HealthVault: becoming un-Microsoft?

What I have read this morning almost made me choke on my cheerios.

Neil Versel (one of the most in-the-loop Health IT journalist I know) turned me on to a blog post from Sean Nolan, that I obviously did not want to miss. The post, aptly titled Opening up the Vault revealed several important claims:

  • Microsoft is releasing a Java wrapper library under the OSI approved Microsoft Public License
  • Microsoft is releasing some .NET code under a read-only license (i.e. not open source)
  • Most importantly Microsoft is releasing the entire HealtVault XML interface specification under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise

I need to research the Microsoft Open Specification Promise, to say the least it appears that there is some confusion as to its legitimacy for FOSS developers. I have “call” into the Software Freedom Law Center, to see what their current evaluation of the promise is. Still the significance of this cannot be underestimated. Sean claims:

“With this information, developers will be able to reimplement the HealthVault service and run their own versions of the system.”

Don’t get me wrong, I trust Microsoft about as far as I can throw them (all of them… at once), but this is definitely a step in the right direction. It will take me some time to sort out just how meaningful a step.

This is a smart time to do this too. There is like a 90% probability that Google will be officially announcing its PHR effort at HIMSS. (Heck its been leaked already) By releasing an API, Microsoft is essentially challenging Google to do the same, and that could mean that hacktivists like myself could build arbitrary bridges between the two (now this is hopeful…) which would mean that Google and Microsoft’s systems would compete on merit rather than most-effective-lock-in.


4 thoughts on “HealthVault: becoming un-Microsoft?

  1. I think there are a lot of people in Microsoft who want to open source things, and, in a lot of ways, they’re getting to do just that. Like any other open source project, you can probably trust the intentions of the guy releasing it.

    Where we come into problems is patents. This is where no one trusts Microsoft–and for good reason, especially with Ballmer’s saber-rattling from a few years ago about Linux and its “hundreds of patent violations”. I don’t know what to think of this; this will either be a Big Problem in the future, or we’ll be stuck in this sort of Patent Stockpiles Cold War we’re in right now, or a MIRACLE will occur.

    I’m holding out for the miracle.

    Bottom line: MS-PL open source from Microsoft is as trustworthy as anywhere else; unfortunately permissive copyright licenses won’t protect us from the coming “software patent thermonuclear war.”

  2. I should also point out that Microsoft’s foray into “open” Office formats is a third perspective–if you’re worried about their honesty with publishing open specs, that would be a good place to look for perspective. Summary: not all positive.

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