Three insights from Brad Smith of MSFT

The General Counsel of Microsoft, Brad Smith, is here in Ames Courtroom
at Harvard Law School tonight.  He offers a wide range of
insights, geared fittingly to the many students here thinking about how
their careers will unfold over the next half-century, about the future
of the Internet, software, and innovation.  Three jump out in
particular:

* INNOVATION: After praising the historic role of the patent system in
the United States, he called for patent reform to improve the quality
of the USPTO review of prospective patents and restriction of abuses of
the patent litigation system.  He notes that MSFT spends $100+ on
defending against patent lawsuits.

* CONSUMER CONFIDENCE:  He’s called for fundamental privacy
legislation.  He’d like to see a national law that ensures
transparency for consumers as to information collected about them,
allows for access to that information, and puts consumers in control of
what’s done with it.  (These things tie up with the work that
we’ve been doing with the Identity Metasystems project, led by John
Clippinger and part and parcel of the Identity Gang.  Mr. Smith
also calls for security standards for consumer data.  A fine
lawyer himself, he cites MacPherson v. Buick,
a 1916 case which established product liability in the automobile
industry as part of the trajectory toward consumer confidence in their
industry.

* INDUSTRY COLLABORATION: He notes that the industry has come to a
stage in its development where collaboration is essential across
firms.  The history of the railroad provides a nice illustration,
he argues.  Individuals need to be able to communicate in a much
more seamless way.  Interoperability has become essential to the
computing industry, and to Microsoft in particular.  “Change we
have,” he says.  Coop-etition, is the new watchword.  Firms
should still differentiate themselves, but should also find ways to
collaborate.  He’s got the chops to make this statement, as the
man who has negotiated an end to many of the anti-trust hassles the
company has faced and corresponding protocol-related collaboration
schemes.  He sees a bridge that will be built between the open
source and proprietary software development communities — both of
which, he says, are here to say.

I’m eager to ask him what he thinks of the great news announced by his colleague Ray Ozzie.

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