Open Letter to Microsoft

Thank you for promising to release documents, API, etc. It is welcome and laudable, but insufficient.

I would like to see more:
a) Join the Open Invention Network and place ALL of your patents into the common space.

b) All patents should be out on a Royalty Free (RF) basis, not Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (RAND):
“Microsoft will indicate on its Web site which protocols are covered by Microsoft patents and will license all of these patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, at low royalty rates. To assist those interested in considering a patent license, Microsoft will make available a list of specific Microsoft patents and patent applications that cover each protocol.”

c) Withdraw the following:
“Microsoft is providing a covenant not to sue open source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols. These developers will be able to use the documentation for free to develop products. Companies that engage in commercial distribution of these protocol implementations will be able to obtain a patent license from Microsoft, as will enterprises that obtain these implementations from a distributor that does not have such a patent license.”

That is, it should be open to *anyone* who wants to use the MS patents not just FOSS developers who are doing “non-commercial” stuff. Stop splitting hairs.

d) What is the timeline for this?
“Enhancing Office 2007 to provide greater flexibility of document formats. To promote user choice among document formats, Microsoft will design new APIs for the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Office 2007 to enable developers to plug in additional document formats and to enable users to set these formats as their default for saving documents.”

Make ODF the default. Now.

e) Drop the use of the phrase “Open XML”. It is neither open nor useful. It also should not be called “office open xml”. It is a purposeful, deliberate attempt to confuse people to think that ooxml has anything to do with Open Office.

f) Withdraw unconditionally the ooxml proposal from ECMA and ISO/IEC which should save me and a whole lot of people time and money in traveling to Geneva to can it at the BRM next week.

g) What does it take to be called “high volume”?
“Ensuring open connections to Microsoft’s high-volume products. To enhance connections with third-party products, Microsoft will publish on its Web site documentation for all application programming interfaces (APIs) and communications protocols in its high-volume products that are used by other Microsoft products. Developers do not need to take a license or pay a royalty or other fee to access this information. Open access to this documentation will ensure that third-party developers can connect to Microsoft’s high-volume products just as Microsoft’s other products do.”

Stop wasting time and effort in meaningless definitions. Remove this entirely.

So, Microsoft, join us. You had to be sued, punished, investigated to get this far. It can be a lot less painful (and cheaper) and a lot more productive if you truly believe in building a better world. The open source world has shown how one can be profitable and successful while sharing the best practises (and code and patents) all around. One does not need to put speed bumps, hidden formats etc., to lock customers in. Customers will come when they see value, and happy customers are far better than imprisoned customers.

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