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Open-source guru Ruby leaving IBM for Microsoft

Sam Ruby is leaving for Microsoft, which isn't surprising, but the fact that he has announced his departure before receiving a formal offer from Redmond is surprising.

It's increasingly common for prominent open-source developers to leave IBM or other open-source-friendly companies to try their luck at Microsoft. It's not common at all for them to blog about it before actually getting a formal offer.

Sam Ruby ETech

Yet that is what Sam Ruby, prominent Apache Software Foundation director and Atom developer, has done on his blog. Ruby was hired by IBM directly from Christopher Newport University in 1981 and has never left.

Until now. Or, rather, in about two weeks from now. Ruby writes:

I expect to receive a credible offer from Microsoft in the next two weeks. I, in no way, initiated the conversation, nor am I an any way unhappy with IBM.

We've discussed a number of possible roles, most of them focusing on open Web activities, either advocating their increased and correct use within Microsoft, and/or engaging in open Web communities on Microsoft's behalf.

Whatever the open-source development community's opinion of Microsoft, I've talked with other open-source "expats" that have ended up in Redmond, such as Tom Hanrahan, also formerly of IBM and the Linux Foundation, and Microsoft has provided interesting, engaging work for them. I'm sure that Sam's case will be no different.

But why post about the job before receiving a formal offer? Ruby notes that he is "very comfortable in (his) current job, so the most (he is) placing in jeopardy by posting (his interest in working for Microsoft) is the opportunity costs of a better job."

In many ways, Ruby's transparency is a great way for him to prepare his open-source compatriots for what might superficially appear to be an abandonment of his ideals. IBM might prefer that he not talk openly about it, but considering Ruby's stature in the open-source community, this is probably the best way to announce his imminent departure for Microsoft.

It's also a good advertisement for the changes Microsoft is making as it grows increasingly open to open source. Ruby reminds his blog readers that when he joined IBM in 1981, Big Blue, not Microsoft, was the "evil empire."

Times change. So do companies. And maybe, just maybe, Ruby will be one of the key individuals to help shape a new era at Microsoft.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.