Open source evangelists will have a tough time processing the news this morning that Microsoft is inviting Mozilla developers to participate in a Windows Vista compatibility lab.
In all honesty, we are having a little trouble processing it ourselves.
Firefox, Mozilla's free Web browser, is in many ways the most successful open source rival to Microsoft, having now garnered as much as 15 percent of the worldwide browser market, according to some estimates. Mozilla is also deeply tied to Google, often heralded as the Microsoft-killer on the commercial end of the software spectrum. (Firefox is funded largely through advertising revenues shared by Google, which happens to be the default home page for the browser.)
The cynic in us tells us that Mozilla developers probably don't need Redmond's offer of lab space and 1:1 access to Vista developers to create a stable release of Firefox for the new OS -- they've done OK so far.
But it's still a remarkably open gesture by a company that not so long ago was calling open source a "cancer."
This latest announcement is more evidence Redmond recognizes that at least some open source applications, even those that compete directly with flagship Microsoft products like IE, are here to stay. To maintain its decades-long control of the desktop, Microsoft must play nice with these popular apps.