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Red Hat slams Microsoft's offer

Red Hat deems Microsoft "disingenuous" in its promise not to sue open source developers if they limit themselves to noncommercial products.

Yesterday, Red Hat Inc. lost no time in scoffing at Microsoft's latest overture to the open source community as "disingenuous."

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Earlier in the day, Microsoft extended a four-part pledge to promote software interoperability via (1) open connections, (2) data portability, (3) industry standards and (4) open engagement with customers and the industry, including the open source community.

But Michael Cunningham, Red Hat's executive vice president and general counsel, quickly expressed "a healthy dose of skepticism" about Microsoft's offer and called on Redmond to back up its words with more effective measures.

Most significantly, Cunningham rebuked Microsoft's offer to refrain from suing open source developers as long as they restricted their activity to "noncommercial" distribution of interoperable products.

Microsoft's announcement today appears carefully crafted to foreclose competition from the open source community.
Michael Cunningham
executive vice presidentRed Hat

The canyon-wide chasm in Microsoft's no-harm offer is, of course, the swelling ranks of profitable, fast-growing open source companies whose Linux-based software has challenged proprietary software vendors across the board.

The largest such company, Red Hat, would be particularly vulnerable. And in a controversial settlement, Red Hat's its major rival, Novell Inc., resolved potential open source code conflicts with Microsoft a little more than a year ago.

In a written statement, Cunningham said that if Microsoft is truly committed to open source, it must work toward a "level playing field."

"Microsoft's announcement today appears carefully crafted to foreclose competition from the open source community," Cunningham said. "How else can you explain a 'promise not to sue open source developers' as long as they develop and distribute only 'noncommercial' implementations of interoperable products?"

"This is simply disingenuous," Cunningham continued. "The only hope for reintroducing competition to the monopoly markets Microsoft now controls -- Windows, Office, etc. -- is through commercial distributions of competitive open source software products." Cunningham also urged Microsoft to do the following:

  • to commit to industry-recognized OpenDocument Format (ODF) standards for document processing rather than promoting OOXML, its own, proprietary Windows-based format, and
  • to commit to interoperability with open source by extending its Open Specification Promise across the board rather than omitting interfaces and protocols of its most popular applications.

"There is no explanation for refusing to extend the Open Specification Promise to 'high volume' products, other than a continued intention on Microsoft's part to lock customers into its monopoly products and lock out competitors through patent threats," Cunningham said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer.

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