“Who needs Free software when you can have pricey and locked-down mixed-source?”
Microsoft really wants to be everybody’s friend and drape itself in “open source” clothing. It has been trying rather hard to ‘steal the show’ at events such as OSCON [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] and OSBC [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] in order to further blur the line between proprietary software and free/open source software. Is this a good thing? Well, it depends on who is asked.
Some people see nothing wrong with replacing GNU/Linux, exchanging it for something proprietary which comes feature-complete with back doors, restrictions management (DRM), remote access by a vendor, volatile pricing, and discriminatory access to the system (see full antitrust exhibit/document
[PDF]). Those who see nothing wrong with this might wish to skip this post, but for others it is worth paying attention to Microsoft's MicroFOSS plan. Jay Lyman of the 451 Group labels it Microsoft’s self interest.
Microsoft self interest is its commitment to open source
I believe that Microsoft’s earnest intent is to make open source on Windows, ASP.Net and Silverlight as simple and supported as open source on Linux and Apache infrastructure, following on its previous movement toward open source. Would Microsoft benefit from making these newly-supported, open source pieces and products less efficient or integrated?
There is a new series of videos [1, 2, 3] which shows Hank Janssen talking about the Microsoft/Novell interoperability lab, among other things like optimising PHP to work better on Windows than on GNU/Linux. That’s what Microsoft is planning. To not understand and acknowledge this is simply to be left more vulnerable.
Another new bit of concerning inforrmation is the appearance of Microsoft’s Gurthie in an important conference. They let him keynote an Ajax conference, despite the fact that he is fighting against Ajax with proprietary, GNU/Linux-hostile technology, which threatens the whole Web with Windows DRM. It’s called Silverlight and David Gerard wrote about it sarcastically the other day.
“We have a fabulous selection of content partners for Silverlight,” announced Microsoft marketer Scott Guthrie on his blog today. “NBC for the Olympics, which delivered millions of new users to BitTorrent. The Democrat National Convention, which is fine because those Linux users are all Ron Paul weirdos anyway.
Silverlight, which Microsoft wrongly (yet knowingly [1, 2]) characterises as "open source-compatible", is merely another apparatus among the toolset for fighting Microsoft’s #1 rival, primarily through exclusion imposed on access. Moonlight is not Silverlight, and it’s not legally safe, either.
Another noteworthy observation from the 451 Group is this one.
Ironically, some of the most interesting discussion at GOSCON was kicked off by sponsor Microsoft and a talk from the company’s Director of Open Source Strategy Bryan Kirschner about how the company fits into a world where open source is more than just a hobbyist fad.
They realise that persistent presence breeds gradual acceptance. This has shades of the Open Source Business Conference 2008, which was sponsored and kicked off by Microsoft’s Brad Smith, who talked about software patent obligations to Microsoft. There is more of that chorus these days.
In this particular new case, Microsoft is not only a sponsor (paying is easier than deeds) but also a privileged party to kick off discussions at the Government Open Confererence. How quickly things have changed. Or have they? Might Microsoft be pretending again? Well, that’s left for readers to decide. █
“Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer [...] I can’t imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business. I’m an American; I believe in the American way, I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don’t think we’ve done enough education of policymakers to understand the threat.”
–Jim Allchin, President of Platforms & Services Division at Microsoft