As reported yesterday, two of the licenses Microsoft submitted to the Open Source Initiative (OSI), a group considered the gatekeeper of what is or isn't considered a proper open source license, were approved as open source licenses. A mildly relevant footnote about which I learned from Ars Technica's article on the subject of the OSI approval was that the European branch of the Free Software Foundation had publicly congratulated Microsoft for creating its licenses. Next up: ice storms are predicted in hell next week.
I think the approval (and Microsoft's initial submission of its licenses) was a good thing, as I want Microsoft to release more of the source code for its products. I also want Microsoft to be more open to the inclusion of third-party open source products in Microsoft software, something that is more likely to happen if they are licensed under Microsoft's new OSI-approved licenses. Of course, any inclusion of third-party software would likely go through a legal vetting process that would make many a programmer weep, but when you are Microsoft, you are the biggest lump of sugar in the computing world. Everyone wants a financial piece of you, so you are very careful about what code you include in your products.
Michael Tieman did note the "recent negative interactions between Microsoft and the open source community," even as he hoped that the OSI approval process would lead to more constructive engagement in future. As some readers may already know, I believe that there is zero chance that Microsoft doesn't own patents of relevance to open source products.
Many in the open source community seem to be of the opinion that patent-owning companies should pretend like they don't own these patents, or make blanket patent grants to the open source world. That, however, would be like a gunfighter unilaterally choosing to retire his guns even though his opponents have no obligation to do the same (IBM is different, to be sure, as they have a financial stake in the success of Linux; that doesn't apply to Microsoft, so the risks are very different). That's why these kinds of grants tend to occur within the context of trades with other patent-owning companies, who are the only entities capable of owning such patents. Microsoft can't make such a trade with something as amorphous as the Linux development community.
I'm still certain that Microsoft is not going on a patent assault anytime soon given the suicidal nature of such a move. That doesn't mean, though, that I expect Microsoft executives to act like patents are invisible.
In other news, Apple has announced that it will release a native Apple SDK in a February, 2008 timeframe. I look forward to the spectacle of the same people who said "we don' need no steenkin' developers" in Apple's perfect iPhone acting like they never said such things as they insist that all that matters is "developers,...developers,...developers.
In my opinion, any company who hopes to take on the world in a product that satisfies more than a die-hard niche of followers MUST be open to customization. Apple appears to realize that, and so cheers for them.
...and no, I don't have serious difficulties with Apple insisting on signed components. They might find they will have to rethink that approach if resistance grows too large, but it does seem a natural compromise between Apple's protective instincts and a willingness to be open to third-party customization.