From Russia with Linux

The Beez Speaks has a rather interesting post up called From Russia with Linux which covers The Russian Federations anti-trust suit against Microsoft and the major computer OEMS. His conclusion is that all computer systems sold in the Russian Federation may be required to be sold seperately from the Operating System. This would of course be a huge disadvantage for Microsoft against the Gnu/Linux and BSD operating systems, because Windows costs.

It should be interesting seeing if this really happens.

Microsoft Year End Notes

The actual 10K hasn’t been posted on the SEC site yet, so we can only look at the press release. The press release contained “unaudited” numbers, which means that Microsoft’s accounting firm hasn’t signed off on them yet. That said, they are probably fairly accurate. Putting out an inaccurate press release can attract SEC attention, in a bad way.

Consider these numbers for total earnings (in millions):
4thQ 2009
$13,099

4thQ 2008
$15,837

That’s a drop of $2,738,000,000.00, a lot of money in anyone’s book. Costs didn’t drop anywhere near as much:
4thQ 2009
$ 9,112

4thQ 2008
$10,158

That’s a drop of $1,046,000,000.00, again a lot of money in anyone’s books. But it means earnings by $1,692,000,000.00 more than costs, which means net income has dropped:
4thQ 2009
$ 3,045

4thQ 2008
$ 4,297

Curiously the dividend for FY 2009 was $0.52 per share, while the dividend for FY 2008 was $0.44 per share. It looks like Microsoft may have been trying to buy the share holder’s loyalty. If so, it failed. The price of Microsoft stock was $25.56 on Thursday. On Friday it opened at $23.66 and spent some time as low as $22.98, and ended the day at $23.50.

But there’s other numbers of importance. For instance Cash and Cash Equivalents:
4thQ 2009
$ 6,076

4thQ 2008
$10,339

Why did Cash and Cash Equivalents fall? Microsoft made a decent profit, it not as high as usual. Short-term investments were:
4thQ 2009
$25,371

4thQ 2008
$13,323

Total cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments
4thQ 2009
$31,447

4thQ 2008
$23,662

This raises a question – with this much money available in cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments, why would Microsoft be making arrangements for a loan earlier this summer? Several sites have speculated that Microsoft is in really deep financial trouble. Quite frankly they aren’t. In an economy like this Microsoft’s report looks great. So why the loan? We don’t know. But there must be a reason.

Going further along we see Goodwill. Uhm, this is Microsoft. Who has any “Goodwill” towards the company? XBox360 players who’ve sufferer the Red Ring of Death? Windows Media buyers who got DRMed to death? Well, Microsoft does list it
4thQ 2009
$12,503

4thQ 2008
$12,108

And it shows a slight increase.

At this point the word “why” keeps coming up?

1) Why did Total assets climb nearly $5 billion?
2) How can Microsoft claim “Goodwill”?
3) Why did total Cash & Cash Equiv go up by $8 billion?
4) Why did Microsoft drop so many product lines – they had enough cash.
5) Why did they lay off over 5000 employees, again they had enough cash.

So OK. Profits are down. Earnings are down. This was expected. So why did the share price drop so fast and so far? Is someone playing with the stock? Probably not. Probably one or two of the large investors looked at the report, and decided that Microsoft just wasn’t worth the price, and started selling.

So how does this affect the Free Software Community? In small ways. Microsoft doesn’t have as much manuoeuvring room as they did. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s a difference. At the same time, the company has to be feeling a bit of desperation.

In operating systems they can’t compete with GNU/Linux on price or performance. They can’t compete with Apple on price or performance. They can’t compete with Solaris on price or performance. They can’t compete with BSD (any version) on price or performance.

In fact they can’t compete with any operating system, on any level. Except for pre-installs. They win hands down there. And you have to wonder why? An inferior product, taking the majority of the consumer, and a fair bit of the small business market. There has to be a reason. And we know the reason. It came out during the Iowa anti-trust case (and yes, I have a copy of the all of the files for Comes vs Microsoft).

In fact they can’t even compete on browsers, with pre-installs. Firefox, Opera, and Safari continue to gain market share. Apache owns the web server market, is more stable, and a lot harder to hack. Open Office is taking market share from Microsoft Office. Microsoft can’t buy market share in search.

Even taking all that into account, remember the hypothetical $5 million investment I talked about in Numbers – Microsoft Stock Prices Part 1? Curiously you could take the 223,313 shares and sell them for $5,247,855.50! So even after the Friday drop, Microsoft shares are worth more than they were on July 11th!

So yeah, Microsoft isn’t what it was. This is the first drop year over year in their history. What will be interesting will be seeing what the company’s fiscal performance will be in the first quarter. Will earnings continue to drop? Stay tuned.

Arrant stupidity strikes again

Every once in a while you hear something so stupid that you can’t believe anyone could have said it. In this particular case Anthony Healy, director of the Australasian Performing Right Association, the administrator of music royalties said Without the content industries, the internet would be empty. We want to ensure that the people who make the content are rewarded.

Well Anthony, I’m producing lots of content. Send me some cash. I’m going to email you at the contact information on your website – apra@apra.com.au – right away. I suggest that everyone else do the same.

Found On Road Dead

Yeah, everyone knows all the smart aleck nicknames for Ford.

Found on Road Dead
Fix or Repair Daily
Fails On Rainy Days
Failure Of Research & Development
Fast Only Running Downhill
Factory Ordered Road Disaster
Four Old Rusted Doors
Ford Owner Really Dumb
Fork Over Repair Dough
Fabricated Of Refried Dung
Fireball On Rear Denting
Frequent Opinion: Really Disappointed

And yeah, there’s a couple of thousand more. But hey, they are the only North American car company that didn’t go into bankruptcy, so they have to have something going for them, don’t they? And I am looking for a new car.

Well it so happens that the Ford Fusion is a really nice looking little hybrid car. Since I’m ecologically minded (yes, climate change is real – I understand the science) and want to keep my ecological footprint as low as possible, a hybrid was high on my list. It has to seat five (we have 3 kids), have good rear seat headroom (both of our boys are over 6 feet tall), get fantastic fuel economy, have a trunk or hatch big enough to hold a couple of guitars and amplifiers. Simple, no?

From this point of view the Ford was looking great. It’s reasonably sized, the fuel economy is fantastic, and the Ford Hybrid Technology looks pretty good. Hey, I’m feeling happy at this point.

Then we got to the dealership. Car looks like the pictures. I got a good laugh at the expression on my wife’s face when the salesman got in, turned the key, drove the car forward, and parked, all without the engine coming on. Neat. Then I got into the car.

Turns out that the damned thing comes with a Microsoft/Ford Sync system. I told the salesman I wouldn’t buy the car because of that. Rather than asking questions about my statement he started trying to explain how great it was, and it was at that point that we walked out.

We aren’t buying a Ford.

Oh, and I’m emailing a copy of this to the dealership. If they respond, I’ll let you know what they say.

Amazon – Proving that the Kindle is the stupidest thing in town

OK, so you bought a Kindle, and you bought some books for it. You pick it up to read something, and it’s not there. Maybe you meant to buy it and forgot. Maybe Amazon deleted it.

Seriously. When I first heard about this, I thought it was a mistake, but Amazon really does delete books from your Kindle, assuming that you allow it to go online, and since part of the reason to have a Kindle is to buy books while online, well…

Now Amazon has admitted that this was a stupid thing to do. Nice of them. The problem is that even though they’ve promised to never, never, do this again, they shouldn’t have done it in the first place. This isn’t apparently the first time they’ve done this, and the only reason that things got hot this time, was the content.

George Orwell’s 1984.

Regards

Wayne Borean

July 18, 2009

 

EU Finds Anti-Competitive Abuse Of Pharmaceutical Patents, Launches Antitrust Action

I just found out that IPWatch.ORG has an article about a new EU investigation. To quote:

Pharmaceutical companies are manipulating the intellectual property rights system and are “actively trying to delay the entry of generic medicines onto their markets,” a top EU official said of an EU inquiry into the pharmaceutical sector released Wednesday. As a result, there has been a decline in the number of innovative medicines getting to the market, it says.

Those of you who know me, know that I believe that patents are a drag on the economy, and that they make the First World countries less efficient than they could be. Those companies who claim to need patent protection for their innovations are in effect admitting that they are inefficient, and incapable of operating in a 21st century environment.

If they aren’t capable of operating, they should be shut down. That’s what bankruptcy law is for.

Oh, and they are also admitting that their management is incompetent. Think of it as Evolution in Action.

Numbers – Microsoft Stock Prices Part 1

Let’s take another look at Microsoft’s Financial status. If you look on Yahoo Finance, or on MSN Money Central you can see Microsoft’s stock prices over the years. Like all public companies Microsoft has an investor section on their website. You can also request hard copies detailing the company’s financial status. In most countries publicly held companies like Microsoft are required to supply information to investors. This information is required to be accurate. It’s also required to be complete, within certain limits.

The issue is that not enough disclosure is damaging to the investor. If for example, the company is deeply in debt, and the investor is not told, the investor would be making an investment decision with out information which could have a significant affect on the company’s ability to make a profit, or even for that matter to survive.

At the same time much disclosure can damage the company. If a competitor knows who the company has signed a large contract with, the competitor knows who is buying the product, and who to target (I know of sales reps who regularly monitor the Investor page on their competitor’s web sites for press releases on large sales, so they can target the customers mentioned).

Any large publicly held company’s stock price is controlled by a relatively small number of large shareholders, the institutional investors. In the case of Microsoft there are also a small number of employee shareholders who hold a large amount of stock, including Bill Gates (executives are employees too). At Microsoft employee shareholders hold a very significant portion of the company’s shares both directly, and through their 401K plans. This is not uncommon at entrepreneurial companies.

Assume that I decide to invest in Microsoft, and that I’ve got a 5 million dollars. Since Microsoft’s current market cap is around $199 Billion US, my 5 million dollars is insignificant, and will have no real affect on the stock price.

Various large investors do have an affect on the share price. Assume that Bershire Hathaway (Warren Buffet’s company) decides to take a 20% share in Microsoft. This would tend to drive the share price upward.

But why would anyone invest in Microsoft, or for that matter any other company? Money of course. How much money can you make with Microsoft? It depends on how much you invest. In Microsoft’s last quarterly filing we see that they are paying a quarterly dividend of $0.13 per share. My $5 Million investment would equal 223,313 shares at Friday’s closing price of $22.39 per share, which would yield $29,030.69 per quarter, or about $116,122.00 per year. If you were to place the same money in a Bank of America checking account which pays 0.10% per year, you would earn $5,000.00, so investing in Microsoft stock would bring you a definite advantage.

Changes in stock prices could also earn you money, if you purchased at the right point. Microsoft may have closed at $22.39 on Friday, but it opened the day at $22.19, so assuming you bought $5 Million at open, in theory you could have sold it for $5,045,065.34 at close. This assumes that the stock price went up. It could also have gone down. Remember Black Friday in October 1929?

Stock price also has a significant affect on what a company can do. Assume that Microsoft wants to purchase a company. Rather than paying in cash, they could pay in stock. If Microsoft wants to make acquisitions using stock, the higher the price of their stock, the more acquisitions they can make. The correct acquisition can help boost the stock price, making more acquisitions possible. One acquisition that Microsoft made was Visio. This was an excellent acquisition, the Visio software is now a very useful part of Microsoft Office.

Microsoft – the idiot's friend

I usually try to avoid working on Microsoft systems, but every once in a while, I end up helping a friend out, and it end’s up being a totally frustrating experience chasing drivers, cleaning the registry, securing the system, etc. It makes you wonder why even the dumbest redneck from the deep south would bother, never mind a bunch of Canadians from a major cosmopolitan city. Funny that. They’re all scared. Scared of having to buy Macs…

Now when you add up the numbers, that is compare equivalent processor, software, hard drive, etc. between a Mac and a Dell, the Dell is usually cheaper. But the trick is that the Mac doesn’t need anti-virus software, and the Dell does. Assume that you keep both computers for 4 years, and the Mac is cheaper. You want to make the Mac cheaper yet? Rather than buying Microsoft Office for Mac, buy IWork. It’s a lot less expensive, and if this is a home machine, it will do everything you need, a lot faster, and a lot easier than Microsoft Office.

And let’s face it. Mac’s last longer. I have two machines here, that are 8 plus years old, that run fine. One still has the original OS installed, from 2001! You’ll never see a Microsoft OS running with no problems 8 years later. And that’s another saving. I know people who spend $100.00 to $200.00 per year with Geek Squad to keep their Windows box running. Factor that in against zero cost to keep the Mac running, and damn, that Mac is looking really cheap.

Now when you consider that almost all of the advantages of a Mac can be had buy running Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, Moon OS, etc. on standard PC hardware (the only disadvantage is that you miss out on the beautifully designed Mac hardware), and not have to pay for any software at all, why don’t you do it?

Terminal stupidity?

Microsoft Community Promise; MONO

Well, since I made my post about the arguments surrounding Mono, Peter Galli of Microsoft has announced that Microsoft will be applying the Community Promise to the ECMA 334 and ECMA 335 specs. But what does this mean?

Get ready for a long post….

The Microsoft Community Promise states:


Microsoft Community Promise
Published: September 12, 2007 | Updated: February 12, 2009

First, what is a promise. The definition from Dictionary.com is ‘a declaration that something will or will not be done, given, etc., by one’. This is the first issue, how do you define ‘Microsoft’ as one? It’s an enormous company, and like any company that size, the staff including management constantly changes. The question is does this promise bind Microsoft forever, or just until the next management change?

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 one of the Covered Specifications, and is compliant with all of the required parts of the mandatory provisions of that specification (“Covered Implementation”), subject to the following:

Sounds good so far. You can:
make – to bring into existence by shaping or changing material, combining parts, etc.
use – to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of
sell – to transfer (goods) to or render (services) for another in exchange for money; dispose of to a purchaser for a price
import – to bring in (merchandise, commodities, workers, etc.) from a foreign country for use, sale, processing, reexport, or services
distributing – to divide and give out in shares; deal out; allot.

And that they do this if the product matches the specification, and includes ALL of the required parts. What if you redesign the application so that it doesn’t require a part that Microsoft thinks isn’t required? Easy. You aren’t covered.

This is a personal promise directly from Microsoft to you, and you acknowledge as a condition of benefiting from it that no Microsoft rights are received from suppliers, distributors, or otherwise in connection with this promise. If you file, maintain, or voluntarily participate in a patent infringement lawsuit against a Microsoft implementation of any Covered Specification, then this personal promise does not apply with respect to any Covered Implementation made or used by you. To clarify, “Microsoft Necessary Claims” are those claims of Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents that are necessary to implement the required portions (which also include the required elements of optional portions) of the Covered Specification that are described in detail and not those merely referenced in the Covered Specification.

There are several issues here:

1) This is a personal promise. The word personal has a specific meaning, and that pertains to a person. Microsoft’s Community Promise does not apply to a corporation, partnership, charity, or any organisation of of any sort.
2) Then we run into a problem, the words ‘you acknowledge‘. You is clear. Acknowledge means ‘to admit to be real or true; recognize the existence, truth, or fact of’. This implies communication. Since you are not communicating with Microsoft by either vocal speech, or written speech, or even a web form, you are unable to acknowledge to Microsoft that you’ve benefited.
3) If you take part in a lawsuit which involves patents the promise is void. In simple terms if you attack Microsoft using patents, they’ll strike back, and considering the number of patent litigation suits that Microsoft has lost recently, I can’t blame them for including this exclusion. In fact I would think they were crazy if they didn’t include it.
4) Then it gets into a definition of what is covered, and patents are covered, however it doesn’t mention whether it applies to patents that have been invalidated through appeal to the patent board, or whether it applies to patents that have been invalidated in a court of law, or whether it would apply to patents that were legal in one country, but not legal in the country where the action had taken place.

This promise by Microsoft is not an assurance that either (i) any of Microsoft’s issued patent claims covers a Covered Implementation or are enforceable, or (ii) a Covered Implementation would not infringe patents or other intellectual property rights of any third party. No other rights except those expressly stated in this promise shall be deemed granted, waived or received by implication, exhaustion, estoppel, or otherwise.

In this portion they mention that Microsoft’s patents may not cover your implementation, or may not be enforceable. That’s great. If either is true, why is Microsoft making the Promise?

Then they say, ‘No other rights except those expressly stated in this promise shall be deemed granted, waived or received by implication, exhaustion, estoppel, or otherwise.’ The problem is that so far, it’s far from clear what rights Microsoft is granting.

Microsoft then goes into a bit of detail on what the words and phrases mean.

Covered Specifications (the Promise as set forth above applies individually to each of the following specifications)

This promise applies to the identified version of the following specifications. New versions of previously covered specifications will be separately considered for addition to the list and are covered only if specifically listed. In connection with the specifications listed below, this Promise also applies to the required elements of optional portions of such specifications.

Specifications covered as of this date are:


1) HealthVault Service Specification
2) C# Language Specification – Ecma-334, 4th Edition and ISO/IEC 23270:2006
3) Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) – Ecma-335, 4th Edition and ISO/IEC 23271:2006
4) UI Automation v1.0

There are other specifications with special terms.

Covered Specifications with Special Terms (the special terms as set forth on the individual download page for each listed specification apply)

For the applicable terms, please see the official Microsoft download page for the listed specifications.

1) XPS Specification v1.0
2) VBA Language Specification

Microsoft has also published an FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

The Microsoft Community Promise 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.

‘Intellectual Property’ is in invalid concept. Copyright, Trademark, and Patent are valid concepts. By using the term ‘Intellectual Property’ Microsoft is attempting to obscure the issue as to exactly what is covered. It has to be one or more of Copyright, Trademark, and Patent, however by not specifying which Microsoft leaves developers with no knowledge of what exactly they will be covered for, if anything.

We listened to feedback from community representatives who made positive comments regarding the acceptability of this approach.

Um, which community? Names would be useful.

COMMUNITY PROMISE GENERAL

Q: Why did Microsoft take this approach?

A: It was a simple, clear way, after looking at many different licensing approaches, to reassure a broad audience of developers and customers that the specifications could be used for free, easily, now and forever.

The problem is that it is neither simple nor clear, with the exception of one word, which should have been included in the main section – forever. Since this is in the FAQ, instead of the promise, we can’t be certain that the word actually applies.

Q: How does the Community Promise work? Do I have to do anything in order to get the benefit of this CP?

A: No one needs to sign anything or even reference anything. Anyone is free to implement the specifications as they wish and do not need to make any mention of or reference to Microsoft. Anyone can use or implement these specifications with their technology, code, solution, etc. You must agree to the terms in order to benefit from the promise; however, you do not need to sign a license agreement, or otherwise communicate your agreement to Microsoft.

Again, why is this not in the main section? Since it’s in the FAQ it’s useless.

Q: What is covered and what is not covered by the Community Promise?

A: The CP covers each individual specification designated on the public list posted at /interop/cp/. (Some specifications include special terms; these are noted.) The CP applies to anyone who is building software and or hardware to implement one or more of those specifications. The CP does not apply to any work that you do beyond the scope of the covered specifications.

Q: How is the Community Promise (CP) different from the Open Specification Promise (OSP)?

A: The CP requires that implementations conform to all of required parts of the mandatory portions of the specification. Also, in specified cases (such as where the specifications have uses that exceed those needed to achieve the interoperability needs for which the release under the CP is being made), the CP may have special terms concerning what kinds of implementations are covered.

You must comply to ALL of the required parts of the mandatory parts of the specification. If you don’t, because you either don’t need to, or because you were able to design an implementation that doesn’t require the entirety of the specification, you can’t covered. This is a slap in the face to innovation.

Q: If a listed specification has been approved by a standards organization, what patent rights is Microsoft providing?

A: We are providing assurances regarding necessary claims consistent with the scope of our commitments in that organization.

So if Microsoft has a patent that technically is outside the scope of the organization, but which is infringed by your project, even if your project is an implementation that is covered, Microsoft can sue you.

Q: What if I don’t implement the entire specification? Will I still get the protections under the CP?

A: The CP applies only if the implementation conforms fully to required portions of the specification. Partial implementations are not covered.

No partial implementations. No Innovation.

Q: The specification I am interested in has some required portions and some optional portions. Does the CP apply to both?

A: Yes, the Promise also applies to the required elements of optional portions of such specifications.

Again, why does it not say this in the main part of the promise? Anything included in the FAQ isn’t technically part of the promise. It may not be legally binding.

Q: Does this CP apply to all versions of the specification, including future revisions?

A: The Community Promise applies to all existing versions of the specifications designated on the public list posted at /interop/cp/, unless otherwise noted with respect to a particular specification.

Now this is the most interesting set of weasel words I have ever seen! A simple yes or no would have given a clear answer. Instead we get something that is open to several interpretations. After reading it several times, the only answer I can give is ‘MAYBE”.

Q: Why doesn’t the CP apply to things that are merely referenced in the specification?

A: It is a common practice that technology licenses focus on the specifics of what is detailed in the specifications and exclude what are frequently called “enabling technologies.” If we included patent claims to the enabling technology, then as an extreme example, it could be argued that one needs computer and operating system patents to implement almost any information technology specification. No such broad patent licenses to referenced technologies are ever given for specific industry standards.

This is not true. See IBM Contributes 500 U.S. Patents to Open Source.

Q: Is this CP sub-licensable?

A: There is no need for sublicensing. This promise is directly applicable to you and everyone else who wants to use it. Accordingly, your distributees, customers and vendors can directly take advantage of this same promise, and have the exact same protection that you have.

The way this is worded, this may not be compatible with the GPL or BSD licenses.

Q: Is this Community Promise legally binding on Microsoft and will it be available in the future to me and to others?

A: Yes, the CP is legally binding upon Microsoft. The CP is a unilateral promise from Microsoft and in these circumstances unilateral promises may be enforced against the party making such a promise. Because the CP states that the promise is irrevocable, it may not be withdrawn by Microsoft. The CP is, and will be, available to everyone now and in the future for the specifications to which it applies. As stated in the CP, the only time Microsoft can withdraw its promise against a specific person or company for a specific Covered Specification is if that person or company brings (or voluntarily participates in) a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft regarding Microsoft’s implementation of the same Covered Specification. This type of “suspension” clause is common industry practice.

It doesn’t say this in the main body. Saying this in the FAQ doesn’t make it so.

Q: Is the Community Promise intended to apply to open source developers and users of open source developed software?

A: Yes. The CP applies directly to all persons or entities that make, use, sell, offer for sale, imports and/or distributes an implementation of a Covered Specification. It is intended to enable open source implementations. Because open source software licenses can vary you may want to consult with your legal counsel to understand your particular legal environment.

Some really good advice. SEE YOUR LAWYER!

Q: Why does Microsoft obtain patents that apply to specifications to which the Community Promise apply? Is that something that others do too?

A: Microsoft invests a significant amount of resources in research and development efforts. Like any other company that commits such resources to creating new technologies, Microsoft seeks to protect its investment by obtaining patents on the resulting innovations. At a minimum, patents have value in defending Microsoft with regard to patent infringement claims made by others. Many patent owners use their patents defensively to protect themselves against third-party law suits when they make their patents available under reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND or RAND-Z) terms and conditions (including promises like the CP).

This of course brings another question into view. Is software patentable? There are various interpretations of the law on this point by different lawyers, most of which disagree. Until the Supreme Court rules on Bilski no one knows for sure.

Q: What is the difference between copyrights and patent rights and why doesn’t the Community Promise include copyrights?

A: Patents protect the creation or improvement of a novel and useful method, device, process, or material. By contrast, copyrights protect a particular expression or implementation of an invention but not the underlying invention itself. For example, copyright protects the intellectual property rights associated with owning or distributing a copy of the specification as a document. In the particular case of the CP, copyrights in the Covered Specifications are made available by the publisher of the particular specification. When specifications are published by standards setting organizations, those organizations provide the copyright license. When Microsoft is the publisher of the Covered Specification, a copyright license is provided either as a part of text of the Covered Specification itself, or in a separate document. Copyrights in the Covered Specifications are not provided through the CP because, in the instances where the standards organization owns the copyright in the Covered Specifications, Microsoft does not have the ability to provide such rights.

Copyrights and patents are different beasts. If you don’t know what the difference is, I suggest you check the articles on Wikipedia, and remember that the laws vary from country to country.

Q: Is this Promise consistent with open source licensing, namely the GPL? And can anyone implement the specifications without any concerns about Microsoft patents?

A: The Community Promise 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 the covered specifications. We leave it to those implementing these technologies to understand the legal environments in which they operate. This includes people operating in a GPL environment. Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone, we can’t give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses, but based on feedback from the open source community we believe that a broad audience of developers can implement the specifications.

In simple terms, see your lawyer.

Q: I am a developer/distributor/user of software that is licensed under the GPL, does the Community Promise apply to me?

A: Absolutely, yes. The CP applies to developers, distributors, and users of Covered Implementations without regard to the development model that created such implementations, or the type of copyright licenses under which they are distributed, or the business model of distributors/implementers. The CP provides the assurance that Microsoft will not assert its Necessary Claims against anyone who make, use, sell, offer for sale, import, or distribute any Covered Implementation under any type of development or distribution model, including the GPL. As stated in the CP, the only time Microsoft can withdraw its promise against a specific person or company for a specific Covered Specification is if that person or company brings (or voluntarily participates in) a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft regarding Microsoft’s implementation of the same Covered Specification. This type of “suspension” clause is common industry practice.

Again, this would have been better to have been included in the main body rather than the FAQ.

So why didn’t Microsoft’s lawyers include this in the main body? Microsoft’s lawyers aren’t stupid (I know one of them, she’s a really smart lady). So why did they write it in this confused way?

I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense.

Suggestions anyone?