Some have asked me to clarify what this means that I'll be a "consultant [to Microsoft] on these interoperability initiatives." It's very easy to do so: I'm not and I don't know. I have not been asked to be a "consultant" to Microsoft; rather, I've been asked to serve as an advisor to Microsoft (completely uncompensated) to help keep it honest in its efforts, as have a few other members of the open-source development and business community (to be announced at some point, though I don't know when).
But on the second part ("I don't know"), I have no idea what this will entail as all I've received to date is an informal invitation over the phone from Sam Ramji.
I wouldn't read too much into it - I've been very public about my criticism (and sometime admiration) for Microsoft's products and business strategy. My opinion won't change until Microsoft changes.
Yes, I'm generally optimistic that this can happen. It's just part of my mentality. I was raised to believe that people can change. I believe that people are essentially good (and, by extension, so are the companies they populate). I will believe this until proved otherwise, and then I'll believe again a few minutes later when I've overcome my disappointment.
So, that's who I am and who I will continue to be. But I'm not prepared to go lightly on Microsoft just because one corner of the company has offered me a chance to amplify the volume of my criticism (friendly or otherwise). I see this as a positive but by no means conclusive move on Microsoft's part. Once you see the other members of the advisory committee, you'll see that Microsoft hasn't selected people whose "votes" it hopes to buy off.
Regardless, the true advisory committee is you (and I), the community. We're the ones who need to help Microsoft make this change through constant pressure (government and otherwise). The way forward is not through side-deals and backroom capitulation. It's by demanding open agreements in the open.