Sorry, Ray. You know I love you and all, but there's just no way you can steer the Titanic like it's a Z3.
(Image courtesy Engadget)
If you hadn't seen this, this morning Microsoft announced what on the surface would appear to be a commitment to opening up its bag of tools to let others look inside more easily. Among other things, they announced...
"Microsoft is implementing four new interoperability principles and corresponding actions across its high-volume business products: (1) ensuring open connections; (2) promoting data portability; (3) enhancing support for industry standards; and (4) fostering more open engagement with customers and the industry, including open source communities."
"and future versions of all these products."
- Windows Vista (including the .NET Framework)
- Windows Server 2008
- SQL Server 2008
- Office 2007
- Exchange Server 2007
- Office SharePoint Server 2007
Now, on the surface, this all sounds interesting, but "providing a covenant not to sue" isn't quite as appealing as it may sound. Covenants can be changed or rescinded, so in practical terms, the file formats and communication protocols will be out in the wild, and as everyone knows, there's no stuffing the smoke back into the cigar. But down the road, if it suits them, I could easily see Microsoft realizing they went too far back in 2008 and then going back to companies which may have built substantial products on certain technologies and assumptions and telling them, "well, things are different now."
I'd be much more impressed if they chose to GPL some of this stuff. GPL sounds a lot safer than a simple promise that Microsoft won't sue the living crap out of you.
Also missing from this announcement: "Microsoft has also chosen to bow to the overwhelming will of international standards bodies, customers and partners and abandon its attempts to pervert the Open Document Format via OOXML." You won't find it in this announcement because it ain't there. I'm really not sure why not, since nothing lately has brought down international wrath on MS like their shenanigans regarding ODF/OOXML.
The main thing is, old habits die hard, and three decades of whining about attempts by anyone else to build anything useful or make any money has set them up for a long, hard transition to this supposed "new openness," and it won't happen easily. And just because Steve and Ray commanded it, don't expect that all of Microsoft's operating components will immediately comply. I can almost guarantee that they'll hold something important back, and like it's been for years, all the way back to DOS days, you'll find partners who build something to the published standards and APIs, only to find that Microsoft didn't actually use
their own API, or used undocumented hooks to their own advantage.
Let's see a show of hands... who thinks this is just an attempt to avoid getting nailed by the EU again, or by a future Democratically-controlled US Department of Justice?