MS Interoperability event – summary

[Updated on April 29th because of ZDnet’s inaccurate reporting]

The OIN gets assigned all the patents that then come under it’s purview. These patents are then available to all to use. If MS sees the value of doing this, then they can make their patents (many of them really silly patents) available to OIN thereby making it available to one and all.

In any case, the more important issue is the 200+ plus alleged patents that Ballmer and Co have alleged (case in point the Tom Tom issue of late). It is a total waste of time and effort to have this bogus claim still pending – even if Oliver Bell says that “MS does not make reference to it, only the open source community”. The fact that MS has yet to publicly state that they made a mistake in making that claim, is why it keeps coming up. I am sure that they will not admit – it is Microsoft after all. The open source community is a cooperative entity which succeeds because of the wonderful code review and not about patents. Please, Microsoft, get a clue.

There was another set of terms that were bandied around at the session. There was reference to “open source” and “commercial software”. This distinction is not accurate. Open source is commercial software as well – see what Red Hat is doing. See what MySQL is doing (on their own, within Sun and who knows when it is under Larry The Plumber).

[Quick braindump – April 28th – might need further editing]

Well, so the event came and went. GL Tan did not speak – apparently he had another event that he had to speak at and was represented by someone else from the CTO office. I wonder why is it that he was billed to be the keynoter and then, on the day of the event, someone else speaks. Didn’t the organizers check first? Or was it just a clever marketing ploy in the sense that I would not have bothered to go if it was not for GL speaking. I really wanted to know what he would have said with regards to interoperability in a MS-only event. Maybe, someone reading my blog could have figured that it was not prudent for GL to be there and so the switch around. No, I don’t want that credit. I would rather that it was a genunie conflict of scheduling – I rather see the good in people than be a conspiracy theorist.

The morning was kicked off my Oliver Bell speaking about the big picture of what interop means to Microsoft, as they want to define it. A lot of what he said was fair and valid. Next was Chew Tat Leong who spoke again about much the same stuff but had on his slides a reference to an ODF 1.1 issue about multi-variable lines (?) showing up the right way in oo.o 2.4.1 and wrongly in Symphony. Less that creduluous I say for I am sure it is the interpretation of Symphony (a proprietary product I think) of the ODF 1.1 that is at fault. I could have just as well show how a word97 doc is messed up when read by some ms word product.

Then came a panel discussion, which, frankly, was no big deal. I wanted to ask about many things, but
Mike Veltman from a Interoperability Group on facebook asked some questions from the open source perspective.

After coffee, the session resumed with John Fernandes talking about engaging with the open source community. The PHP Society and the Interoperabilty Group were the ONLY two represented there. The Linux Users’ Group (Singapore) was absent, interestingly. On the only slide John put up, he had listed the PHP Society, the Interop Group and linuxNUS as groups that John had interacted with. I will grant him leeway because he is new in town (six months or so), but there really is no excuse for not even inviting LUGS to be present. Either someone massively screwed up or they deliberately wanted to have friendly forces on stages. I think the former.

I did get a chance to ask question, a couple. One was why LUGS was not there. It is the oldest open source group in Singapore and yet. Second, about patents. How can open source developers trust working with Microsoft when the CEO keeps repeating about the 200+ patents?.

Oliver came up to the front (he was not on the panel) and said that today no one from MS says that and that only the open source community says that. I said that only – within the last two weeks, that this was repeated. Oliver then went on to say that Red Hat should be happy to take MS patents and make money out of it and in doing so, MS would want a cut. The comment was not accepted by me and I handwaved to the moderator to move on as it was not the thrust of the my question.

I was tweeting the whole event (did not use a tag, but check Interesting, Oliver tweeted back about the patent issue and I suggested that he should consider getting MS into OIN and make all of the software patents freely available to ALL open source developers (commercial or otherwise). MS can continue to do their standard royalty extract from those patents that they placed in OIN from people who use it but keep the code secret.

The last section of the event was about accessibility for disabled people. DAISY is a technique to provide e-book readers with properly tagged audio. Apparently MS office can save to DAISY format (nice), but the challenge is that the readers are expensive and there are very few books that are e-book ready. I think the disabled community have a very big challenge with all those DRM-ed ebooks and region locked content. Creative Commons is the way forward for them as well.

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