I’m finally getting a chance to read up on the Microsoft interop news today. It really sucked to see the headlines all day, but not have a chance to read them until now.
While the words “open source” are mentioned in the announcement and on Bill Hiff’s post, this is really about open APIs, not open standards or open source. (Maybe ‘not’ is too harsh; maybe I should say ‘and significantly less about’).
Obviously Microsoft is opening up their APIs because it makes business sense. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. have already made the business case for open APIs to closed software. If you ask me, the interop announcement virtually eliminates (on paper) the argument that Microsoft will lock you and your data up. Hmm…have we seen this playbook before? Maybe from OSS vendors? “Use our product and you won’t get locked in. You have the source code so you can always go elsewhere if you’re not satisfied with us.” Understandably, Microsoft’s position isn’t as eloquent. However, it does counter a potential barrier to remaining a Microsoft customer. Let me be clear, I do not think Microsoft’s interop announcement actually protects against lock-in. It seems like Cote would agree:
“Overall, the thrust of the press release is that Microsoft is going to make the documentation and access to its software better (easier? Doubtful. See Joel’s piece), that is, more interoperable.”
But, it doesn’t matter what I (Joel or Cote) think. What matters is how Microsoft can market the anti-lock-in angle and how customers will respond.
I have never thought that OSS would be the end of Microsoft or the commercial software market. The fact that Microsoft is borrowing (in their own unique way) from the OSS playbook should scare OSS “freetards” straight.