Microsoft's Approach to Open Source


Awhile ago, when Microsoft was aggressively asserting its patent threats against Linux -- and also crafting a partnership agreement with Novell -- Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin described the company's approach as schizophrenic.


That conversation immediately came to mind when I saw this piece from vnunet.com: "Microsoft Warns of Open Source Threat." Huh? Didn't Sam Ramji just do a good will tour at EclipseCon, OSBC and then OSCON? (I quoted him as saying the heart of Microsoft is right in the middle of its open source activities.) And Microsoft just donated enough cash and code to the Apache Software Foundation to become a platinum-level sponsor.


The vnunet.com story says, in part:

Microsoft has warned of a growing threat to its business model from open source software. "A number of commercial firms compete with us using an open source business model by modifying and then distributing open source software to end users at nominal cost and earning revenue on complementary services and products," it said..."To the extent open source software gains increasing market acceptance, our sales, revenue and operating margins may decline."

So after all that conferencing and relationship-building, open source is now a threat to Microsoft? Maybe this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, and Microsoft's upper management needs to work on communication. Worst case scenario, of course, is Microsoft is talking from both sides of its mouth.


Actually, I don't think it's either of those. Not having seen the entire annual report, I can only speculate, of course, but my best guess is that the segment of the report quoted in the vnunet.com piece is included to explain to shareholders why Microsoft is moving into the open source arena. It's not a "warning" as much as it is a statement of fact.