In a recent announcement Microsoft declared a "Strategic Change" in their relationship with the open source community:
- Publishing on MSDN over 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols and API. Protocol documentation for additional products, such as Office 2007, will be published in the upcoming months.
- Microsoft is providing a covenant not to sue open source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols. These developers will be able to use the documentation for free to develop products.
- Microsoft will design new APIs for the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications in Office 2007 to enable developers to plug in additional (OS?) document formats
However, although the company said developers will not need to take a licence or pay a royalty or other fees to access this information, those covered by patents will still be subject to a royalty from developers who want to use them for commercial applications (Microsoft said these royalty rates would be "reasonable and non-discriminatory").
Red Hat seems to think this is a move designed to "foreclose competition from the open source community", making Microsoft's move "too little, too late".
According to Steve Ballmer "There were certainly things we did to get into compliance with the European (Union) Commission’s decision". However, the EU regulators are expressing skepticism regarding this statement.
Real change or a hoax? we'll have to wait and see...