I keep trying to give MS the benefit of the doubt - I really do - but the company's not making it easy. Let's have a look at the latest from Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft vice president of intellectual property and licensing, who talked to Todd Bishop at seattlepi.com.
"We advanced one way in which we think that bridge between the worlds of open-source software and commercial software can be built. The Microsoft-Novell agreement represents precisely that. ... Once we feel comfortable that we've created a mechanism to solve the problem [intellectual property issues - RG] , we feel it is possible to talk about the nature of the problem in a little bit more detail. Not so much to obsess about the problem but to understand the importance of the existence of mechanisms to address it, and to make sure that these mechanisms are preserved for the benefit of both customers and vendors of software in the future."
You'll notice that 'the problem' isn't up for discussion. The details aren't to be divulged until Microsoft's unilaterally decided how to solve it. You or me, if we have a problem with someone, we talk to them about it and work out how to solve it together. Like for example, we have a problem with Microsoft not divulging any details about what IP is being violated - we ask Microsoft what the problem actually is, in order to sort it out.
That's not Microsoft's way. Microsoft's way is to decide what the problem is and how to fix it, without consultation with anyone who might have a different take on it.
How likely do you think this is to work? In particular, patent law does expect everyone involved to work in good faith to solve a problem before. That isn't possible if one side refuses to talk to the other- a condition which any future court action will doubtless take into account.
And as to why MS isn't divulging details: "We do go into more detail and talk about specific patents in discussions that we have with companies that want to have a good faith discussion with respect to licensing. In fact we've been doing that, and those discussions, once we have them, have consistently led people to understand that there is a problem and to appreciate more the fact that Microsoft, having had other options on how to deal with it, has chosen to deal with it in a responsible way and in a constructive way through licensing."
So Microsoft will only talk about this to people who have already decided to agree to being licenced. The open source position - that patent violation is best dealt with by recoding until the problem goes away - is not 'good faith'.
No, that doesn't wash. It doesn't even get the flannel wet. It defies logic, justice and common sense. It only makes sense in terms of Microsoft trying to strong-arm people into agreements which give it control over open source software.
But, like I said, I'd like to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. If anyone's got a different interpretation to those statements, please - let's see it.