent theft.  The IBM boot-strapped Eclipse project was originally licensed under the CPL until that organization established more independence from IBM and changed its license to the Eclipse Public License, a derivation of the CPL that offered much better protection to licensees.  If I had to make some wild guesses -- and these are truly wild --  Microsoft wants to publish more code as open source and is probably interested in having its own license, just like Sun got.  But the OSI is not in a proliferating mood these days and it's going to take some schmoozing to figure out how the two can meet in the middle (coincidentally, the basic theme of my interview with Microsoft's Matusow).

Topic: Open Source

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15 comments
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  • Sounds like

    Microsoft is realizing the full power of Open Source. I am skeptical on this and will take a wait and see stance. But I believe Microsoft is realizing that if they don't figure out how to slow Open Source down, they are going to be taking some serious hits and soon...
    Linux User 147560
  • Mr. Tiemann, count the silverware when they leave...

    (nt)
    Plain Logic
  • what? no normal rant from loverock?

    i would have thought him to troll all over this one.
    Monkey_MCSE
    • I will fill his place

      www.mslinux.org

      Just for those who want fear instilled in their hearts.

      Basically Microsoft has said, "If you can't buy them, Join them"

      I think Microsoft will slowly devour the board of the OSI if they join up. Then they will sink the movement anyway they can.
      nucrash
  • First Apple to Switch to Intel, now this?

    Is there anything else that can signal the end of times?

    I would say next.... but I can't think of anything else. I guess France could be the next military power... These kind of stories blow my mind. What a week for news and barely anyone knows or cares.

    Such a bummer.
    nucrash
  • Can't tell competitors from collaborators.

    Competitors on some issues are collaborators in others.

    Open source exists, and Microsoft has had to recognize this. It's easy to recognize that Microsoft and various open sourcers will have to collaborate some day, more than they have to date.

    If Microsoft is seen as an ogre, then collaboration becomes difficult. If they are friendly socially, there could be reciprocity.

    Why assume there's news until there's news?
    Anton Philidor
  • And the sheep look around, thinking something might be wrong..

    And then Microsoft tells more lies...

    The sheep continue, content..
    Xunil_Sierutuf
  • Sabotage!

    Watch out Liunix guys!
    An_Axe_to_Grind
    • Everyone is incompetent?

      So do you think the "Liunix guys" are incapable of dealing with Microsoft? Does Microaoft have better lawyers than anyone else? Does Microsoft have better managers and technicians than anyone else? Are all other companies so incompetent compared to Microsoft?

      Why do you assume that everyone will be taken in by Microsoft?

      Carl Rapson
      rapson
      • History!

        !
        An_Axe_to_Grind
  • He just said.........

    Why are your panties in such a wad? All NoAx said was watch out Linux guys. And he is right - MS will spare no expense to disrupt and/or totally get rid of this Linux threat. Be careful about any new or different licensing that MS might have had any influence in developing.
    djc1309@...
    • Not get rid of it...Control it

      Or at the very least, make alot of money off of it.

      No matter how many time you tell yourself that MS is history, this is the end, whatever, someone hits you in the head with this little piece of reality: MS will always be around. They continue to make money off of Windows, Office, and all of their other offerings, now making large inroads into areas of business they never concentrated on in the past.

      Making open sorce software will just allow them to make more money, not at Windows expense by giving away it's code, but at companies like Red Hat, Novell or Sun's expense.
      John Zern
    • Correction

      I'm not noax I'm an_axe.
      An_Axe_to_Grind
  • Microsloth = Evil!

    The best news this decade may turn out to be Apple switching to iNtell based chips!
    Think about it, OSX is unix and works much smoother with open source than M$ crap, it's core Darwin is opensource too.
    An_Axe_to_Grind
  • Sun's CDDL

    One reason for proliferation of licenses so far has to do with vendors that have wanted to participate in the open source community. They want to join, but not in a way that allows their own intellectual property (or that which they are guardians of) to leak into competitors products. Sun's CDDL, for example, is every bit an open source license. But it prevents Sun-guarded code from finding its way into Linux where companies like IBM can turn it against Sun.

    dannii
    http://www.my-insurance-loans.com
    doproiu@...