Saturday, May 10, 2008

Microsoft makes its peace with open source software

Microsoft appears to be warming to open source software (OSS) over the past few years. It seems like a lifetime ago -- 2001, actually -- that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was calling Linux a “a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” And Redmond's saber-rattling about unspecified patent violations seems to have quieted down considerably.

Sometimes the software world feels like the weather in New England -- just wait a while, and things will change. Now Microsoft has a new site detailing its relationship with OSS. And the thing is, it really does have one these days. Surf over and see for yourself.

You may be wondering, What's Microsoft's angle? A glance at the site's FAQ reveals this:

The Microsoft open source strategy is focused on helping customers and partners be successful in today's heterogeneous technology world. This includes increasing opportunities for business partners regardless of the underlying development model. In addition, it includes increasing opportunities for developers to learn and create by combining community-oriented open source with traditional commercial approaches to software development.

In other words, as Microsoft General Manager of Platform Strategy Bill Hilf puts it, Microsoft wants to make OSS a legitimate and important part of Microsoft's strategy and thinking. Don't expect them to open up the source code for Windows anytime soon, but at least this shows that Microsoft knows open source isn't going away (hence the language about “today's heterogeneous technology world”). Better to make the best of it instead of being left in the dust.

The FAQ adds that CodePlex, Microsoft's open source project hosting website, and Port 25, its public portal for the Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft, will continue to exist and provide ways for the Java world to use Microsoft and open source technologies together.

The new Microsoft site represents Microsoft's expansion of interest and positioning relative to OSS. It’s very positive and contributes to a larger case for OSS in the enterprise and in Microsoft's own accounts.

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