Open source: Are Microsoft and other holdouts about to crack?

Open source: Are Microsoft and other holdouts about to crack?

Summary: It was only a matter of time.   Commercial software providers, including Microsoft, that have so far been steadfast in their resolve to preserve at least some of their old business models, are finding that the open standards card that they've so cunningly played as a part of those models could now have turned out to be a deal with the devil.

TOPICS: Open Source

It was only a matter of time.   Commercial software providers, including Microsoft, that have so far been steadfast in their resolve to preserve at least some of their old business models, are finding that the open standards card that they've so cunningly played as a part of those models could now have turned out to be a deal with the devil.  The open source devil.  

Compliance with open standards has long been viewed as a critical part of any commercial software business model and, to varying degrees that suit their business goals,  commercial software providers have not only complied with those standards, but also participated in and even initiated their development.   But standards have always been a double-edged sword for commercial software providers.  On one edge, compliance with them increases a product's ability to interoperate with other vendors' products and therefore, that product's market viability. 

On the other edge, such interoperation often opens the door to substitution.  To manage the risks that go with the rewards of standards compliance, software vendors have used a variety of tactics to keep customers from jumping ship.  Finding the sweet spot between the two edges -- one that produces a winning business formula -- has always been tricky.  The more vendors complied with standards and risked the loss of customers, the more praise they drew for their stewardship of standards.  The more they attempted to addict users to proprietary extensions to the standards they were complying with (in order to prevent defection), the more they were criticized.  With a few exceptions (eg: Microsoft for one),  the richer the mixture of proprietary ingredients in a vendor's proprietary/standards blend, the more a vendor and its products risked market rejection.

Now, however, those vendors' daring play of both sides of the coin may be coming back to haunt them as the software community appears to be on the verge of reconciling the incompatibilities between open source licensing and open standards licensing.  Today, as evidenced by the most popular Web server's (Apache) inability to embrace one of the most important new security standards (WS-Security), the licensors of the technology behind certain, supposedly open standards are realizing that those standards could face market rejection (which in turn could lead to product rejection) unless the license incompatibilities between the market's favorite software and the most important standards are resolved.  Thanks to the fact that some of "the market's favorite software" is open source software, as is the case with Apache, no where else but here, in this conflict between the open source and open standards world, is the pain of open source being felt more by the "old school" commercial software vendors. 

Because of how important market acceptance of certain standards are to the success of their products, the market-driven need to reconcile the licensing differences has turned out to be open source's foot in the door at those vendors.  And it isn't just a toe in the door.  The foot is fully through the doorway and the knee is now what's  between the door and the jam.  As evidenced by the way Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has adjusted his open source rhetoric from calling open source a "cancer" to saying "We compete with products. We don't compete with movements." (see Microsoft learns to live with open source) and from the way the company has embraced open source (everything from permitting open source licenses on third party .NET software to open sourcing some of its own code), commercial software companies are clearly being motivated by the market to adopt an increasingly open source friendly position.  Now, the question is whether or not the market-driven need to reconcile the open source/open standards incompatibilities will push them right over the edge.

Though he doesn't credit the "reconciliation effect," Open Source Development Labs CEO Stuart Cohen was reported in InfoWorld as saying yesterday that "as open source software grows, Microsoft will make its applications available in open source form."  That would have to be about the most bitter pill that Microsoft could swallow.  But, given the rub between the open standards and open source worlds, Microsoft and other software companies like it may have no choice.  In his treatise about open source's head-butting with open standards, OASIS' legal counsel Andy Updegrove explains why that may be: can expect that IBM, which has placed huge strategic bets on open source, will work things out speedily and amicably with Apache. But what of Microsoft, which, at least superficially, has little reason to do anything to encourage the spread of open source software?

Well, we can still hope for progress there. Why? Here are a few reasons.

First, the world already overwhelmingly relies on Apache servers, and Microsoft isn't likely to spend its resources trying to reverse that reality. Second, Microsoft has had enough bad press over the years regarding security issues, so it will be better off if WS-Security is broadly implemented. Third, there are doubtless numerous benefits that Microsoft must expect from WS-Security becoming ubiquitous (with or without the licensing term in question) that should offset the concession of dropping the offending term. Also, Microsoft doesn't need any more headaches in open-source bullish Europe, which continues to press Microsoft on antitrust grounds whenever it can. And finally, Microsoft is spending more and more time setting up joint strategies with historically strange bedfellows such as IBM and Sun – both of which are firmly on the open source bandwagon.

But before saying that in his post, Updegrove does a great job of articulating the rub between the open source and open standards models and predicts why the two will eventually be reconciled.  A reconciliation that will be brought about by market forces (not the will of the vendors) and that could lead to the changes he anticipates at Microsoft:

...there are two consensus systems in use today that end users like you and me wish need to work together productively and efficiently, but which haven't yet fully worked out how to do so..... Among open source advocates, licensing terms are a matter of principle, while in the open standards community, licensing terms are matters of pure dollars and cents. If market forces lead towards royalty free GNU licensing, then those terms will become staples in open software standards. Personally, I believe that it’s only a matter of time before this happens, at least in some software areas (and eventually, perhaps, in most). Another way of saying it is that when open source software becomes more important than proprietary software, then a tipping point will be passed at which the vendors themselves will be the ones that demand GNU terms even before they are asked to offer them. Many major vendors are already at, or approaching that point.

Although he's not speaking on behalf of OASIS, the one point that Updegrove doesn't make clear is how these shifts will force patent shelters like OASIS -- where supposedly open standards like WS-Security get hammered out --  to once again re-adjust their intellectual property (IP) models.  To the extent that OASIS, by its CEO Patrick Gannon's own admission, is subject to the will of its members (the vendors), market leverage over vendors is the only force that can bring about such change.  This is different from the World Wide Web Consortium where the organization's governance is independent and has significantly more freedom to do what it thinks the right thing to do is (for example when, in 2003, it ratified its royalty free patent policy).  I'm not saying that OASIS can't be a worthwhile IP regime.  But, under OASIS' current policies, you should treat anything coming out of it with the word "standard" on it with a grain of salt.  Some want the term "OASIS standard" to be term of comfort.  To me it sets off all sorts of red flags.

The OASIS digression is an important one.  While we wait in limbo for the aforementioned tipping point to come, the terms "open" and "standard" are still getting thrown around pretty loosely -- sometimes on purpose when doing so serves the selfish needs of certain parties.  As long as such confusion is promulgated, the tipping point is hastened because fewer voices are outraged than should be.  In one of his blog posts, IBM's vice president of Standards and Open Source Bob Sutor touches upon the idea of setting up an openness index (his graphic of the concept is above) on which various specifications can be placed so that technology licensees (practically everybody) can easily identify how open something claiming to be a standard really is -- at least relative to other specifications ("standard" or not).   Helping the masses to visualize the differences in licensing terminology could go a long way towards raising the noise level to the point that the tipping point comes sooner rather than later.  For example, if most people knew that the various specifications that get called "OASIS standard" could fall almost anywhere in such a closed-to-open spectrum, the term would cease to carry any significance.  OASIS and technologists would be much better served by several imprimaturs instead of just one.  For example:

  • OASIS RAND (color: RED = danger, "reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms mean an increased likelihood, though not guaranteed, of intolerable encumbrances)
  • OASIS RF (color: YELLOW = royalty-free is way better than RAND, but proceed with caution because RF doesn't guarantee that there aren't other intolerable encumbrances).
  • OASIS OPEN (color: GREEN = fully unencumbered.  Not only does it have the benefits of OASIS RF, it requires no explicit execution of a license with the licensor.  This is transferable and is either open source or Creative Commons-based).
  • OASIS GOLD (color: GOLD = all the benefits of OASIS OPEN, but with the relevant patent holders offering to defend users with their patents).

Bear in mind, I'm just using OASIS as an example.  Such ratings could be organization independent since you'd want to see them attached to specifications or licenses being produced under other regimes (some more RAND-oriented than others) such as the Java Community Process (the JCP), the Open Source Initiative (the OSI), ECMA International, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (the ISO).  Granted, there are a lot of shades in between, but I propose that we must start somewhere with major nodes instead of constantly debating about it.  With clearly labeled badges such as these, and mandatory rules for their application and usage, you can imagine how the market might quickly guide the industry away from the RED end, past the tipping point, and closer to the GOLD end. 

In his blog, Updegrove says "In truth, traditional open standards users would be delighted if open standards required neither licenses nor royalties – but those that develop open standards simply have not been asked in the past by their constituencies to require the same degree of IPR sacrifice in the vast majority of standard setting situations as their brethren in the open source world require in all projects." What he fails to acknowledge is that part of the reason there hasn't been such an outcry is that, much to the credit of the so-called "standards-setters," the wool that blurs the definition of open has been pulled over the eyes of those constituencies -- obfuscated by terms like "OASIS standard."  The truth is that they have been asked. Just not by enough people because it's hard to fight the FUD and get the word out.  In the mean time, there have historically been organizations like the W3C and a few lonely voices out there who try to educate the masses and who ultimately stand up for what's right on behalf of the constituencies that don't realize what they should be standing up for.  Without being asked.

Topic: Open Source

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  • NO!

    Microshaft does everything for $$$$$$$$$$$$$!
    If they can sink opensource they will! Sometimes the best way to sabotage is from within.
    • Microsoft LINUX anyone?

      How would the playing field change with the release of Microsoft Linux? Of course, Office and other MS Products would accompany the release.
      • Would and can never happen

        Microsoft will never open source their code and since the GPL governs Linux they can't use it to build a model off of. If they did, Microsoft would most likely implode from the fact that they acknowledged the superiority of design of the Linux kernel...
        Linux User 147560
        • Use BSD

          Or a MUCH better Unix, Solaris 10.
        • Maybe - Absolutely

          "Microsoft will never open source their code and since the GPL
          governs Linux they can't use it to build a model off of."

          MS could release the GPL portions of their code and keep the
          rest (ie GUI, web services, etc) closed. It is unlikely they'd what
          to base their graphics engine on say X11 anyway. Separating
          some components, say WMP, from the kernel would not be ideal
          - but choosing a bad design is the MS way.

          "If they did, Microsoft would most likely implode from the fact
          that they acknowledged the superiority of design of the Linux

          Richard Flude
          • RE: Maybe - Absolutely

            You have a valid point with the code BUT do you trust Microsoft not to embed GPL code into their own? How do we know they have not done so already? It comes down to trust, and quite frankly, I don't trust Microsoft based on past and present performance.
            Linux User 147560
      • It's no problem - and no solution.

        Look at Wine - or Cedega.

        All MS has to do is produce a Win32 environment that was proprietary and runs atop Linux (and even X).

        Then they would have access to new markets, major portability, thier stuff could be ported easily to run on everything from Playstations, to Macs, to Mainframes, and they'd STILL have thier precious lock-in for thier own apps. They'd still be able to keep their advantage.
        • Why bother with Win32?

          Rotor (the BSD-based shared source implementatoin of the .NET common language runtime) seems like a much better ace in the hole to play right now than does Win32.
  • The Goodness of Time (as in, "All in the Goodness of Time"

    First, David, thanks for including so many of my thoughts here. Second, I like a lot of your ideas, and mostly want to add some historical context that might be helpful. Again, I?m STILL not talking for, or about OASIS, since that?s not my job, and the points I want to make are general anyway.<br/></p>

    Let?s draw a graph, and call the X axis Time. On the left of the vertical you have the past, and at the center, let?s say, you have the advent of the Internet. Many of the people that are most involved in standards are old hands ? people who have been in the business for a long time. That means that most of them started their careers at places like DEC, HP and IBM, where the software came with the box. That also means that they came from places where patents were crown jewels. Your company?s prestige was tied to some extent to the size of its patent portfolio (and so was your bonus, if you were an idea guy). And many "standards" were system-specific, because first everything was hung off a mainframe, and later lived in a network (not on the Internet). The vendors, of course, wanted you to buy everything from them ? which people did. Remember ?DEC shops?? So a lot of the standards were about things like busses and connectors<br/></p>

    The Y access is convergence. South of the midpoint are the proprietary system times, and north of the line leads you eventually to today, and a mobile device with a camera, pda, phone, browser, and so on. Twenty years ago, you used to spend all of your time in one club ? semiconductors, or telecom, or hardware. So while there were still interoperability issues, they got settled in their own stovepipe. You could go to the same standards organizations for decades and hang around with the same folks. Not surprisingly, customs developed in those stovepipes, such as patent pools in telecom, that are unheard of in the software world. Also, standards were in ?systems? stovepipes ? accredited and non-accredited. Somebody who grew up in the IEEE had different ideas about what the standard setting rules should be, as regulated by ANSI, which had a policy with certain rules boundaries that you had to stay within. Or, you could grow up in consortia, especially if you were in software, once that started to happen. And the rules were different there (less process; less requirement for consensus, etc.) in order to move more quickly..<br/></p>

    All right, back to the present. What have we now? Well, let?s come back to that mobile device. It includes, or connects to, just about every information and communications technology domain you can think of, and works with scores of standards and invokes hundreds of patents. Each of those domains (cameras, telecom, etc.) is filled with people who think they know ?how standards should be done? and is surprised to learn that other people do things any other way. In some of those stovepipes, everybody is playing the game of trying to plant their patents in a standard, and people are OK with that, because that?s how that particular industry has always worked. Yes, this is still the case.<br/></p>

    And now, of course, you have open source, which is truly radically different from all of the above. .<br/></p>

    So what?s the point of all of this? Well, there are a few.<br/></p>

    First, and most importantly, it just takes time to teach old dogs new tricks. To some people, the kind of licensing terms open source wants seem like lunacy, because they are so different from they grew up with. So a lot of the urgency in your comments may be understandable from the "we need this now!" perspective, but it isn't really too realistic when many people just can't see it yet. <br/></p>

    So second, there's an educational question. People have to understand it and get comfortable with it before they can support it. <br/></p>

    Third, there's that convergence thing. Your idea about labeling "how open" a standard is may seem obvious, but bear in mind that until recently standards people lived in stovepipes. People who needed to know which organizations put out standards of multiple flavors did know, and they didn't need labels. <br/></p>

    Which takes me to my fourth and final point: The reason that people are talking about standards today is because the damn things actually work now. When I started working with consortia 18 years ago, standards were something that lots of people talked about, and nobody really believed in. Today, with the Internet and the Web, standards are things that *have* to work to do anything at all. So people have no choice but to believe in them and make them work. They even get advertised to boost the appeal of consumer products (like WiFi and Bluetooth enabled devices). <br/></p>

    So today, standards are more strategic than ever, and more important than ever. So guess what? People are going to start hyping and exaggerating them just like they do about every technical aspect of a product. One might say it's an indication that standards have finally "made it." <br/></p>

    Now that we have convergence I actually like the labeling concept as kind of a "truth in advertising" idea. But I would also counsel two things: patience, and spending your time educating. Patience, because its going to take some time, and you'll live longer. And education, because you'll get what you want faster. <br/></p>

    As Brian Proffit, would close, <br/></p>

    Andy Updegrove
  • Pirates of silicone valley

    Remember that movie? When Bill and his boys went to Apple. Bill said to Steve Jobs "I can help you" But (to make a long story short) riped off the GUI. Can you imagine him saying that to Stallman? "I can help you Richard"

    Oh come on! it's funny!

    And what "shell" we call it? XP Frankinstine? "Igore, get me some code" "It's ALIVE!"

    Get me some cheese corn and a soda, I wanna see this unfold!
    • Imagine the consequences

      If Bill had stolen the good ideas at Apple (Jef Raskin's) rather than Steve's? Apple should count themselves lucky.

      I take it you mean silicon by the way unless you mean to suggest Bill has had some highly unusual cosmetic surgery (for a man anyway).
  • Why think Microsoft accepts Apache?

    Microsoft sells competing products. They have no reason I can see to believe that Apache cannot be replaced. They therefore would not be interested in setting standards that help assure Apache's continued predominance.

    You wrote:

    Today, as evidenced by the most popular Web server's (Apache) inability to embrace one of the most important new security standards (WS-Security), the licensors of the technology behind certain, supposedly open standards are realizing that those standards could face market rejection (which in turn could lead to product rejection) unless the license incompatibilities between the market's favorite software and the most important standards are resolved.

    If Microsoft acquiesces to an expectation that standards are set primarily to assure the comfort of products issued under a particular open source license (licenses vary), then they have, as you imply, acknowledged the primacy of that license.

    If, on the other hand, Microsoft is able to gain standards that are inconvenient for one or more open source licenses, then those products are disadvantaged in the marketplace. This would be a competitive advantage.

    The choice of battleground will probably be where all commercial vendors have an interest in having the standard be resrictive of open source. Microsoft is not the only company to see open source as a threat, potential or actual, to product sales. Where companies are divided, it's possible to find a more universal standard. Where companies are united, the standard can be set to respond to them.

    I'm not sure if web server security is that battleground, though it does look promising because IBM and Microsoft were able to agree. Whether enough other companies will find it advantageous to create a united front is the next issue.

    The preservation of Apache is not much more than a sentiment. The preservation of revenues is a necessity.

    Obviously, then, this quoted comment is nonsense:

    Another way of saying it is that when open source software becomes more important than proprietary software, then a tipping point will be passed at which the vendors themselves will be the ones that demand GNU terms even before they are asked to offer them. Many major vendors are already at, or approaching that point.

    Commercial operations are not suicidal; they will look for the largest advantage possible. Decisions made situation by situation can be erratic, but if open source becomes more important, then stopping it rises as a priority, and the decisions reached will conistently reflect that reality.

    Gee. An argument based on the idea that public companies don't care about money...
    Anton Philidor
    • And what about IBM, Sun, etc.?

      The "point of the tipping point" is that commercial operations won't commit suicide, they'll just figure out other ways to make money out of the changed circumstances, which is how the market always worked. Recall that hardware used to come loaded with software for free, after all. And there are new models: Redhat seems happy with the new world, and many companies are embracing open source (among other reasons) as a way to break the Microsoft monopoly. So conclusions are "nonsense" only when you restrict the context within which they apply.
      Andy Updegrove
    • How about preservation of the Open Internet?

      Anton, you miss the forest for all the trees.
      Very skillfully done i might add.

      The WS-Security issue is about an Open Internet.
      It's not about Open Source except for the fact
      that Open Source responds immediately whenever
      the Open Internet is threatened.

      WS-Security is a proposal for the secure
      transmission of XML based web services to
      traverse the Open Internet. If it was a proposal
      for how .NET manages Windows Services - Securely
      across the Windows platform, neither Apache nor
      anyone else in Open Source would care how
      encumbered and permission restrictive the
      WinS-Security license is. The problem is that
      WS-Security is not about something Microsoft
      owns. It's about something that belongs to all
      of us, the Open Internet and implementation of
      Open XML technologies.

      Imagine the uproar that would have ensued if
      OASIS had announced that by ratifying WS-Security
      specification, they had turned ownership of a key
      Internet protocol governing the secure
      transmission of XML services over to Microsoft
      (or anyone else for that matter). We would no
      doubt be arguing about what right does OASIS have
      to be granting ownership of Open Internet
      protocols to anyone, let alone Microsoft?

      Instead were arguing about Microsoft's right to
      own key Open Internet protocols, and their right
      to thereby restrict Apache's competitive use of
      the formerly Open Internet. Very clever.

      Maybe the argument here should be about how
      wonderful it is for the future of mankind that
      the licenses governing Open Source Community
      efforts also demand the Open Internet remains
      open for generations to come? Right. I didn't
      think you would like that, but someone has to say

      I think though that there may be a more
      interesting lesson to be learned, even for Open
      Sorcerers who already swear allegiance to the
      four freedoms guaranteeing the sanctity of an
      Open Internet in the public domain. No one,
      proprietary or open source, is likely to complain
      about unencumbered and public domain bound Open
      Standards proposals. Yet, the mere whiff of
      proprietary ownership claims, whether individual,
      corporate or consortia spawned, is enough to
      freeze a proposal.

      If an Open Internet protocol or XML technology is
      actually open and unencumbered (no ownership or
      permission claims), the issue quickly becomes
      that of quality, usefulness, and global uptake.

      If however there is a proposal that is
      encumbered, we all need to reconsider and focus
      on the impact such a proposal might have on the
      future of our Open Internet. This isn't just an
      Apache problem my friend. It's a problem for
      anyone who might have some interest in a digital
      future. Such is the importance of the Open

      Essentially what David Berlind is pointing out is
      that OASIS simply can't be trusted with any part
      of the Open Internet. Everything they do has to
      be watched carefully because the OASIS IPR model
      allows for proprietary ownership of how core
      Internet technologies like XML are implemented
      and used.

      That OASIS can't be trusted isn't something new.
      Even before the new IPR policy was announced in
      February of 2005, consumers and vendors reliant
      on Open Internet technologies were wary. For
      instance, when the XML file format
      specification was submitted to OASIS in 2003, Sun
      Microsystems was careful to insist on a &#8220;forever
      open&#8221; clause insuring that OASIS could not muck
      with the original GNU Openness of the
      specification. In September of 2004, a number of
      European Union requests were baked into
      OpenDocument XML specification. Among these
      requests, it was very important to the EU that,
      following OASIS ratification, the OpenDoc XML
      specification be submitted to ISO for
      international standards ratification. Patrick
      Gannon, the President of OASIS readily agreed
      with the request, and six months of re editing
      the specification to meet the stringent
      requirements of ISO submissions was immediately
      under way. Following that re editing for ISO,
      there was a period of public comment, and after
      that the vote where OpenDoc XML was ratified by
      OASIS members. The OpenDoc XML spec will be in
      front of ISO in August.

      At the time of the request from the EU, the
      OpenDoc TC members thought it kind of strange
      that they would want dual ratification. Now we
      know why. Clearly the EU didn't have confidence
      that OASIS could stand up to proprietary vendor
      pressures. And how right they were.

      David's proposal that OASIS could salvage some of
      their reputation by having each specification
      openly declare their license in the specs name is
      interesting. I've proposed something similar,
      suggesting that the word &#8220;Open&#8221; only be used in
      those OASIS proposals that are licensed to be GNU
      Open, as in &#8220;forever open&#8221;. This fell on deaf
      ears, which shouts loudly about what the real
      intentions are behind the OASIS IPR mess.
      However, after watching David skillfully conduct
      this drama towards world focus, i've reconsidered
      my suggestion.

      I've come to the conclusion that OASIS has no
      business stamping anything encumbered as an Open
      Internet &#8211; Open XML standard. And neither does
      any other IP regime for that matter. For me,
      it's either GNU Open or Get Out of the Internet
      Standards business altogether. Go back to being
      a vendor consortia establishing standards of
      interoperability and connectivity, as it pertains
      to vendor owned systems. And stay away from the
      Open Internet and Open XML. Let the W3C take
      over the future of the Open Web. That we can put
      the global publics trust in the hands of Sir Tim
      and friends is proven. The W3C was challenged by
      the very same gang that went on to rape and
      pillage OASIS. Sir Tim stood tall, held his
      ground, and we are all in his debt &#8211; once again.

      This is entire mess could be cleared up by Sir
      Timothy if he were to do two things. The first
      is to guarantee forever the four freedoms of the
      public digital domain, and GPL all W3C Open
      Internet technologies including XML. That would
      put a sudden stop to the gold rush on the USPTO
      to stake ownership claims for mining XML
      implementation and usage opportunities. It would
      also end the OASIS IPR mess.

      The second thing i would ask Sir Timothy to
      consider is that he open the W3C up to direct
      participation by Open Source communities. We
      need to have a formal and recognized seat at the
      Open Internet table. And i think Open Source
      Communities can help in ways that might not be
      apparent. Coming to consensus agreement on Open
      Internet technologies is one thing. Putting
      those specifications to ground and running real
      world implementations is another. Moving at the
      speed of Open Internet change demands that the
      two be different sides of the same coin. My
      contention is that Open Source can get from zero
      to sixty with road testing as fast as anything
      know, and without any sacrifice of the neutrality
      Open Standards processes demand. For instance,
      nothing goes into the OpenDoc XML specification
      until it's been reviewed and road tested by at
      least two of the participating Open Source
      communities, usually and The neutral transparency and
      openness of how this happens is unlike anything
      proprietary vendors can provide. Which is hardly
      surprising given the legal hoops and
      considerations proprietary representatives have
      to jump through just to disclose proof of their
      concepts and proposals. The real value of Open
      Source road testing though is that the proposals
      go from theoretical to real like lightening, and
      the network effect all standards need to initiate
      can kick in early and hard.

      As an Open Source Community dedicated to at least
      two of GNU Open four freedoms, can we then ask if
      Apache is neutral? Or are they a cut throat
      competitor that Microsoft must, for their own
      preservation, seek to netscape?

      Anton, you make this incredible statement, &#8220;The
      choice of battleground will probably be where all
      commercial vendors have an interest in having the
      standard be restrictive of open source.&#8221;

      I guess that gets right to the heart of the
      matter, Microsoft's right to use Open Internet
      and the Open Internet XML standards to compete
      against Open Source Communities. Using Open
      Internet standards to block Open Source
      Communities from making competitive alternatives?
      The quest to perfect the routine practice of
      thoroughly reprehensible business practices
      continues unabated.

      Well, if that's the case, then we need to call in
      the gendarme immediately. This is criminal.
      What you're suggesting is analogous to someone
      bribing lawmakers, judges, and legal enforcement
      for the purposes of blocking legitimate
      competition. And OASIS is possibly a
      co-conspirator, unwitting though they might be.
      You're a dangerous man Anton. That you defend
      this behavior as if it were part of fair
      completion and the way open marketplaces should
      work is scary. I can't imagine any citizen of
      this world, other than those on Microsoft's
      payroll or otherwise with a vested interest,
      buying into the corruption you're advocating. I
      can't even imagine proprietary vendors,
      especially those who might someday find
      themselves in the Redmond cross hairs, ever
      supporting your vision of a digital civilization
      controlled and commanded by the wealthy, the
      powerful, the entrenched.

      But hey, thanks for being honest and
      straightforward. Your candor is refreshing, if
      not surprising, and you've done Open Source one
      very big favor.

      A final word about the GPL. Since OASIS is
      charged with the maintenance of SGML, and both
      HTML and XML are subsets of SGML, laying down the
      GPL makes for an interesting fork in the future
      of structured languages. If there's one thing
      we've learned in open source it's that with the
      BSD license model, a fork is forever and the
      magic of the network effect is easily split and
      diminished. Even more so, as time is certain to
      spawn even more forks of BSD.

      With the GPL however, a fork is just as likely to
      be an evolutionary leap into the future as it is
      to be a dead end. With the GPL, the magic of the
      network effect is not diminished or split by a
      fork. At worse, an argument over a poorly
      conceived fork might stall the network effect as
      things get sorted out. At best though, if the
      fork is an evolutionary leap into the future,
      there is a parallel leap in the network effect.
      Which is why BSD communities seem forever stuck
      in first gear (they are forever getting forked
      and loosing network momentum), while GNU Open
      communities thrive. Even though BSD had a near
      ten year head start, and continues to be
      refreshed mightily with government spending on
      university research, GNU GPL Open communities are
      the ones that are surging with the Open Internet.
      Near 70% of all Open Source community efforts
      nail their work into the public domain with the
      GNU Open guarantee. A guarantee that the four
      freedoms of GNU Open will always be there, as
      intended by the originators collaborating on
      these technologies.

      ~ge~ volunteer representing the
      community on the OASIS &#8220;forever open&#8221;
      OpenDocument XML TC
    • They Don't

      I absolutely agree with this analysis.

      I would also go further.

      I believe there to be competing factions in most major ICT companies regarding the most viable commercial model. This analysis is at the core of the Software-as-Product factions thinking. They want to compete with OS because they see OS as a direct substitution, product-by-product, for their commercial wares. By definition, such an approach sees OS as a threat because it directly targets revenues.

      The other faction I would characterize as the Software-as-Service faction. These people see software as merely a part of a ICT service infrastructure where major OS projects (such as Apache) are merely focal points for associated functions. The revenues come from tuning and supporting that infrastructure to meet customers exact business needs.

      Digging deeper it is possible to see how the Product faction latch on to a perception of a need to go beyond copyright, trade secrets, and trademarks to protect individual programs. To them, allowing others to see inside their programs is tantamount to letting the Barbarians into the Citadel.

      To the Product faction, therefore, increasing the power of 'intellectual' property rights is a natural extension of their basic thinking, and using such rights to manipulate emerging standards is simply fair game.

      Having said all that, I think David is being led astray here. Microsoft's background is firmly in the Product faction. It will take a seismic shift in their thinking before they are ready to go from living with the OS movement to embracing it (and truly embracing Software-as-Services).

      Other holdouts are more complex, particularly IBM. IBM will not be in a hurry to reach the tipping point where GNU licenses are the norm. However, it is in their better interests (IMHO), to see open standards be truly open - by which I mean adoptable and usable by anyone who cares to read them. I suspect they are having difficulty managing the convergence of OS and standards that David discussed - and seeing where the money is...
      Stephen Wheeler
    • Public companies care about money...

      The assumption you're making is that they can continue to make money by using proprietary standards and charging a toll for them. They can make all the proprietary software they want and charge for it. But when it comes to building the plumbing, the standards must be free for interoperability.

      So if the proprietary vendors want to make money selling proprietary software, *that* software must adhere to open standards that are free, meaning with no IP encumbrance.

      Open standards do not prevent companies from building proprietary software and charging for it. They prevent companies from charging for the standard that they want everyone to use.

      TCP/IP is not encumbered by intellectual property rights. Have you noticed that *everyone* uses it?

  • In the end

    There will be proprietary and open software products that compete with each other - and their APIs/interfaces will be "standard". So imagine M$ Word can be freely substituted with OpenOffice. Why go with Word? It comes down to support. If you want to do-it-yourself, then you go with OpenOffice. If you want solid 24/7 support, you go with Word. Of course that would mean that M$ would need to provide solid 24/7 support . . .

    Bottom line: Either you are a do-it-yourselfer or a one-thoat-to-choker, and your decisions on software will follow . . .
    Roger Ramjet
    • ... there can be only one.

      All of open source will never disappear. This concerns the aspects of software use in which real money is to be made by software companies.

      I'm thinking about the two realms. Microsoft, continuing its steady expansion into new categories. And Unix, torn apart by economic trends and open software like Linux.

      This is a time when the issue becomes whether Unix including open source self-destructs by losing all the strong companies that provide its bulwarks.
      That seems to be happening.

      The open source issues are never really about Microsoft primarily; they're about Unix's commercial viability. I think that by the time open source burns itself out, Microsoft's inroads are going to be so substantial that all that's left is a mopping up operation.

      Forget Office. Microsoft product.
      Think databases. And servers. The competition is on Unix ground.
      Anton Philidor
  • Yellow and Gold

    Yellow and gold are hard to tell apart, depending on how they are printed or displayed.

    It isn't a good idea for the distinction to convey important information.
  • Open source is part of open systems

    What end users desire are open systems which consist of open architecture (i.e. expandable), open source software and open interfaces which are defined by open standards. Open source is an important part of creating open systems, but not the only part. And the legal issues while important are not the only issues that directly impact openness. For more detailed discussion see two papers at, The Meaning of Open Standards and Cathedrals, Libraries and Bazaars