Open Source

10 things the new Microsoft Open Technologies initiative needs to do

Can Microsoft Open Technologies forge a successful relationship with the open source community? Jack Wallen thinks so -- if it takes the right steps.

Microsoft just announced its new arm, Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc. This portion of Microsoft will be working toward better integration between open source and Microsoft technologies. On paper, this sounds like a great idea. The execution of this plan could go a long way toward forging a new era for Microsoft in the eyes of open source developers.

Naturally, I have a few ideas for the president, Jean Paoli, and for the Open Technologies initiative that I think could really help them ensure a grand success with this project -- from the perspective of the open source community as well as Microsoft itself.

1: Uphold standards across the board

This has been a sticky issue for Microsoft for a long time. Its lack of adherence to standards has caused issues for a number of open source projects. One of the first things Microsoft should do is pledge to finally fall in line with open standards. I understand this could hit the company where it lives -- Microsoft Office -- but its Office bottom line is already getting hit by Google Docs and LibreOffice. Why not bridge this gap and play nice with all the other kids on the playground?

2: Roll some open source apps into Small Business Server

Okay, I know I'll get flamed for this (for a number of reasons), but Small Business Server includes some really bad services. Wouldn't it make perfect sense to roll in some of the open source services that are superior to the equivalent Microsoft product? Imagine if SBS came equipped with Apache, PHP, and MySQL!

3: Offer a little PR and marketing to open source

One of the biggest issues with open source is word of mouth. If people don't know about your product, they can't use it. This is an issue with some many DIY and smaller projects -- getting the word out. Most (if not all) open source projects do not have the budget for marketing and PR.

4: Help Wine developers get more apps business-ready

Wine developers could stand to benefit the most from this initiative. And with Wine developers benefitting, Microsoft would gain more software sales. Of course, third parties would also enjoy some benefits. Imagine if applications like Photoshop could be sold prepackaged with Wine, so that Linux users could simply purchase the software and install!

5: Allow major open source projects better access to Windows code

I imagine that many open source developers would love to have easy access to Windows code. Why? No more reverse engineering, no more being behind any sort of eight ball causing application development to slow down. With better access to the Windows source code, open source developers could not only further their own projects, but they could help out Windows projects as well. A veritable win-win.

6: Fund an open source project or two

This is huge. If Microsoft can funnel a bit of cash into some of the open source projects best suited for business, those projects could really begin to flourish. But this should not come with some strange contract tying developers to the scope and purpose of Microsoft's designs. Naturally, Microsoft would funnel these funds only to projects that would directly benefit both sides of the golden coin -- that's perfectly understandable.

7: Extend its reach to the desktop

I know, this one is crazy. Why would Microsoft want to help the Linux desktop along? It probably wouldn't. But as far as the Linux and open source community are concerned, this olive branch would be a seriously impressive gesture. What could Microsoft do to help the Linux desktop? For one thing, it could help build bridges between open source developers and desktop hardware vendors. But this relationship could go both ways, with each camp helping the other further their desktop developments.

8: Offer workshops to open source developers for integrating with Microsoft products

I would love to see this happen: Microsoft and open source developers working side by side. Why would this be necessary? Not that either camp is the better developer, but if Microsoft developers could help open source developers more easily integrate into their APIs and systems, it would be a significant benefit for both sides.

9: Insist hardware developers release their specs to open source developers

Microsoft still has enough influence in the industry to pull this off. Open source has always had to dance around hardware hurdles, making it appear to lag behind competitors. With Microsoft insisting that hardware vendors release their specs, open source developers wouldn't have to suffer these slings and arrows any longer.

10: Create a committee to develop tools for open source software to communicate with Exchange

Exchange is one of the biggest problems for open source software. Yes, there are tools to enable the connection between Exchange and various open source applications, but they are mostly unstable and unreliable. Having a solid bridge between open source groupware apps and Exchange would be a major milestone.

Building bridges

I look forward to seeing what Mr. Paoli brings to the table with this initiative. There have been plenty of instances where promises were made, but this time Microsoft is actually putting a budget behind the project. And we all know when money like that talks -- people listen. The open source community should be excited about the near future. If this works out, some amazing things could develop!


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


not a single saved soul to counter even one statement? really?


Okay, I'll bite. Just once. #1: MS Office being hit by G-Docs/LibreOffice. Office 2010's biggest competitor is Office 2007, O15's biggest competitor will be Office 2010. GoogleDocs & LibreOffice are the equivalent of an F117A blip on the radar. Just because I live in the desert doesn't mean that the whole world is a sandy place. #2: That would be stupid. First, MySQL is owned by Oracle. I should stop right here, but there's more. Apache is great on Linux, IIS is great on Windows. If PHP is your thing, then it runs great on IIS. Don't know if they'll include PHP in Windows, but it surely is being added to Azure (along with Java and Node.js). A friend of mine put up a Joomla! site on Windows+PHP+SQL-Server-Express - it was his first time, he had a lot of concerns, but the client demanded it. To his surprise, even under load the performance was comparable to the hundreds of other Joomla! sites he had deployed. Time for some to come out of the dark ages folks. #5: The API documentation is really good, not perfect, but among the best out there. In many languages too. Seems like reading comprehension or competency is the problem here. Do the same developers have access to the OSX or iOS code or the AWS code or the GAE code? Each OS or platform has it's own strengths and weaknesses, learn from the docs, others, and experience. #6: They are. Do your homework. #8: They are. Do your homework. I suppose they could do more. #9: Persecution complex here? Just asking. Hardware developers aren't born with a hatred towards OSS, they need to see value in doing what you ask. Make a compelling case and convince them, then it will happen. If OSS developers want something, go earn it. #10: Huh? Exchange ActiveSync protocol documentation is publicly available. Seems like a competency problem here if the OSS developers can't write a good enough implementation of the protocol. All the mobile phone hardware and OS folks have done it, is there anyone holding back the OSS developers? If you got this far and your blood isn't boiling, contact me. :) I'm not a fan of OSS nor do I hate it. It's just one way of making code available to its end-users. It has its pros and cons, just like anything else. And, before you guys go off the deep end, I know plenty of developers/non-developers in OSS as well as proprietary source, working at startups to large enterprises. I really don't care if you believe it or not, it doesn't change any facts. Bottom line is, if Jack and the rest of the OSS fans believe that OSS has finally arrived to the level of enterprises like Microsoft/Apple/Google, then demonstrate it with real code. Want respect, earn it. Want anything, earn it. It's the real world, nobody owes you nothing. P.S. Jack's looking to stir the pot, he got it.


I think a lot of effort will go into open source projects developed in .NET (and other Microsoft technologies). It's so obviously good for MS creating a flourishing ecosystem.


Well, then I will run Linux instead.


I see #10 as an example for #8. I have a hard time seeing how [2-4,6,7] would add any value to Microsoft, so why would they want to do those things? While #9 wouldn't offer in direct value-add either, it would cost them very little and would garner considerable goodwill and gratitude from the open source community. ron


The others probably will not. But I like the idea, and I'm glad they are out there. Hopefully someone from Microsoft will be reading it.


How about dropping the mysterious claims of patent infringment against Linux and Andriod? Or if they can't do that at least tell everyone what those are specifically? Every Andriod Samsung device has an artificially inflated price becaues MS threatens Samsung with law suites over this supposed infringment. If you can't do any of that MS, how about growing a pair and trying to challenge Andriod/Google directly?


Giving opensource folks (legal) access to windows sources would be jumped upon by the reverse-engineerers developing ReactOS. This could hurt Microsoft in the jugular. Wine would be positive as stated in the article. So would the LUC (unified kernel) project which overlaps with both wine and reactos. While all could help sales of microsoft software, the users of all three like their stuff for free. Goodwill and positive name recognition are also business assets. With the big 'G' replacing the big 'I' and big 'M' (which remain nameless :-) ) as the "evil empire," one can see this point in live action.