Friday, May 08, 2009

Open Dialogue Code

I originally wrote this entry on September 19, 2004 and published it on

It's funny how certain corporate strategists pay more detailed attention to the press than to their own corporate purpose. (Some may even believe that all their problems stem from bad press.)

So, now we read in the reports (Reuters and the WSJ) that Microsoft has decided to open source its Office software to certain governments and under certain conditions. The same reports say that Microsoft has apparently done this to combat the advances of Linux, its "open-source" desk-top OS rival.

Under the program, Microsoft doesn't completely lift the veil. Governments are able to see 90% of the source code. The bulk of the rest is code where a third party owns the copyright, according to Microsoft. The company also holds back from exposing code that relates to antipiracy technology.
(The WSJ, Sept. 20, 2004)

Even if source code is to be shared with more governments and under much less strict conditions, the strategic threat that Microsoft faces will persist. The problem is not an inability to see the code but an inability to participate in the dialog that ends up in it.

As I've said earlier, what matters is not openness of the source (whatever that means) but the openness of the dialogue about the source code, its use and evolution.

And here is another question worth thinking about. Would government regulations around the world ask for "open-source" code or "open-dialog" code? Most probably, it would be the former because "open-source" is a property more measurable.

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