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Microsoft on open source: "We should have done it earlier"

Microsoft admits that it is late to the open-source party. Does it have the stomach to fully open up to open source?

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

No, it's not Steve Ballmer pounding the podium in favor of open source, but apparently Microsoft's field is being told to play nice.

At least, that's the sense I get from the comments made by a Microsoft representative at a recent open-source conference:

"We should have done it earlier," said Abet Dela Cruz, Microsoft Philippines platform strategy manager, narrating Monday's panel discussion at the Cebu summit....

"It took IBM about 10 years to be at this stage and it is only now that Microsoft is going in the same direction...Open Source is a broad worldwide phenomenon....[O]verall we see it (open source) as a long standing movement that will continue."

Yes, you should have (done it earlier), Microsoft. But there is still time to do it right. The first step will be to invite open-source application and infrastructure developers, commercial and otherwise, onto your platform without requiring them to sign up to patent pledges. Treat the open-source world with the same respect that you expect. We don't (knowingly) violate your patents, just as I'm sure you don't knowingly violate anyone else's.

Microsoft is finally starting to warm up to open source as it belatedly remembers that it's a platform company, and lots of great (open-source) applications should be making Microsoft's Windows coffers even fatter. But it needs to first stop trying to scare away this opportunity with patent FUD.

Many of us in the community don't want to work with Microsoft on these terms, and won't. Microsoft had signed up JBoss, MySQL, and SugarCRM on interoperability agreements, but then it came out with its patent agreement with Novell. Since that time, how many open-source application vendors have signed up to work with Microsoft? I can't think of a single one off-hand.

So, Microsoft, which do you want? Do you really want to open up to open source, or do you want to continue to try to beat down the movement while simultaneously offering a palsied embrace? Our customers want interoperability, but we can't do it on the terms you're offering.