November 23, 2005

MS XML's Self-Centered Covenant

Andy Updegrove, counselor to OASIS and poobah of, kindly offers a line-by line interpretation of Microsoft's covenant not to sue developers and others who one day might deploy their XML schemas.

Andy concludes that -- apart from the unease created by the covenant being containted on a web page at a site controlled by Microsoft, where the content can change at any time -- the covenant is not unusual as a defensive revocation right.

What stands out to me is that the covenant language as posted on Microsoft's web site only mentions MS Office 2003 -- the existing office suite (which does contain a version of MS XML). The pledge, as Andy notes, does not explicitly extend to future versons of their XML schemas. It must do this in order to be remotely relevant to this competitive situation Microsoft is postulating against OpenDocument.

Now Microsoft launced a global PR initiative a few days ago relating to this covenant and the "opening" of the file format in Office "12." But Office "12" is at least a year away from final release and the ECMA and ISO relationships may take a few years to bear fruit. This leads to the conclusion that the announcements of the last few days are insincere because the covenant, here, not to sue does not mention Office "12". This, on its face, has been a text-book PR-driven Market-Freeze...pure PR.

Andy goes on to analyze the Sun covenant not to sue relating to OpenDocument and comes up with a revealing comparison:

"the version of the specification to which the [Sun] covenant applies is on the OASIS Web site, and is therefore not under Sun's control."

"[Sun's] defensive revocation right mirrors that of Microsoft..., but with one important exception: while Microsoft has reserved the right to protect itself, Sun has reserved the right, if it wishes, to be a "patent policeman" that could assist any implementer of ODF."

If there's anything to be taken from this, it's that Microsoft's sincerity in offering a format that people can be confident to build around should be rigorously and persistently questioned.


At 11:47 AM, Anonymous David said...

Mind reading a bit before ranting and spreading FUD? Have a look here:

Brian explicitly mentions there that they will include Office 12, ONCE they have the schemas out. As you might have realised, Office 12 is not out, nor (just one simple example) is its final name determined. Gee, I am in for being careful. But don't be paranoid.

At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Andy Updegrove said...

Someone at Microsoft pointed me to a promise to the same effect at a Microsoft Web page (the one that compares the new covenant to the old XML license), so I've updated the blog entry Sam is referring to accordingly. From a legal point of view, a promise on a Webpage (or in Brian's blog) would not be as binding as one contained in the original covenant, but in the court of public opinion, the (hopefully) will be the same. My updated entry is at:


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