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.
News.com 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."
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.