Open Source at Microsoft: some thoughts

Bill Hilf participation to OSCON 2007 raised up contrasting “sentiments”, as seen from the Tim O’Reilly post on, and from Groaklaw to Miguel de Icaza known voices from the Open Source blogosphere keep joining the conversation.

Game of Life Game of Life by Demirtunc

Hilf announced a new Microsoft’s Open Source portal, talking about Open Source from a Microsoft’s perspective, and that they were going to submit shared source licenses to OSI for the approval process.

Reading Open Source @ Microsoft FAQ, it is pretty clear that the portal is not (yet) part of a new strategy, but a medium toward a goal: accomplishing heterogeneous customers’ (and partners) needs. Nonetheless, as far as Microsoft’s partners will be progressively embracing open source technologies, I bet Microsoft will turn this into a long term strategy. Since Microsoft’s business is mostly about infrastructural software, they might get advantage of the pervasive capillarity of Microsoft’s partners (750.000) to foster collaborative development over their proprietary technologies.

Of a different sign, the decision to submit shared licenses to the OSI approval process: reading Rosenberg’s post at Port25 it is clear that Microsoft understands the impact of its move:

As we look forward to the next three years, we already see the needs of our constituents driving our priorities for licensing, infrastructure, and process. Although open source at Microsoft and the OSI are two different animals, I would submit to you that both are at a point in their maturity where their constituencies need to become more involved to maintain growth. [..]

So what about the flip side of the OSI becoming a membership organization? Could they really be voted out of existence or rendered ineffective? It doesn’t seem likely to me. Participation in the OSI and adherence to OSI licensing guidelines and Open Source definitions is entirely voluntary. If it isn’t serving the best interests of the community, the community will go elsewhere. Anyone considering an effort to “vote the organization into the ground” would surely realize that such heavy handedness would be self-defeating. That’s not to say that a new membership structure wouldn’t lead to change, but I believe that these changes would have to be the result of vigorous consensus building and that’s probably not a bad thing.

Shall we see Microsoft joining the new OSI, in the very next future?

I wish to thank Robin Good to ask me an opinion on the subject through his last invention, Robin Good World News, a web-tv channel collecting independent video news from around the world.

Technorati Tags: Open Source Strategies, Commercial Open Source, Microsoft, robingoodtv