As with many Microsoft press offerings, Microsoft Makes Strategic Changes in Technology and Business Practices to Expand Interoperability has created quite a stir. When you think about interoperability, Microsoft isn’t the first thing that pops into your head.
The talk in the open source community regarding this announcement is understandably negative (read through the Slashdot commentary). According to the Interoperability Principles, Microsoft is opening up their protocols and APIs and embracing industry standards. That’s good. But look at the Open Source Compatibility (I.5, my highlight):
Microsoft will covenant not to sue open source developers for development and non-commercial distribution of implementations of these Open Protocols.
This plus the licensing of patented software “at low royalty rates” have made the Microsoft naysayers say “nay” (yet again) and that this is all just another marketing ploy.
Maybe so. This philosophical change is not meant to make Microsoft a FOSS (free open source software) company. Their goal is still to make money, which is exactly what their shareholders demand.
I think providing an improved forum for open source interoperability, and presumably better support moving forward, is a good thing. As long as Microsoft continues to own the desktop, the easier it is to inter-operate with their “high-volume products”, the better. This will certainly be true for the healthcare industries, which like most others, depend on Microsoft products.