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Shared Source vs. Open Source: Panel Discussion
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Clay:
I'd like to jump in a little bit on this idea of the future world, and to pick up on some of Craig's comments about the ecosystem, and to say — as much to this group as I said to Microsoft — that I think the issue of source code considered alone is less important now than it was five years ago, and will be much less important five years from now, because the number of times that applications are running on a separate box in a separate location than the operating system they are interacting with is going to explode through Web services and through peer-to-peer architectures. And I think the meta-issue we're concerned about here, with an ecosystem, is interoperability, not merely open source; and to me, when I think about this future world, I'm more concerned with open interfaces, which is increasingly how we're going to have our ecology constructed, than I am with the source code that lies behind those interfaces, which is often not exposed.



So: our questions for the Microsoft folks, probably more for David than for Craig... In the Hailstorm documents, and in the demo and the white paper, you noted that Hailstorm's schemas are straight XML, no special sauce — demo'd Hailstorm running on Mac OS, a Palm OS, and Linux box—

Craig:
—[garbled] access from those points—

Clay:
Right. Those were running as Hailstorm end points. And there was a mention in the press conference, though not in the white paper, that there would be ways for Linux and Solaris servers to participate in Hailstorm, although that participation wasn't defined. So the question I haven't seen answered in public, that I'd like to get an answer to is: Can I have — can I use a Hailstorm schema to have a Palm Pilot communicate with a Linux server, without contacting a Microsoft server during that transaction?

David:
[To Craig] You going to take that or shall I? Okay. We absolutely recognize that in a distributed world, interop is key. Right? No question about it. And as Craig pointed out, there are a number of industries which sadly have not yet seen the light and are not running all Microsoft software. [laughter] Alas. [laughter] I'm sure they'll wake up.

And so from a customer perspective — and we always come from a customer perspective — I know I just need to keep pounding that — the customers are going to want it, and we will definitely make it possible. There is no question that we will do that. It's the right business choice. It's the right choice in terms of policy. It'll happen.

Michael:
So you'll do that when everybody else is dead.

Dave:
No, Michael. [Inaudible]

Clay:
To be fair to Microsoft, that's not true on device classes where they don't have the monopoly. So there are kind of two Microsofts here, and there are places where they don't have a monopoly and they behave very differently. I want to re-ask the question and try and get a yes or no. [laughter and applause]

Dave:
Okay. [applause] I failed.

Clay:
Yeah. Can I have a Hailstorm transaction without phoning home to Microsoft during that transaction?

Dave:
So, that is a.... [laughter] — I'll try to explain. I'll give you a yes or no. I'll say... yes?

Clay:
All right.

Dave:
But I will caveat that with [laughter] much — as you know, in distributed systems, the interesting things are done when the parts are brought to the table that you need, right?

Clay:
Yep.

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Dave:
So if Hailstorm is wildly successful, and people are using Microsoft services provided from Microsoft farms,then it's highly likely that that Palm Pilot is going to want to perhaps do authentication and then to federate data from the Linux server with the authentication information. Right?

Clay:
No question. And obviously I was simplifying the question by asking for a simple round trip. But the question was whether or not it's a choice or requirement. And I hear you saying, "It's a choice."

Craig:
Let me give you my analogy, and it probably won't be perfect, but the way I think of it, in programming individual machines in the past, the programmer's interface was the APIs. And the API was essentially a protocol and schema of an interface for an operating system. And in the world we see coming, it became clear to us — for our own account — that we couldn't depend on things happening only within one machine. We believe that the traditional notions of distributed computing, in terms of remote procedure calls and things like that, was the right model, and that in fact you needed to have loosely coupled systems, broadly defined. And that that really says in that world, protocol, schemas, and message packets essentially are akin to APIs. Microsoft has always published the APIs, and in fact as this community does, they borrow those APIs and they do whatever they want with them. They emulate them, produce completely independent implementations. So once we publish the protocols and schemas for interfacing through a Hailstorm service or any other .Net service, I don't know why anybody can't take and do what they do with an API spec today, which is use it as they want to use it. But—

Tim:
Can I ask a question about that? I know there's been some concern in this community about the sort-of second generation of the SMB protocol being protected by patents to help keep it from being reverse engineered. There is sort of this feeling that Microsoft has a strategy that control — and hey, if it's not going to be controlled via, you know, binary programs, it's going to be through patents. So maybe are we going to have open shared source but patent protection? [applause]

Craig:
Sure.

Tim:
So in fact there is still a tool whereby you could keep people from—

Craig:
But look: we're a business, okay? We're in the business of licensing intellectual property. So if it turns out that in the future that business says, "Okay, we should license the patents to people who use that in order to be compensated for the development of intellectual property," maybe we'll do that. You're always welcome to come and ask us to license anything from sources to patents. But I mean, we are a business. We're not—

Tim:
But Apple was a business when you copied their interfaces and, you know— [laughter and applause]

Craig:
Steve would tell you they still are a business.

Brian:
I think even aside from the patents issue, even aside from the publication of the API issue, you still have a question of centralization.

Let me use, as an example, DNS. DNS is a quote "distributed system." That's the D in DNS, right? But we all know that there are a set of root name servers out there. Those root name servers used to be managed by a government entity. And that was privatized. And certainly the Internet exploded, certainly there's been a lot of contention over the privatization of those root name services and other people going after promoting alternative root name servers. The fact is right now that is a critical point in our infrastructure, and people are concerned about that.

And I think, likewise, we are similarly concerned with .Net and Hailstorm — that there could be a similar centralization taking place. Where today to go look up a DNS, to look up a host name, you have to ultimately go to a root name server to find out — you know the details. I think there's people concerned that the same type of centralization may come to be inherent in deploying .Net services.

And taking a step back from that, I think a lot of what drives people towards open source is the desire to remove centralization from the software development, from the software distribution model. And I think that's something that's very right for all of us to think about, to be concerned about—

Craig:
I guess there's two things to think about. Right now, I mean, we've gone out and told people, "This is what we're going to do." All right? We didn't wait and just deliver a fait accompli. All right? We actually have advertised our intentions, all right? The down side to doing that for us, you know, I mean — I recently read about AOL deciding to come up with Magic Carpet. What do you think that is, okay? I mean, they said, "Oh, this may be a good idea, this thing over here Microsoft's talking about. Maybe we should have one, too." So it isn't clear to me that we are granted any automatic franchise in this area.

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