Next week I’m leading the “Open Source, the Web, Interoperability, and Microsoft” panel at Mix07 in Vegas, my first Microsoft conference. Naturally, I’ve been pondering the topic so I don’t end up on stage with my pants around my ankles. The more I think about it, the more I think Microsoft loves open source—and not just because they’re fools if they don’t.
I know popular opinion has Microsoft cursing open source at every turn, but what do the facts indicate? Do they really despise something they clearly benefit from? I don’t think so—the folks in Redmond aren’t that short-sighted. In fact, I’ll give you seven reasons I think Bill and Co. love open source:
They include open source code in their products.
Have you forgotten the first TCP/IP implementation in Windows? It was based on open source code that Windows XP still contains remnants of. Need proof? Point your favorite hex editor at ftp.exe. You’ll find the 1983 copyright statement from the Regents of the University of California.
They support open source vendors.
MySQL, SugarCRM, Jboss, and many other open source development efforts benefit from Microsoft’s support through programs created to test and verify open source applications on Microsoft platforms.
They benefit from open source everyday.
Two words: free press. Microsoft gets tons of press from their “battle” with open source. This month alone there are over 2000 articles related to “Microsoft and open source.” Add countless blogs like mine, and the value of this free chatter goes through the roof.
They open source code.
No, not shared source. I’m referring to Microsoft’s Unix tools for Windows; they provide the source code to most of these tools. Sure, we all wish they would do more, but we should acknowledge what they’ve done to date.
They are adopting open source culture.
The Mix conference is billed as a “72 hour conversation.” Remind anyone of BarCamp? There are other examples: the Microsoft Community Blogs, Channel 9, CodePlex, etc. They’re embracing openness.
They aren’t threatened by open source.
Open source is not the threat; Linux is. Don’t confuse the two. Open source is growing rapidly, but Linux has several distinguishing features that make it the real challenger. It’s more mature than other projects, it has a larger, more organized developer base, and it’s well financed. IBM has spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing, distributing, and advertising Linux, not open source. Microsoft doesn’t fear open source; it fears what the competition can do with it.
They realize open source is their future.
Sure, Microsoft sometimes makes it easy for us to hate them, but aren’t as disconnected from the pulse of the open source community as you may think. Linux is causing issues for them in the market, and they’re working hard to keep up. They didn’t build their empire by not planning ahead—even the most closed-minded executive in Redmond realizes open source is in their future.
You all know I’m no Microsoft lover. I’m looking to maximize my opportunity at Mix07. I’ve given you seven things they have done. Now, you give me seven you wish they’d do, and I’ll address the panel with your feedback during our session. This way the conversation will be truly open to the community.