Why I won't work for Microsoft

Redmond has nothing more to gain from its patent fight against open source, and much to lose. Why not move on?

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

Several years ago while still working for Novell, I considered going to work for Microsoft in Europe. (Had I waited long enough, I could have worked for Microsoft while still at Novell, but that's another story, albeit one that is paying off well for Novell.) I thought I could help the company figure out open source and navigate the thorny issues that prevent it from embracing open source.

I gave up on that quixotic quest, and in retrospect it was the right decision. Sam Ramji, Bill Hilf, and others are doing a far better job of nudging Microsoft toward open source than I would have. But the bigger reason is that Microsoft has placed an apparently insurmountable hurdle in its path to fully engaging the open-source community, and to my ability to fully support its embrace of open source:

CNET News.com


It's unclear to me why Microsoft refuses to back off this issue. It stands alone in its dogmatic insistence on fouling the open-source downstream.

Microsoft's solo crusade against open source through patents baffles me. It also prevents me from working for them or with them. I'm not alone in this.

I suspect that had Microsoft gone public with its patent crusade before it did deals with Zend, SugarCRM, MySQL, JBoss, etc., it might have netted fewer of these deals, too, because it pollutes the open-source partnerships it touches. It makes everything look like a patent pledge, rather than the interoperability agreements that these companies signed up to complete.

Notice how few open-source partnerships it has announced since its declaration that Linux violates its patents? It signs with also-ran Linux desktop vendors and skittish Asian OEMs, but not with the mainstream open-source startups that are taking open source into the enterprise. It used to sign these partners. Not anymore.

Why, Microsoft? Why not act like every other software company in the industry today and engage open source on fair and equal terms? Why not stop this silly attempt to box open source in rather than letting it help you build your business?

We're to the point that many commercial open-source companies are making it acceptable to integrate proprietary and open-source licensing into their business models. This means you can, too, without giving up your proprietary revenue stream. So why not engage?

All it takes is a softening of your stance on patent infringement. You'd give up nothing. You'd gain much.