Late night baseball games, Microsoft concessions evoke big yawns at open source water cooler

Microsoft’s agreement to provide full technical documentation – and lower royalties – on its software protocols is a big yawn to the open source community, developers and consultants say.No surprise.

Microsoft’s agreement to provide full technical documentation – and lower royalties – on its software protocols is a big yawn to the open source community, developers and consultants say.

No surprise. Since its battle with the European commission began almost a decade ago, web services have rendered such protocol licensing a dinosaur of the past. And besides, the licensing terms are of no use to the GPL community, observers say.

“Samba reversed engineered [Microsoft’s] SMB [protocol]. With this ruling maybe someone can go through and improve Samba a little but that’s at the network file sharing level and we’re not writing code to that level. We need web service APIs, not protocol at the network transport level,” maintains Dave Gynn, director of enterprise tools and frameworks at Optaros, a Boston area open source consultancy. “We always integrate with other systems but don’t do it at protocol level. “

Gynn said it may help to reduce the technical and cost barriers to some commercial firms but “there’s still patents on it.”

It will benefit purveyors of proprietary software but not open source developers, agreed Michael Goulde, analyst of open source strategy at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass. “Some open source developers believe that Microsoft should make its protocols available for use royalty free. In some cases, there are open source license restrictions that make it not possible for the software to include Microsoft licensed code – because you can’t downstream the license. So, unless Microsoft goes way beyond what it has agreed with the EU to do, only a subset of open source developers will have much interest. They’ll continue reverse engineering Microsoft protocols and doing the best they can. “

John McCreesh, marketing lead at OpenOffice.org, said it has no benefit to the open source office suite. And he said reports that Microsoft's recently enacted MCPP patent license makes any benefit null and void. "So the EU has laboured for three years to produce this particular "ridiculous mouse," McCreesh said.

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