In an interview with ITWire, Microsoft's general manager of Windows Server marketing and platform strategy, Bill Hilf, opened up about the recent shift in the company's attitude toward open source, software patents and litigation, as well as how Redmond approaches community development.
What he has to say isn't all that surprising, and to me it makes a lot of business sense. It may not make the company (or me, for that matter) popular with Richard Stallman and folks at the Free Software Foundation, but it seems Microsoft is doing what it can within its business model to address the increasing popularity of the open source development and business models. Here are some tidbits.
On open source and competition:
We compete specifically with things like Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The software that goes into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, we may or may not compete with at a feature level, but the real value of open source from Microsoft is understanding how community-developed software can happen on our platform and help grow our business ...
On community participation:
What we've been doing strategically is try to figure out how do we participate in that community as a good citizen so that we're in that sort of same value chain. We did the same thing at IBM. There's lots of participation of IBM in open source, but there's very little shared source code between IBM's shipping products and open source software.
On software patents and litigation
Would or could we ever litigate, yeah, sure, it's always an option. But it's the last option in the decision tree for us. Would we have to enforce it? Possibly yes. The key to that is to separate, people's, individuals' and groups' beliefs about software patents as an issue and then what is the current way that we do patent law in at least the United States. You may disagree with it, but there's a law for how we deal with patents.