22 November 2006

Office 2007 UI

Microsoft have announced the licensing behind the Office 2007 "ribbon-style" UI. The weirdest thing is you are not licensing the source code, you are licensing the "ideas". It seems related to their current intellectual property surge (with their recent deal with Novell).

The details are available from Jensen Harris's blog. The press release is here. The details for the license are here.

What it amounts to is this:
  • You are allowed to copy the UI style.
  • No source code is supplied.
  • You are not allowed to use the style if the application is in direct competition to a Microsoft product already using it (ie, a word processor).
  • Essentially Microsoft have to sign off on your version.
Here is a quote:
For those that want to build their own UI that takes advantage of our design guidelines, they will need a license.
I'm not entirely sure how you would show that you did not follow their guidelines which are available in order to implement a similar interface. And since the guidelines are available on the Internet it is impossible for it not to be found in Google searches and the suchlike.

I'm sorry, but this is a backdoor way to legitimise the idea of software patents, where they are identified with some sort of fuzzy or not so fuzzy description of something that most probably has prior art. I believe in the sharing of knowledge (this is not the same as sharing sourcecode necessarily).