How Serious Is Microsoft's Openness Pledge?

Lora Bentley

It's inevitable that the open source world is generally skeptical of Microsoft's promises of increased openness and better interoperability. After all, open source leaders have considered Microsoft "The Evil Empire" for years. blogger Matt Asay says Redmond's promises don't go far enough, but even still, the company should be applauded for steps in the right direction. Linux Foundation executive director, Jim Zemlin, points out that Microsoft has come a long way from the day when CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux "a cancer." He warns, however, that Microsoft is also known for "doing the bare minimum to placate regulators and the courts."


Zemlin continues:

By choosing patent licensing terms for their protocols that are obviously incompatible with open source licensing practices can lead one to believe that Microsoft may be creating an appearance of openness to an unsophisticated market of public opinion knowing that interoperability with open source will not be achieved. My fear is that the pronouncements will not be honored in spirit and the words may actually be intended to make Microsoft appear more open than it is.

But ZDNet blogger and veteran open source journalist Dana Blankenhorn has a different take. Microsoft is serious about openness. More than that, Microsoft's new strategy is to "kill open source with kindness." He explains:

Rather than trying to trap people with its proprietary code, Microsoft plans to give people what they know they want from open source, support it better than an open source project can, and get its enterprise market share back... But wouldn't Microsoft's support, its development strength, and its enterprise hand-holding make it a threat to every open source project on the planet...?

It certainly wouldn't bother Microsoft to get market share back, but it seems that this is about more than taking back market share. It's about remaining viable in a changing software market. If the software behemoth needs to open up to do it, then that's what Ballmer and company will do.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 5, 2008 3:37 AM Shadowfire Shadowfire  says:
This is the second article in a short time that I have seen this FUD being spouted.The fact is... Until Microsoft makes themselves transparent and cross-plate form-able with consistence and cohesion among other office suites and programs. I believe it's call better interoperability. That means - actually working with developers of other platforms and OS's. No more proprietary file formats that lock in programmers and users a like, they will still be the Microsoft the people love to dislike.Microsoft has only cause their own hurts for closing off the reset of the worlds developers who choose not to be closed in. They are now paying the price because other software companies and techniques are over taking them and they have no other way but to conform to the environment that they originally created through their own BLOWBACK! Prime example is DirectX (works for a season... but not after other companies such as Sony decide to make their own development software and graphic engines - oh gee and it's open source.. imagine that)There is a lot that Open Source has proven even in the over abundance of miss information of that has be spouted from almost every news source paid off by Microsoft to spread disinformation.The fact is that people are getting wiser and not buying in to the miss information that people have been spouting out against Open Source and Linux.In fact, you will see more and more a lot more companies and people cozzing up to the wonderfully useful programs and techniques used in Open Source and Linux.....Especially Microsoft... because now the public is actually getting wiser and checking the earmarks - if you will. Reply

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