Red Hat responds to Microsoft's interoperability pledge

Red Hat doesn't like Microsoft's new pledge for openness. Go figure.

Michael Cunningham, general counsel for Red Hat, has posted a response to Microsoft's pledge to greater transparency. Let's just say that Michael isn't overly impressed. Not until he sees more of a tangible commitment to transparency:

Eight years ago the U.S. regulatory authorities, and four years ago the European regulators made clear to Microsoft that its refusal to disclose interface information for its monopoly software products violates the law. So, it is hardly surprising to see even Microsoft state today that "interoperability across systems is an important requirement" and announce a "change in [its] approach to interoperability."

Of course, we've heard similar announcements before, almost always strategically timed for other effect. Red Hat regards this most recent announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Three commitments by Microsoft would show that it really means what it is announcing today.

Michael then goes on to call for a commitment to open standards, cooperation with open source, and competition on a level-playing field. This is fair, but doesn't really do more to clarify Microsoft's stated intentions. It's up to us to push Microsoft to deliver.

However, one thing that Microsoft could do is extend its Open Specification Promise to the API and protocol information it's opening up, rather than demanding license fees for these. I called it a clever "channel sales" play (allow noncommercial development lawsuit-free, but bring in the guns once that software is commercialized), but I do think that we should applaud even baby steps. It's absolutely appropriate, however, to push for the OSP to be applied to these APIs and protocols.

Yes, there's much for Microsoft to do. It's an imperfect commitment on Microsoft's part, almost undoubtedly driven by the need to placate European Commission regulators and to preemptively allay US antitrust fears as a Yahoo! deal nears. But the key is to take what has been given (which, in Microsoft's view, is massive - I think many underestimate just how hard this must be for many within the company, including Ballmer to swallow), and to continue pushing for more.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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