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Giving Microsoft a voice...and you

Microsoft's Brad Smith will be keynoting the Open Source Business Conference. Here's your chance to talk back.

Given what an ardent critic of Microsoft I can be, it might be surprising that the Open Source Business Conference will feature a keynote from Brad Smith, Microsoft's General Counsel. I invited Brad to take our "footnote" slot that Clay Christensen, Eben Moglen, Geoffrey Moore, and others have held. It's our prime slot, and Brad will fill it well.

Why let Microsoft speak? For one, because I've always felt Microsoft had more to give to open source than to take from it. This is why Bill Hilf has been on the OSBC advisory board since its formation, and has done excellent work for the conference.

But also because I'm tired of the whisper campaigns and backlash (including in this blog) that has come to constitute the industry's debate between Microsoft and open source. I invited Brad to keynote because I doubt anyone else could put forward Microsoft's position more succinctly or intelligently. He's a great person and a razor-sharp lawyer.

Which is why I need you. The format for the keynote will be interesting, and should lead to true discourse: 30 minutes of Brad, 30 minutes of rigorous cross-examination by an expert panel from the open-source community, and then 30 more minutes of general Q&A.

Who do you think should be on the panel?

My ideal scenario would be to have an open-source developer, an attorney with open-source clients or predilection, and an enterprise IT person (with both Microsoft and open source in their environment, which means it could be just about anyone). I might also make room for an executive from the open-source business community.

Who should we include? Either comment here and/or email me. (I think my email address is pretty widely available but, if not, go to the OSBC site and contact me through that.) I want people with strong opinions and the ability to back them up with intelligent arguments. Brad is more than capable of holding his own in a debate, having tackled the US Justice Department and others.

I first met him while in law school, when my professor (Larry Lessig) had Brad come speak to our Open Sources class (off the record, alas!). I have a lot of respect for him. But that doesn't mean I want to go easy on him. :-)

By the way, given OSBC 2008's theme ("Putting Open Source to Work"), we'll also be featuring keynotes from senior IT executives at Kaplan/Washington Post, CBS, and the United States Air Force. Should be the best OSBC yet.