Open Source

Microsoft's new open source initiative

Microsoft has formed the Microsoft Open Technologies arm and is ready to help facilitate the relationship between open source and MS. Are you ready to don your tinfoil cap? Here is Jack Wallen's take.

It's way past April Fools, so this is not a trick. on April 12 Microsoft announced they were folding their Interoperability Strategy Team into a brand new subsidiary called Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc. The new team is headed by Jean Paoli and will consist of about fifty to seventy-five full and part-time employees. Their goal? To facilitate Microsoft's relationships with the open-source community and developers. This will make it faster and easier for Microsoft to engage with and help open source programs and teams.

There will be those out there that scoff at the idea and even don their conspiratorial hats. I, for one, believe this is an honest effort on Microsoft's part to help bridge the communities. Why? Well, honestly, for them I'm sure it's about the bottom line. Whether you believe it or not, open source has become an integral part of every day life for the vast majority of computer users on the planet. Apache, Wordpress, Drupal, MySQL, PHP... that list of systems and software goes on and on, and it's one that will only continue to grow and continue to become even more ingrained into the landscape of technology. Open source has finally reached a point where other technology companies must either embrace it or suffer the possible consequences of being left behind.

But what does this mean for the parties involved? I would venture to think for Microsoft it means building a better reputation and improving interoperability with the tools that web-based society depends upon. This is about continuing the push to the cloud and to do that Microsoft must depend upon open source technology. Microsoft needs to have this relationship on solid ground or they risk a possible outcome of having to re-invent a number of wheels they don't want to have to focus on.

As for the open source community -- it's not just validation that they have become just as important to today's computing society as is Microsoft. This is also about driving a partnership with the single biggest software company in the world. It's about leverage. But most importantly, it's about building a bridge to ensure their products continue to easily work with Microsoft products. This could mean that the constant (and inevitable) cycle of Microsoft breaking OS software would end. The need for reverse engineering could be a thing of the past.

One thing we all have to keep in mind is that Microsoft is in the top twenty contributors to the Linux kernel. Even before the creation of this new team, Microsoft saw the value of open source. But now, they have an entire "company" on their payroll dedicated to working for and with open source technologies. This isn't Microsoft glad-handing -- this is serious. Microsoft has finally realized the future of technology will be a conglomerate effort and that conglomeration will include open source. Microsoft isn't the one-man wrecking machine it once was. As technology pushes further and further away from the old model, open source will become more and more crucial. The proprietary world is seeing this now and the open source community finally has an upper hand in a major game. If that hand is played well, everyone will win.

About

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

43 comments
rhrs
rhrs

Open source is not Microsoft partner. Microsoft will always do whatever it can to break, divide and rule, the Open Source Community. Just see the problem with software patents. This will be good for a few projects and destructive for the vast majority of open source. Do you remeber the FUD story?

palmeri
palmeri

They probably think it is better to have a small room on the inside looking out than it is to have a football pitch on the outside trying to look in..... (always keep you enemies/competition close.....you need to be in arms reach if you want to use dagger.... plus it's also easier to insight disharmany and revolt once you are a trusted member of "the group" !!!.

gkiefferjfk2
gkiefferjfk2

Microsoft is all about MAKE LOADS OF $MONEY$... Thus going OPEN SOURCE for them simply means they get a FRESH new ideas from all the OPEN-SOURCE people & then change a few things here & there and they now have a new LOOK-a-LIKE product that they can sell for $97.95 HOW DO I KNOW SOMETHING LIKE THIS COULD BE TRUE?? Back in WINDOWS 3.1 days there was this program that I found that was FREEWARE and it was a SHELL that you could use instead of the WINDOWS 3.1 shell [system.sys file insert where you would have seen shell= [left blank loads default WINDOWS 3.1 shell]] This freeware had a START BUTTON [on the top] and all the FAV DIRECTORIES [on the top] and PLACES [on the top] and you could have up to 8 windows open at any one time. YOU could do FILE ASSOCIATIONS - example === file.zip when clicked would open the unarchiver UNZIP program. I would use that like it was the BIBLE... Then comes WIN95..... DARN.... The shell was almost word & directory the same thing as the FREEWARE version BUT all the menus & START button were located at the bottom of the screen... [The bottom bar]. It was the exact thing but in REVERSE... AT THE BOTTOM instead of being at the top of the screen [the top bar] THUS all MICROSOFT wants is to find the next greatest FREEWARE & edit it a little to make it into the MICROSOFT LINE OF WARES...

FXEF
FXEF

What Open Source products does MS currently have on the table?

parnote
parnote

If Microsoft wants to insure interoperability of its products with the rest of the computing world, then why not start with supporting established open standards -- something they have yet to do fully. This news makes me nervous. Obviously, Microsoft thinks that the open source community is something to fear. Otherwise, they wouldn't be trying to find or blaze inroads with it. Maybe it's that Microsoft is looking for the next victim to steal code from -- something that they've been caught doing in the past. The bad thing about it is that we may never know the extent that they have (or may) steal from the open source community, given the closed nature of their source code. I simply don't trust letting the fox into the chicken coop.

kdpawson
kdpawson

IMHO it's because of Redhat, they finally realise that OpenSource companies can make big $$

rubinthomas
rubinthomas

I think this statement "One thing we all have to keep in mind is that Microsoft is in the top twenty contributors to the Linux kernel" is wrong and its the other way around it was the UNIX foundation that gave its Linux its kernel and MS took some of the feature and embedded it into the Windows Kernel. In fact the NT version was done by the former Unix system programmers that MS hired.

paulo.sedrez
paulo.sedrez

M$ lost the new technology wagon (cell phones / pads) to Linux (Android) and Apple, it is loosing steadily in the server and application platform (browsers) market and it MUST adapt, under the risk of becoming irrelevant. Their Embrace & Extend strategies does not work in the Open Source world ("In a world without walls, who needs windows?"), since non-interoperability leads to isolation - which is already hurting them, market-wise. They already have a big profit in their locked-in markets, but those are shrinking day by day.

climber333
climber333

Open source has grown to the point of becoming a threat to Microsoft (how many of us have been waiting and hoping this would happen?). Microsoft is not going to open their greedy arms and welcome us all in. They are only about money and their past shows how they treat competition. They know they can't compete with the best programmers in the world (not on their payroll) who are committed to open source. Combine open source and the money-mad machine and you'll see a whole lot of slimy activities to steal, cry infringement rights (in our "new world" they'll sue successfully once they can zero in on a target who is now committed to a deal). I don't know all they have up their sleeves, but their past hasn't just disappeared or magically changed so quickly. I saw them rise and know their story and I simply don't trust them. Of course, that's my opinion and I'm glad we can still all have one.

mark
mark

Microsoft is taking a beating from every corner. If they dont embrace their biggest rival and actually work together they will be another Novell. Still in business but not the powerhouse they were because of stubborn propritery attitude.

oldmicro
oldmicro

Microsoft's past is full of acts of jumping copyright, patents, and contracts while assimilating every kind of technology from "partners" without the agreed upon terms of the contracts, and then stalling the resulting lawsuits until the other company went out of business. With OS who is able to endure the cost of suing Microsoft for Copyleft infringement? Yes this is a survival of Microsoft move, and for now they will look like they are playing fair, but Microsoft did not become the giant that they are by playing fair. Just look at their past. Microsoft is a software predator, and I see no reason why they would change now.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

...and they see the handwriting on the wall, their game will be up soon, and don't be the last to the party. Again.

cdaaawg
cdaaawg

First of all Microsoft's "contributions" to the kernel are purely self serving -- they have no interest in furthering Open Source technology. I see this as simply a ploy to garner favor with the media and clueless management types. As usual, they are only interested in padding the bottom line by pushing their own technology down our throats under the guise of interoperability.

emenau
emenau

Can someone licence his/her code as GPL2 or 3? or is it more like resticted non-free 'freedom' join ExtremelyFluffy (aka Microsoft) and then hope they don't pull out your legs. Don't give your code to the devil... not even if they promise to be nice. Walk away from this and never look back.

toodevastate
toodevastate

The momentum of Opensource is reaching critical mass level. It will get strong enough to sweep even massive obstacles out of it's way. Microsoft, whatever ulterior motives it may have, is not stupid. They realize they must, "play pretty", or get crushed, (even if it's down the road a ways.)

mistersoft101
mistersoft101

....'open-friendly'.... does think mean maybe they'll rethink they're WOA (sorry, Windows RT laptop and tablet hardware partner 'shotgun-wedding' and instigate a change in their partnership/windows-logo T&C's ....what I mean is their coercive requirement that Windows 8 on Arm (Windows RT) be 'welded' to the new (laptop&tablet) ARM based hardware(s) via 'Secure'-Boot...I.E. by FORBIDDING secureboot's Custom Mode on these ARM systems. I think they won't be changing that AT ALL.... and therefore this Open Technologies team probably counts for nothing! Forcibly keeping linux competition off these new hardware systems may not be illegal, because sure, Apple (among other hardware competitors) get to keep their hardware and ecosystems all to themselves too...........but it is Immoral.. think about it.. they will be FORCING the (Windows)ARM tablet and laptop manufacturers to be Windows only, with no room...or possibility for Linux (native Linux, not within a VM) on these hardware solutions. If ARM as a hardware platform really takes off, well, it already has.. then these form factors..on ARM.. become 'The New PC' as it were - and as I've said, Microsoft it perfectly legally allowed to do this, which is such a shame. Ideally I would say they SHOULD NOT be allowed -purely for the sake of allowing Linux to compete(ON THE SAME HARDWARE) but the same would have to go for Apple and they're hardware (I know you can boot Linux on all the current Laptop models, I have no experience of their tablets). Please Microsoft, 'for the sake of OPENness' and all this OPEN-loving you're obviously wishing to proclaim, rescind your NO SECUREBOOT CUSTOM MODE requirement of your new Windows RT(WOA) hardware partners!! Oh go on! ..you love OPEN really...! (Do you??)

alzie
alzie

I find it hard to trust them, considering their past anti competitive practices. And, theyre pushing UEFI to the exclusion of being able to boot Linux? I feel very uneasy about it. We ll have to wait and see. Hopefully, they wont cause too much damage.

miker31
miker31

Microsoft cannot be taken seriously as a contributor to open source while they continue to claim ownership of Linux. I'll take them seriously when they stop trying to extort money from Linux distributors.

pkrudnik
pkrudnik

Next they will be working with Open Source and trying to charge for it in Office and Windows. If they already haven't! I don't think they should have their hand in this unless they really are trying to help. Even then, they are getting torn down from Open Source and everyone is getting tired of their garbage products, BSOD and all the other cool things MS software does. Open Source shouldn't allow MS to do this, they are trying to backstab. MS needs to get their software straight before they start venturing into other ideas to steal.

lsatenstein
lsatenstein

The question that was raised was why Microsoft is contributing to Linux? The answer is "Self Preservation". What Self Preservation implies is that in recognizing the cloud and cloud software services, Microsoft is moving all versions of it's ERP software to the cloud. While MS herself provides servers in the cloud, the majority and the servers that are most capable are open source. In a No-SQL or MS SQL world, the interface is via TCP/IP, ergo, it is important that servers that host VMware, or Microsoft's VM system, or whatever, can fully support MS ERP systems and MS Office software and MS Sharepoint. MS is thinking that the ERP software is generating revenue, not the operating system platform. Ergo, assure that some of that software runs on Linux.

ridouta
ridouta

I think that this is an acceptance that Open Source is growing and is here to stay. Nobody, even giants like Microsoft and Oracle can now stand back, ignore and even rubbish it. OS is making inroads into almost every area of software. Even relational database technology is starting to see competition from the so-called no-SQL database players. OS is bringing disruptive technology into so many areas that even MS could not ignore it. If your next software technology choice runs on Linux, then Windows must be displaced!

dryflies
dryflies

"The Snake" (1968) by Al Wilson tells of a tender-hearted woman who finds a dying, half-frozen snake on the side of the road. Taking the snake home, she revives it and hugs it. The snake later bites her, then says to her as she lies dying in disbelief, "Silly woman, you knew I was a snake before you brought me in!"

ob1kanob
ob1kanob

Not born yesterday. Open source cannot exist in a large corporate atmosphere. It will kill creativity. Besides, MS is too big and fat to allow creativity. Creativity demands that you be lean and mean.

pgit
pgit

MS finally realized they can get a lot of people handing them something for nothing. But it is possible they're doing a rope-a-dope here, they have enough clout to alter the courses of development, and might be thinking of leading the marching band into the dead end alley like the parade in "Animal House."

george
george

Sure their friendly and nice now; that's how they do it. Here is the basic Microsoft Mantra: Dominate all markets and those who resist make friends with so you can undermine them later. Microsoft is an old dog and as the saying goes you can't teach old dogs new tricks. Here is a recent example. Windows Vista and Windows 7 changed the CIF or Samba protocol to be "less" compatible with the rest of the world. This results in a problem communicating in a fundamental network way with the rest of society: Older Windows, Mac, Linux, and Printers. Now why would they have done that? Microsoft has always tried to be "compatible" with others right?

droidfromsd
droidfromsd

Nah, just plain good business. Remember the old adage. keep your friends close and your ememies closer.

geofer50
geofer50

Microsoft is only there for the dollars. If they were to run their business like they tell us then there would never need to be updates or new OS as all previous OS would be compatible with each other and work well with each other.

danbi
danbi

The primary reason - Microsoft is out of ideas already. They try to cover everything, only to discover others are away ahead in most interesting and profitable areas. Microsoft is also in dire need to clean up their image and regain some trust. They also try to implant their technology in the various open source projects, possibly owith far-reaching patent abuse plans... Open source does not mean patent free!

Ternarybit
Ternarybit

And as for open source, Microsoft has a much longer history than this of dumping tons of money into it. This is not exactly a startling revelation.

rpollard
rpollard

I don't believe they have arrived at the land of milk and honey and they are converted munchkins searching for a beautiful flower. They have a dark purpose. Maybe it's to infiltrate like communism in a democracy but I don't believe they have good intentions. Otherwise, their fearless leaders of past and present wouldn't have ridiculed and dismissed open source. Those same leaders are still in charge.

phil_simon
phil_simon

I see just about everything these days through the lens of platforms and ecosystems. Long story short: Microsoft is finally realizing that open APIs, SDKs, and development communities increase the rate of innovation while concurrently decreasing its cost. I agree with the other commenter about the Zynga/Facebook frenemy relationship. Phil Simon www.theageoftheplatform.com

musicman12176
musicman12176

I think that they're hedging their bets, and that they'll play the same game that Zynga is doing. They'll watch developments, and anything that turns in to a home run, they'll shamelessly copy, and make it theirs.

PhilM
PhilM

Which particular one? The one that impressed me was that people wouldn't like a Linux desktop as it looks too different from Windows and will confuse them. Isn't it amazing how so many Netbooks and smartphones that have been sold which don't have a Windows desktop. There are many people who have a financial vested interest to keep the Status Quo. Ah well, whatever you want ... :-)

PhilM
PhilM

Did anyone notice that these programmers had been working on VMS? One letter away from WNT? Just like HAL is one letter away from IBM. I do like subtle humour.

ed34222
ed34222

Check the licensing structures of the various projects. Patents are often placed at risk by open source licenses. It's already preventing some very useful projects from being more widely adopted. No doubt it will prevent MS from engaging in some projects, as well. All & All, it's hard to see any significant down side to their increased involvement. Well, as long as they can manage to keep their coders away from the memory management logic.

sicurobts
sicurobts

All businesses, by their very definition, have dark purposes. Their single, respective goal is to destroy the competition and make money. PERIOD. However, Microsoft is realizing they have been too complacent as of late and they need, not want, Open source to thrive in the next decades. A new, morphing, elastic, technology-driven business model has taken shape and it is a melting pot of many technologies both proprietary and open-source.

rduncan
rduncan

Unless you can name the dark purpose you speak of I would suggest it remain in the eye of the beholder. this is a typical Jack article with no substance, designed to make the comments light up with another Open Source v Microsoft tiresome pissing contest. at least Jack, you mention MS is a huge contributor to the Linux kernel (top 20? - try top 3) what about that IBM are a huge contributor to the other technologies you mention. MS are simply moving towards IT as a service- anybody working in IT already knows this - don't they?

sparky52
sparky52

Take a good look at Windows 8, I feel that it has that linux look and feel to it, enough said there. Microsoft see's that the time has come to either join in on the quest, or be swallowed, blunt put. They have been dragging there OS for years now. The I'm King Sh** atitude that they wore for years is no longer a threat, open source is kickin' *ss and taking numbers. The operating systems desktop and server, that are being produced by a few companies, with there comunity help are starting to take a major share of the market. Free comunity developed OS's are really breaking through the barrier. Case in point, I run Ubuntu server on both of my servers, and Ubuntu on my other 2 desktops, My laptop is the only windows machine left in the house, and that is because I need a Windows machine to run the software that I use to make my $$. It is not that I am cheap or looking for "Free", it is just practical. This linux box races the internet faster that my laptop does. Has all that I need to use in programs. So... the time is here, the giant Goliath (MS) has giving a lot over the years, but the David's have thrown enough stones to not only be noticed but respected. And in order to advance, we must start to all play together nice, even if there is mistrust in the air, after everyone shows their cards, maybe the air will clear.

edwardtisdale
edwardtisdale

Doesn't the GNU say that if you are to use open source code, that it has to remain free for others? Microsoft can't anymore than anyone else.

climber333
climber333

You do understand the meaning of "Open Source" do you not?

sicurobts
sicurobts

They are just changing with the times.

PhilM
PhilM

IIRC, didn't uncle Steve call the open source community "Communists"? From a Capitalistic perspective, one would have thought that that was the best insult that he could give. And that should be taken as a compliment. Looks like the Capitalist has realised that he needs to work with the Communists to try and sell his products to them Who would have thought huh?