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Senior Microsoft developer dumps Redmond to embrace open source

Microsoft just lost a key consultant, but it need not start an exodus. It just needs to lower its patent wall to allow two-way trade of ideas.

Mike Gunderloy spent over a decade consulting for Microsoft, helping to build the Access and Excel versions of Microsoft Office 97 and 2000, as well as SQL Server, C#, and ASP.Net. A series of Microsoft moves, most particularly its "patent land-grab," has pushed Gunderloy away from Microsoft to the point that he's now "100 percent Microsoft-free" and has embraced a variety of open-source projects and programming languages.

It started with a feeling that his suggestions for Office 2007 were "pretty much ignored," which differed from his earlier experience with input give on Office 97, 2000, and 2003. But the patents - ah, the patents - broke the proverbial camel's back:

The beginning of the end for the developer was when Microsoft went patent berserk. "What finally pushed me over the edge to 'I'm getting out' was when Microsoft started to assert non-intellectual property rights over the its Ribbon interface, making that level of sweeping intellectual property claims. Microsoft went from not patenting much to patenting everything," Gunderloy says....

Microsoft..."basically told any control vendor that wanted to make a control that the Ribbon was Microsoft property and they had to license it from Microsoft. They had to acknowledge that Microsoft owns that piece of the user interface. I said to myself, that's nuts....It was the sweeping land grab by Microsoft that pissed me off."

I suspect Gunderloy won't be alone. To be fair, the open-source community has lost its share of high-profile developers to Microsoft, but the difference is that they go to Microsoft to teach Microsoft how to engage with open source, whereas Gunderloy and others like him have not spent much time trying to bring the Microsoft way to open source.

In a way, this is too bad, as Microsoft does some things exceptionally well. Surely there are things that Microsoft could teach the open-source community. Indeed, Gunderloy admits that it's harder to develop nice interfaces in the open-source tools he uses, compared to Microsoft.

It would be good to have more of a two-way street between Microsoft and open source in terms of communication and code. But to get there, we need Microsoft to lower its Berlin Wall of patent FUD. Lower the drawbridge, Microsoft. The moat isn't really protecting you, anyway.