Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie has at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference today demonstrated a Live Clipboard concept that may be something truly rare: A Windows interoperability improvement that makes access to Windows-structured assets easy, extensible, and openly refinable.
Ray sets the stage for the powerful concept in his blog, also released today. Now this may be another Microsoft interoperability overture that gets a lot of attention but does not accomplish too much in the way of real world productivity benefits. But somehow, I think this could be something quite big -- useful and impactful -- on a global scale. Has Pandora's box been creaked open and made ajar?
Ray recognizes that users (not just developers) should be freer to organize standardized RSS feeds into powerful wired processes that span their PCs' content and the Web. By allowing users to make their own connections, as publish/subscribe relationships and mashups, among lots of different apps, content, services, and Web-based features -- everyone should win. I guess its OLE for more types of apps and content. Creativity and the mother of invention get some new wings.
But making the level-set on this Live Clipboad available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, Microsoft is indeed tilling new ground. Wow, Microsoft looks to an open source community effort to guide how this clipboard evolves, based on user requirements and desires. Yowsa. By making this Creative Commons, an open source community effort can cross the chasm between the PC and the web, between apps and services, without presumably a Microsoft muzzle.
This is rather significant, both on the merits of the clipboard concept, but also in terms of Microsoft stepping up to a higher order of interoperability and doing it via an open community license.
But something must be in it for Microsoft, right? Well how about the creation of a user-defined bridge between their PC and web-based offerings? Not too shabby. Such user-enabled interoperability can give us a sense of how the seemingly divergent trajectories of MSN and Windows can better relate, and how the Live.com sites can perhaps play the role of "clipboard central" between PC apps and services, at least Windows PC apps and MSN services, thought larger inclusion seems to be in the initial offing. The community will demand it, no?
So perhaps the way to protect the Windows franchise is to open it up for use as a foundation, or at least key component, of larger web- and Web 2.0-types of publish-subscribe processes? And users, or at least scripters, will be in the drivers seat to make it happen in a way that's trusted. Hey, we know Ray was a culture changer, but this is over the top.
The way to make the Windows and Office silos, therefore, more valuable longer term, under this new thinking, is to not erect higher barricades around them, or to limit the communications protocols to a precious and developer-required few. No, what Ray is saying here is that Windows can play better in a mesh or services sand-box by spreading that sand (your sand!) further and wider. In other works, an open source and community driven set of easy-to-use on-ramp/off-ramps allows Windows apps and content to remain useful via RSS-type publish-subscribe wiring to more apps and services, regardless of where they reside or on what platforms they run.
Ok, so pinch me. Windows' value, like the general network effect, increases the more ways the intrinsic resources within those apps can be applied. By extending how Windows applications and content can be used and combined elsewhere, the more likely that Windows remains relevant. Who said that?
This is a rather momentous step, if it is allowed to progress to its logical ends and productive potential.
It accomplishes some things for Microsoft: it bridges the chasm between PC-bound Windows and services in a richer way than a browser. And it benefits users by their being able to enjoy higher productivtuy from Windows rather than seeking wholesale alternatives. It is, in effect, a compromise that could be amenable to the major parties affected. Compromise for mutual benefit of multiple parties: Something we don't see neatly enough of, be it in politics or technology. And not usually from monopolies under pressure. But, hey, nicely done just the same.