Interoperability is Good
Gone are the days where you competed on the basis that you kept your protocols and communication mechanisms a secret. So, it was good to see that Microsoft is going to make it’s Windows Protocols available to Samba Developers. I know Dave has already blogged on this but you might want to check out Sam Ramji’s background on this agreement at the Port25 Blog. You might also want to check out the Samba Announcement on this. Whilst I might argue with Dave on some points, I think we both agree that this is the right outcome and the sort of pragmatic approach we want to see from the Opensource World.
The Windows Protocols (or at least those implemented by Samba) are SMB (Server Message Block) and CIFS (Common Internet File System). The SMB protocol was documented by IBM back in the 1980s and CIFS was developed as a publicly available enhancement to SMB by Microsoft and a number of other Vendors. So, to say that these Protocols were never in the public domain is not quite true but over time Microsoft made enhancements for its various OS products without publicly documenting this.
I know Dave mentions that licensing of these Protocols has been available before the EC Judgement but Groklaw has an article stating that SUN Microsystems wrote to Microsoft back in 1998 asking for documentation to allow SUN to write software which was interoperable with Active Directory, but this request was turned down by Microsoft. SUN then lodged a complaint with the EC and thus was started the process which eventually ended in the recent verdict. Now whilst I agree with Dave the end results are not what consumers probably want or have taken up, ultimately Microsoft was found guilty of abusing its position in the market place and this was found by “due process”. This has also previously been the case in the US and the anti-trust case taken by the US Government. So unless we think that the US Government and the EC are just out to get Microsoft we need to learn from these things. I believe Microsoft is learning and attempting to move forward in a more positive and open way – it will take time. It needs people like Dave to explain within Microsoft why there should be closer working with Opensource Projects such as Samba (as the Port25 guys are doing) – not everyone gets it in Microsoft!