There was a day when Microsoft's confidential internal documents had to be leaked in order to show the company's views on open source (dubbed the "Halloween Documents" by Eric Raymond). Not so anymore. We haven't had a leak in a few years, but we've had more information than ever on what Microsoft intends to do about open source.
Unfortunately, the older Microsoft gets, the more complex its relationship with open source becomes, as the following "Halloween Documents" demonstrate:
- Microsoft is willing to play by open-source rules. The company earned approval from the Open Source Initiative of two of its licenses.
- Microsoft is hiring open-source talent. Rob Conery of SubSonic fame just went, but he's not the first. Microsoft knows it needs open-source DNA.
- Microsoft has also been looking to bring open-source development processes to the company. It has learned that it's development model is no longer delivering.
- Microsoft has been more open about its . We've known for some time that MSN Messenger and other products use open source. Now Microsoft is not hiding the fact (as much).
- Microsoft is increasingly viewing Windows and other Microsoft technologies as platforms for open-source applications. Microsoft has a hard time remembering to be a platform at times, but for companies like SugarCRM, JBoss, Alfresco, MySQL, and others, it's a platform that many of their customers expect.
At the same time, Microsoft has showed the not-so-conciliatory side of its open-source strategy at times:
- Microsoft has specifically threatened Red Hat over patent infringement, but its threats against Linux and open source have been far more wide-ranging than that, claiming that Linux violates 235 of its patents.
- Microsoft continues to produce misleading and erroneous information on Linux. The same is true of .
- Microsoft is trying to look like it's all about interoperability through futile projects like Mono, Moonlight, and patent agreements with Novell and also-ran Linux vendors. But these deals are really nothing more than a way to tax open-source innovation to ensure open source is hobbled by Microsoft's fees.
And so on. Microsoft is much more open about its intentions vis-a-vis open source. That doesn't mean it's any more supportive of open source. It just means that it's getting easier to glean from public documents how the company feels about open source.
We don't need Halloween Documents to read the tea leaves on Microsoft and open source. We just need to pay attention to what the company is doing. In the open. On an increasing basis.