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Microsoft adds XAML to 'Open Specification' list
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By David Worthington

March 28, 2008 —  Microsoft is showing off one more facet of its once-hidden intellectual property. On Tuesday, it placed the preliminary technical specifications for XAML—the Extensible Application Markup Language—under its Open Specification Promise, or OSP.

The technical documentation will enable third parties to implement XAML formats in their client, server and tool products. It includes both the 2006 implementation of Microsoft’s XAML object mapping specification and the vocabulary specification for Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF).

A spokesperson said that the final XAML documentation would be published by June 30.

XAML is a declarative XML-based language used to define data binding, events and UI elements in WPF and Silverlight applications, and to define workflows in Windows Workflow Foundation.

Tom Robertson, general manager of interoperability and standards at Microsoft, said that the release of XAML under the OSP is intended to simplify the building of applications using .NET by increasing transparency and forming an ecosystem of designers and developers around it.

“The lifeblood of any application is its third-party ecosystem,” said Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio, who added that the obvious reasons to document XAML were for compatibility, interoperability and integrations with other applications.

Microsoft has vowed to abide by self-imposed interoperability principles to ensure open connections, promote data portability, support industry standards and to openly engage its customers and the industry, including open-source communities.

The interoperability principles apply to the company’s high-volume business products, including Exchange Server 2007, Office 2007, Office SharePoint Server 2007, SQL Server 2008, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, including the .NET Framework, and all future editions of those products.

DiDio noted that by publishing the XAML documentation this early in its development, Microsoft was killing three birds with one stone: promoting its brand, courting goodwill and developers, and keeping up with Adobe and its Flash platform, which competes with Silverlight.

Microsoft’s Robertson noted that XAML is already fully documented on the MSDN Web site for developers using XAML to create Windows-based applications. XAML is now available for third parties to implement under OSP, meaning Microsoft has offered what it deems as an “irrevocable promise” to companies that it will grant patent rights for claims that are necessary to implement XAML, without having to sign a license, pay any fee or inform Microsoft.

How irrevocable is ‘irrevocable?’
On March 12, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) published a paper that outlines what Microsoft says it promises compared to what SFLC believes it actually promises. SFLC claims that a provision defining covered specifications considerably weakens the OSP. It reads: “New versions of previously covered specifications will be separately considered for addition to the list.”

The SFLC reasons that Microsoft’s narrow definition of the covered specifications infers that no future versions of those specifications are guaranteed coverage by the OSP. In short, each new version is subject to Microsoft’s approval on a case-by-case basis.

According to the SFLC, Microsoft can effectively revoke the promise that it had applied to a prior version of a particular specification.

Gray Knowlton, a group product manager for the Microsoft Office system characterized the SFLC’s analysis as a disappointing surprise in a March 13 blog post titled “A disappointing surprise from the SFLC.” He admitted that it was true that OSP only applies to listed versions of a covered specification, but noted that it was “unusual”  to automatically include all future versions of a specification in such a license, and pointed out that IBM has a pledge that is similar to Microsoft’s OSP.

IBM does indeed offer a unilateral non-assertion promise, known as the Interoperability Specifications Pledge, which covers more than 150 specifications and protocols. Sun Microsystems has a similar pledge that it refers to as a “Non-Assertion Covenant” which selectively adopts new versions of covered specifications.

Related Search Term(s): Microsoftopen sourceXAML

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