Matt Asay makes one crucial observation in Microsoft’s dilemma: The importance of the downstream:
To work within the open-source community… Microsoft must stop polluting the downstream with patent encumbrances.
(Emphasis in original.)
This is my problem with Microsoft’s patent pledge, with the Microsoft-Novell deal over codecs for Monopolight, and just about everything coming out of Redmond except for the pretty words of the open source interoperability lab.
Discriminatory distribution clauses are contrary to the four freedoms of software. Couching that discrimination in the language of business ($40 billion in annual revenue seems like a pretty fair return for $7 billion in annual research to me) and waving the tired old tatters of the flag of innovation doesn’t make that discrimination right, and it doesn’t hide it very well.
If Microsoft wants to interoperate with free software at the source level, it has plenty of source code — all of Microsoft’s own source code and all of the free software ever distributed.
If Microsoft wants to interoperate with free software at the business level, it could start by removing legal roadblocks to interoperability. The fact that the company continues not to do so leads me to believe that Microsoft doesn’t really want to interoperate with free software at a business level.
As long as the company offers only jingoistic pats on the head to us misguided little hackers laboring part time in our basements with no commercial aspirations, there’s little point in considering anything that comes out of Redmond as useful.
In eight months since Nat Torkington asked Bill Hilf What Will Change at Microsoft with Regard to Patents and F/OSS, nothing interesting has happened. OSCON’s four months away. Maybe Bill Hilf will have a big announcement then — maybe he’ll have set up mail filters. Don’t hold your breath for a sane patent strategy.