Microsoft Interoperability and Open Source

At EclipseCon this week Microsoft announced cooperation with Eclipse, among other things supporting the SWT technologies on Vista’s presentation framework, effectively allowing Eclipse developers to generate GUIs for Vista.

Like many of their recent announcements concerning interoperability and open source, some observers are enthusiastic while others criticize the fact they didn’t go farther and suggest they never will. However to me this continues to be a glass-half-full situation, in which take Microsoft’s efforts in the context of their culture and history. These are big steps for them, and I think they represent a serious and significant change.

Last fall I attended an ISV event at Redmond, which we were invited to because of our interoperability solutions bewteen Microsoft, Java, and other environments. I couldn’t help but notice that Ray Ozzie’s name was mentioned several times by the presenters. That’s why I made the 2008 prediction for Sys-Con that I did about Microsoft and the enterprise. It seemed to me as if Ray Ozzie’s influence is starting to be felt. Burton Group analyst Peter O’Kelly was also quoted as saying so in the InfoWorld follow up article.

Does this mean that Microsoft is starting to become more serious about their interests in interoperability and open source? In the past I always got the impression that it was hampered by the fact that it would imply their recognizing the legitimacy of a platform other than Windows. Perhaps Ray Ozzie is able to bring a helpful external perspective. Perhaps reality is sinking in that the world of heterogeneous platforms is unlikely to change.

The main news for those of us offering interoperabilty solutions is that Microsoft is opening up some of its internal APIs and publishing their proprietary extensions to standards, which will make it easier to integrate with their products.

They are also allowing “reasonable licensing” terms on their patents – not sure how much benefit this is but they have also loosened up the terms and conditions under which other vendors can develop products that “infringe” on a Microsoft patent – i.e. they don’t have to get a license up front now, but instead only have to negotiate a “reasonable” fee when they ship.

The recent steps toward improved interoperability support and improved relationship with open source communities may strike some as insufficient or incomplete, but to me they represent a signficant change in tone and strategy for Microsoft.

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One response to “Microsoft Interoperability and Open Source

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