A blog for the enterprise open source community
Microsoft self interest is its commitment to open sourceJay Lyman, October 19, 2008 @ 4:22 pm ET
Microsoft continued its moves to make its Windows OS and other software more supportive and integrated with open source last week, releasing Web Application Installer software to facilitate development and use of popular Web applications, including open source software such as DotNetNuke web application framework, Drupal content management software, osCommerce e-commerce software and WordPress blogging software.
The release and Microsoft’s statements and stance are being viewed as both supportive and detrimental to open source. While I would agree developments such as these continue to blur the line between what is, or is not, an open source vendor, I do not agree with Microsoft’s contention that all software players are becoming ‘mixed-source’ companies. Sure, vendors and users seem to care less about whether the software they use, support, sell and pay for is open source or not, but those using open source to make products move faster and cost less, such as Red Hat, continue to differentiate themselves based primarily on open source.
I believe that Microsoft’s earnest intent is to make open source on Windows, ASP.Net and Silverlight as simple and supported as open source on Linux and Apache infrastructure, following on its previous movement toward open source. Would Microsoft benefit from making these newly-supported, open source pieces and products less efficient or integrated? Would it benefit from seeing them sway toward proprietary licensing and development? I don’t think so, since the company could already create that without open source. No, I belive Microsoft is genuinely looking to provide as good if not better support for open source software as anyone esle. Consider Drupal creator Dries Buyteart (also Drupal-based startup Acquia CEO) and his excitement at the prospect (even though he couldn’t test it since he didn’t have a Windows computer). Sure, Microsoft may be less inclined to offer its support in more competitive areas such as the OS with Linux or office software against OpenOffice.org. However, even in those cases we see recognition of reality and thus, collaboration, integration and support for open source from Microsoft.
For those who fear Microsoft’s talk of mixed-source means the company is looking to muddy the waters, a couple of things. First, there are a whole range of trends, issues and places — virtualization, SaaS, cloud computing, systems management, SOA, Web services, etc. — where the mixed-source mantra is getting pushed along quite well regardless of Redmond. Second, I have argued before Microsoft’s involvement in open source will rightfully draw the full and complete scrutiny of open source supporters, thus providing some good vetting to involvement by Microsoft and other proprietary players. In the end (and after several more confrontational approaches have failed), I think Microsoft may end up providing a significant paradigm for how proprietary software companies can successfully confront and coexist with open source.
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