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Microsoft Redefines "Open Standards"

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  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:44AM (#28926409)

    Which just happens to be incompatible with free software licensed under the GNU GPL."

    Hate to break it to you, but the GPL is not the be-all end-all of openness, and the benchmark of "open" is not necessarily "compatible with the GPL".

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:47AM (#28926461)

      Yes, but Patent-encumbered definitely means NOT open.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by larry bagina (561269)
        Some GPL software is patent encumbered. IBM, for example, donated some of their patents for Open Source projects. Postgresql, being BSD licensed, removed/rewrote their code so as not to infringe.
        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:45AM (#28927335) Journal

          Some GPL software is patent encumbered. IBM, for example, donated some of their patents for Open Source projects.

          So it's patented, but probably unencumbered, then.
          Hint: "encumbered" means restricted or blocked or limited. If the patent license is consistent with the FOSS license requirements (for example the GPL requires no restrictions on right to distribute modified versions, etc.), then the fact that some part of it is patented does not mean it's encumbered from the FOSS point of view.
          Proprietary software is usually copyright-encumbered - your license may not allow copying it, and may not even give access to the source code. Many FOSS licenses also make restrictions - when you modify, you may not remove the names of previous contributors, for instance. Does this mean we should refer to BSD or GPL code as being "copyright-encumbered"?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Open Licences do not generally allow patented code, GPL does not allow patented code, BSD does not allow patented code

            Just because you have the source code does not mean it is truly open, you may not be allowed to use your knowledge to improve the product or correct errors

            Open standards do allow patented code (OOXML has them, so do many others), but in most cases these are not distributed in the USA *because* they are encumbered with patents ....

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:35AM (#28927187) Journal
        Lots of open standards are patent-encumbered with RAND terms on patent licensing, including the MPEG family, and various hardware standards such as DDR. The term that people seem to be looking for is 'royalty free', which is orthogonal to 'open'. If a standard is open and royalty free then it can be implemented without problems by GPL'd software. If it is only one or the other, then there may be problems.
        • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:59AM (#28927527) Homepage Journal

          The term that people seem to be looking for is 'royalty free', which is orthogonal to 'open'. If a standard is open and royalty free then it can be implemented without problems by GPL'd software

          Open and royalty-free are necessary but not sufficient conditions for use by GPL software.

          There could be additional encumbrances on a patent other than royalties. A common one is that each user has to obtain permission from the patent holder. Even if this permission is easy to obtain and costs nothing, that would still be encumbered from the GPL's perspective because it would impose restrictions on those who receive the software.

          Contrary to the GGP's opinion, while the GPL may not be the "be-all end-all" of openness it's a pretty damned good yardstick. If a license (copyright or patent) is compatible with the GPL, you know that it's open.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412)

          You are confusing an normal standard with an open standard. An open standard can be implemented by anyone without any restrictions.

          A standard imbuded with RAND is never open. It might be a industrial standard but it's not an open standard.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            An open standard can be implemented by anyone without any restrictions.

            The whole point of an open standard in fact is that you want it implemented, for the purposes of interoperability. So, for example, POSIX is an open standard; at least these days, you can get right online and read the damned thing on the official sites. IEEE1394 is not; there is a licensing fee of $0.25/device (IIRC it was higher originally?) to cover patents.

    • Anyone know if it is BSD, Apache, MIT, LGPL, etc etc?

      • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:02AM (#28926703) Journal

        It depends on what you want to be open.

        If you want the source of all derived works to be available to all, and encourage more community development, then you want GPL.

        If you want the source of the original work to be available to all, but allow the option of closed source for derived works (give more options to the authors of /direct/ derivatives, allow it to fit into more business and distribution models), MIT and BSD are "more open".

        So, "it", is defined by what your primary goals are. I tend to prefer modified BSD/MIT style licenses myself, but the GPL certainly has a place for a lot of development models.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553)

          GPL: We don't allow the keeping of slaves around here.

          BSD: I don't keep slaves. But I don't mind if you do.

          If you actually think BSD is more open because it gives plantation owners more flexibility, you're insane. Please understand, I don't mean you to read that as "I don't like what you're saying." I mean you to read that as "You have a dangerous and fundamental disconnect with reality".

          Quit with the doublethink and just be honest enough to call a spade a spade, ok? Just say "I'm just a little guy and

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ByOhTek (1181381)

            Wow. Take some of your own advise.

            I stated the disadvantages and advantages without any hyperbola or rhetoric. You couldn't do the same and make your point.

            Software doesn't think and isn't self aware, comparing to slavery is ridiculous. Please, as you said, call a spade a spade.

    • That's absolutely true.

      I'd say an "open" standard would mean that anyone could implement the standard without need to buy a license to implement all or part of it.

    • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:05AM (#28926735)
      GPL is certainly not the end-all be-all of openness, but we need to define our terms somewhere. When defining static terms in a non-static world, the line is always going to be arbitrary and cases that are close to that line will always highlight this fact readily. Microsoft, however, does not even approach the line, no matter how one defines the term. If you are going to retain patents on your software, it is not open. Period. End of story. There is no legitimate argument that can be made here, the patent in and of itself proudly claims 100% ownership over the code in question, which is the antithesis of openness under any standard. The GPL has absolutely nothing to do with anything in this case.
      • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:38AM (#28927229)

        the patent in and of itself proudly claims 100% ownership over the code in question, which is the antithesis of openness under any standard.

        Copyright would be the claim of 100% ownership over the code. A patent is even less open, since you aren't even allowed to re-implement the software, even if you write it entirely yourself without ever seeing any of the source code of the original implementation.

        • Copyright would be the claim of 100% ownership over the code. A patent is even less open, since you aren't even allowed to re-implement the software, even if you write it entirely yourself without ever seeing any of the source code of the original implementation.

          Thank you for the distinction, that is an excellent point.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday August 03, 2009 @12:18PM (#28928851)

        Microsoft, however, does not even approach the line, no matter how one defines the term.

        nonsense, Microsoft's new definition of the term open simple refers to the inclusivity of the number of people who are affected by their licences. If the definition of openness means it is available to everyone equally, then the new definition from MS makes perfect sense.

        Their software is completely open: absolutely anyone can do nothing with it. :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Open certainly doesn't include patents. That much is certain.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:45AM (#28926417)

    And being incompatible with the GPL doesn't mean something isn't open.

    • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:49AM (#28926517) Homepage

      No, but being patent encumbered does unless the patent holder declares the patent is free for anyone to implement under any terms they wish (ie they use the patent totally defensively and agree never to initiate any legal action against anyone over it).

    • And being incompatible with the GPL doesn't mean something isn't open.

      I think a more reasonable thing to say is "being compatible with the GPL doesn't mean something is open". However, those two statements aren't quite the same. Being open means that it should be compatible with pretty much anything, including the GPL. If a standard had a clause making it incompatible with all commercial software, or making it only compatible with GPLed software it wouldn't be open either for the exact same reason.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:45AM (#28926431)

    They'll never miss a chance to try and bend you over the dining room table.

    • Yeah... and if they can't do that, they'll hump your leg. Bastards.

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:47AM (#28927369) Journal

      Well yeah it's the same EEE philosophy they've followed over th last twenty years. Why abandon the philosophy when it works do brilliantly for them?

      - EMBRACE the concept of open standards (previous phase).

      - EXTEND these standards with Microsoft proprietary formats (the current ongoing phase).

      - EXTINGUISH future competitors by claiming they violate these proprietary formats and may not use them, which means customers must buy Microsoft software to gain full functionality. Thus a once-open standards model becomes a closed MS-proprietary format. Again.

  • The GPL promotes one type of "open" source model.

    Open source only means that the source is available to the users of the product.

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:53AM (#28926577)

      Open source only means that the source is available to the users of the product.

      Nope, OSI defines open source software as software that:

      A. Free Redistribution
      B. Includes Source
      C. Allow Derived Works

      And a lot of other stuff. See http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php [opensource.org] for more info.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The OSI are not a recognised standard body or industry authority - they are little more than recognised banner wavers and supporters of open source but they carry essentially no weight. Their definition is all very well and good, but its not *the* definition.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by iamhigh (1252742)

        Nope, OSI defines open source software as software that:

        Did you mean Open Systems Interconnection? Or International Organization for Standardization? Nope, you meant the Open Source Initiative? Surely they don't have an agenda!

      • by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:06AM (#28926751)

        OSI's definition isn't necessarily the gold standard either. The GPL, BSD, and other licenses, as well as the whole concept of "open source" was around long before OSI existed.

        I have always felt, and continue to do so, that "open source" merely indicates that the source code for a product is available. There are a ton of times where that's all that I wanted. I'd kill to have the source to some of my vendor purchased apps so I could fix some long standing bugs and send the patches back to them. Creating/distributing a derived work, or redistributing the code is not a priority in that case. Access to the code is.

    • by tonyreadsnews (1134939) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:10AM (#28926813)
      I thought the same thing. Only after did I realize the word shift in the summary:
      Also, Matusow didn't say they want all open standards to be able to include RAND, just that he considers some RAND standards as open to him. The article writer even seems to agree with most of his points, and then turns a 360 and brings up the OOXML to bash on them a bit.
      On the side of openness, I think the article writer misunderstood Matusow's main point about patents and standards, which is that if a patentable idea could be used in more then one way (his two examples were protocols and an aphrodisiac) that the owner should be able to grant use of the patent for a protocol standard, but should not be required to give up rights to license separately use as an aphrodisiac. Doing so might make the contributor less likely to contribute, which make sense because if that were required, the cost of the contribution might outweigh the benefit.
      • ... his two examples were protocols and an aphrodisiac...

        Out of touch with reality much? The day a protocol will be an aphrodisiac is the day Hell freezes over, monkeys fly out my butt, and Slashdot readers get laid.

    • by teg (97890)

      Open source only means that the source is available to the users of the product.

      There are plenty of commercial products where you can have the source... but no other rights, and having to sign NDAs etc.

    • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:37AM (#28927221) Journal

      No kidding. Letting Microsoft define "open" is like a bunch of sheep letting the wolf define "vegetarian".

  • From the... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daemonax (1204296) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:49AM (#28926509)

    From the gpl-isn't-really-open-either-ya-know dept.

    What is up with that? The majority of people that go around saying this about the GPL complain that you can't include the GPL in proprietary software or other unfortunate obscure issues. The GPL is designed to keep software licensed under it Free (or open if you prefer). Sure sometimes that causes unfortunate problems with other Free Software licenses, but while there are those that would like to take away the freedom that users and developers get with the GPL, it's a cost I'm happy with.

    • by Benanov (583592)

      The GPL isn't "open" and never claimed to be.

    • The majority of people that go around saying this about the GPL complain that you can't include the GPL in proprietary software or other unfortunate obscure issues

      No, a lot of us complain that we can't include GPL'd code in projects incorporating code with other (FSF-designated Free Software, OSI-approved) open source licenses like the ASL, APSL, CDDL, and so on. And that the conditions of the GPL make it trivial for someone to accidentally infringe (compile some GPL'd software that's only available in source form, give a copy to your friend, forget to include an offer in writing to provide the source - oops, you've just infringed the GPL). We also object to the ba

      • The freedom in GPL. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anne Honime (828246)

        The GPL license shields the freedom of the end user from everyone, developpers of other open source and not-so-free licenses projects included. That's the point of its very existence.

        You may want to or need to use another "free" license, but doing so always entail at some point that the end-user freedom can and will be reduced. This is not OK with the GPL, hence the strong stance on this point.

        And, yes, IAL, and I read the GPL from top to bottom, every version of it.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:50AM (#28926527)

    How is this surprising? TFA explains it best:

    The idea behind truly open standards is to create a level playing field so that everyone can compete on an equal and fair basis. The benefits are obvious: it ensures a true Darwinian selection process is possible

    Microsoft, just like tha *AAs, find themselves in the same position as the dinosaurs after the comet strike winter: their surroundings (markets) are changing and they are unable to adapt. So they try to adapt their environment to themselves. In the case of companies, this is done by "educating" (think "don't copy that floppy"), threatening and cajoling their customers. But in the end, they'll meet the same fate as the dinos.

  • Reasonable ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Corporate entities are not at all alike Human entities, and therefore its very likely that the definitions of "reasonable" that are used by both are quite incompatible.

    Giving MS track-record that chance is probably near a 100% ...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I will be the first one to defend MS and their right to make money on the product they work so hard on. It is also true that the GPL is not the only licence you will ever need. But I really can only think of one thing that open can mean, if MS wants to do open source I welcome it but if want to move into the neighborhood and ask that the rules change because they are here now, I find that just plain silly.

    It reminds me of the vacationers that have a summer house on the lake and can't figure out why the laws

  • Sounds familiar (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:54AM (#28926595)

    Microsoft reminds me of the RIAA here, whining about the need to prop up their business model. Their license to print money is in danger, as the online world is moving on.

  • losing contracts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stine2469 (1349335) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:55AM (#28926601)

    Does this have anything to do with losing the ability to get government contracts because of FOSS requirements? Remember the stink ?last year? when M$ got their proprietary document format declared a standard so they could bid on contracts that required open document standards? They must have another contract coming up for renewal.

    • This is the issue precisely - 100%.

      Various governments are specifying that vendors support Open Standards so that they are not locked in to vendors. Governments want a solution not a provider. Future proof, vendor neutral, interoperable with other solutions, unencumbered by intellectual property limitations.

  • by rnturn (11092) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:56AM (#28926619)

    Sometime back in the late '80s, Digital Review (or a similar industry newletter) ran an article in which Bill Gates was quoted as saying something to the effect that Microsoft's operating system was an "open system" because you could buy a computer from a large number of vendors that it would run on. (So long as you were talking about computers based on Intel chips, I suppose he could could sort of get away with saying that, as self-serving as it was.) Claiming that whatever that Microsoft does is in any way "open" is sort of old hat with those guys.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by turbidostato (878842)

      "Claiming that whatever that Microsoft does is in any way "open" is sort of old hat with those guys."

      Gates claiming whatever he feels will strengh his bussiness is an old story (not that any other company owner wouldn't do the same): remember when Gates was strongly against patents? He didn't own a large patent portfolio back then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Andr T. (1006215)

      Yeah, that makes things so easy!

      1 - Define 'open' as 'made by your freaking money-grabbing company'

      2 - Impose your definition to everyone else

      3 - Profit!!!

    • Windows NT was available for Alpha, PPC and MIPS as well as Intel chips. Not sure if that ties up with your alleged quote, but its still a nice example.
      • Win NT on Alpha... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anne Honime (828246) on Monday August 03, 2009 @11:44AM (#28928277)

        OMG, what a sad joke it was !

        the DEC Alpha was the absolute epitome of 64 bits processing in its times, a fabulous cpu running loops around what intel had to offer, and head and shoulders above the competition from Sun and IBM. The Alpha was emulating a top of the line Ppro faster than the ppro could run natively. And those retards at MSFT just ported a 32 bits NT to it, and moreover were unable to provide native software for it (MS Office can't run on the Alpha).

        Allegedly, the bulk of the work on the 64 bit version of NT (call it 2K_64, XP_64 or whatever, it's never been released) was conducted on Alpha hardware for the lack of competent Itanium platforms at the time.

        In short, MS benefited from the Alpha while doing their very best to kill the product, by not delivering the promised goods for it. They created high public expectations and their shoddy behaviours finally put DEC in a bad light.

        It makes me sick to read such statements. I still run a PWS under Linux for the good old days memories, and the only comforting thoughts I have are that AMD managed to build upon DEC expertise to create the Athlon 64 after DEC had been swallowed by Compaq and their R&D disbanded.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      Fun fact of the day: Open has multiple meanings. Tomorrow's fun fact: Free has multiple meanings.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      This latest effort starts with the rise of open source software, to the point where the lay public often thinks of open source software as a Good Thing (thanks in particular to Mozilla's work, which is probably the most consumer-visible OSS project out there). This leads to such convoluted efforts as Office Open XML, which conveniently sounds like a format that just might have come out of, say, the OpenOffice project.

      • by Qubit (100461)

        This leads to such convoluted efforts as Office Open XML, which conveniently sounds like a format that just might have come out of, say, the OpenOffice project.

        It's a bit off topic, but I'm still unclear as to how Microsoft wasn't taken to task for using the OOXML name given that OOo had already existed with an original file format called OpenOffice XML. I've personally corrected several people in person, in print, and online -- even on sites of relative technological aptitude such as /. -- for confusing the file formats and the OOo product. Is there just not enough of a legal protection against use of confusingly-similar product names?

    • Terms change. OpenVMS was released in 1991, the same year as Linux 0.1. The Open prefix was used to indicate that it complied with the POSIX standard, and had nothing to do with open source. The POSIX standard was open in that anyone could implement it, but copies of it were quite expensive. Now, when you see a piece of software with Open in its name, you probably assume it's open source, but 20 years ago no one even knew what this term meant. Back then, an open standard just meant one that wasn't cont
  • by hiddenharmony (1610897) on Monday August 03, 2009 @09:56AM (#28926623)
    Someone ask these idiots when you are willing to allow the usage without royalty why on this earth you want a patent on it ? Why cant we modify the law to ensure that any patented technology can be used without royalty when it becomes part of an open standard ? Infact the US patent law allows government to use any technology without paying patent fees to anyone, so why cant the same be applied to open standards which are going to be useful for a wider number of humans on this earth ? This seems to be the Exterminate phase of standard microsoft policy of 'Embrace extend exterminate'.
  • by Zantac69 (1331461) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:07AM (#28926769) Journal
    This is the company that basically redefined an "operating system" to no longer just mean the basic power plant that manages the computer's operations...the "operating system" now takes care of antivirus/firewall, digital media, as well as internet browsing and more.

    Almost like the MCP in Tron - may Ram R.I.P. (Rest in Pixels)
  • by judolphin (1158895) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:12AM (#28926837)

    The GPL promotes one type of "open" source model.

    Exactly. I love the idea of GPL and am glad it exists. I use GPL software whenever possible. This post however, is not about the merits of GPL, but to drive home this point: it's difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to make a living by relying on GPL software. Finding a "balance" between the GPL model and complete closure is something worth pursuing. It's not like GPL couldn't still be used by those who wanted to use it.

    The GPL is simply not for every developer. It does not allow for trade sectrets, and trade secrets are legally protected for a legitimate reason: the opportunity to be rewarded for innovation. Without it, there would be *less* incentive to invent and innovate.

    Clearly, some are willing to invent and develop technology without this protection, but many such as Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, the average person with a Computer Science degree, will demand some of this protection when they really want to earn a living from their software.

    As someone who's worked for software companies, it's hard to imagine those companies GPLing their products, and easy to imagine the company losing half its profits or going under altogether if any company with an IT department could legally recompile the source code and use the software without payment.

    After all, companies do have the right to act in their own self-interest, even if you feel they are misguided.

  • by dwheeler (321049) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:13AM (#28926861) Homepage Journal

    It's true that "GPL" is not the same as "open". But a good test for openness of a standard is "can you implement it using the GPL?". In short, if a standard CANNOT be implemented by GPL'ed software, then it CANNOT be an open standard. Why? That's because the GPL is by far the most popular open source software license [dwheeler.com]; nothing else even comes close. And increasingly, major market niches have an open source software implementation as the #1 or #2 implementation. A standard that locks out major implementations cannot possibly be an open standard. The whole point of a software patent is the power to exclude implementation (without paying royalties, etc.), while the whole point of a standard is to allow arbitrary use - they are fundamentally incompatible. Digistan has a more reasonable definition of open standard - and why you would want one [digistan.org].

    • by OzPeter (195038)
      But I cannot use external GPL'ed software in my product and NOT release that same code. So if wanted to not release the code then I cannot implement my product using GPL'ed code. So by your standards GPL is not an open standard. However I don't have a problem if I use BSD'ed code.
      • by IBBoard (1128019)

        You might want to check the difference between "can" and "want". In that example you can release it by opening your code up as well, you just don't want to ;)

      • This argument in my mind is the equivalent of (to use a car analogy) I want you to share your knowledge on how to build an engine. But I won't share any of my information on how to build a car. This way I can build my car using your engine designs and make money without ever contributing back.
    • In short, if a standard CANNOT be implemented by GPL'ed software, then it CANNOT be an open standard. Why? That's because the GPL is by far the most popular open source software license; nothing else even comes close.

      You're somewhat begging the question:

      1. The GPL is an "open" software license.
      2. So if a program is compatible with GPL, the program is "open".

      But you don't explain why the GPL's definition of "open" is the one we should accept. So I think you're begging the question regarding what "open" means.

  • Seems "reasonable and non-discriminatory" to me.

  • by RomulusNR (29439) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:31AM (#28927125) Homepage

    Open standards and open source are two completely different things and always has been.

    Open Source means allowing people to see how programs work and be free to change them as they see fit and promote sharing and interoperability.

    Open Standards means allowing software companies to ignore standards and change them as they see fit in order to generate greater lock-in (under the guise of competitiveness). See also: MS Visual Java.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sdiz (224607)
      really? X11 / POSIX and their friends was considered "open standard".
  • Open systems: systems based on unencumbered specifications for interfaces and protocols, usually with multiple interoperating implementations.

    Closed systems: systems that are restricted in who can interoperate with and implement them, for example they may require commercial licensing.

    Standards: Specifications for interfaces and protocols.

    Open source systems: systems for which a freely redistributable implementation exists.

    Not all systems fall clearly into the "open" or "closed" camp... these are really extremes along a continuum.

    An open source system is usually not a closed system, but it may be if it is encumbered by patents or licensing that limits its use. An open source system may or may not be an open system... for example, a system with a single implementation where the specification for the interfaces and protocols is defined by that implementation should probably not be considered an open system, even if it's open source.

    Open standards: I would assume this means standards that are unencumbered by licensing issues, anyone can implement them. Standards by definition are "open" to some degree simply by being standards, so qualifying the term with "open" means you're making a stronger statement than just "it's a standard".

  • How conveeeeeenient.

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