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Microsoft Open Specification Promise

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Microsoft has announced the Open Specification Promise, a legal statement that "is a simple and clear way to assure that the broadest audience of developers and customers working with commercial or open source software can implement specifications through a simplified method of sharing of technical assets, while recognizing the legitimacy of intellectual property."

Quoting from the main page:

Microsoft irrevocably promises not to assert any Microsoft Necessary Claims against you for making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing or distributing any implementation to the extent it conforms to a Covered Specification.

where "Covered Specification" includes WS-Addressing, the transaction spec family, WS-Reliable Messaging and WS-RM Policy, WS-MetadataExchange and many other specs co-authored by Microsoft.

In a blog entry, Microsoft's Jorgen Thelin points to previous Microsoft mentions of a similar licensing strategy, but obviously nothing has been as explicit as this. We don't have lawyers here at InfoQ, but from a layman's perspective this certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

Serveral observations about the effects of this pronouncement.

Firstly, this is a positive step which will have the greatest positive effect on SOA adoption by end users. End user architects are currently compiling standards that they support in their companies though the process of blueprinting their SOA projects. Standards should be vetted for safety from any Intellectual Property issues, just like Open Source indemnification and license analysis. Savvy organizations are doing this already.

Secondly, this should not greatly impact the implementation of these specifications by the open source community, as many open source project leaders work on these specifications directly and work under the general hope that they will be made available for royalty free use through a standards organization. Those spec leaders have more visibility and hopefully more faith in the intentions of the larger vendors in this regard.

Thirdly, this may allow Microsoft and others to justify retaining early technologies for longer periods of incubation. WS-Policy was kept out of a standards environment for a long time, and just this April was put into the W3C.

Lastly, this does not provide an "all clear" signal to SOA adopters. Since many other vendors were also involved in the creation of these specifications, each of these vendors would also have to make such assertions to make things easier to adopt.

Nevertheless, this is generally considered a move that will accelerate standards-based adoption of Web services and SOA.

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