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Can Microsoft 'do' open source by 2015?

Consistency and commitment needed

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As to opening Windows and Office? That’s unlikely to form part of Microsoft’s strategy by 2015 - at least under the current mode of thought.

Note, Microsoft is largely making its infrastructure-level code - tools, APIs, protocols - free to read but not open source. To Microsoft's credit, free to read is a huge step for any proprietary company, holding intellectual property claims in the US.

The strategy is somewhat self-serving, though, as one might expect. The idea is that by publishing such details, developers can improve the performance of their open source products and code - like PHP - when running on Windows. Why? To ultimately ensure Windows continues to sell, and that PHP developers don’t develop and deploy on, say, Linux instead.

It’s a strategy of practical engagement with open source that’s at least moved on from the early days, with Microsoft’s “Get the facts” campaign. That was a PR hammer designed to bludgeon IT buyers into picking Windows over Linux and open source products. However, it failed to take into account what those building the applications were really doing with their code.

Ramji repeated the current standard Microsoft line: there is little value in opening Windows or Office. ISVs and systems integrators “rely” on a consistent platform and openness leads to forking.

Beat open source "champions"

In some ways Microsoft is little different from other big vendors, companies who are actually seen as "championing" open source. Companies like Oracle and IBM who are keeping their runtimes - databases or application servers - securely closed, and have bought in open source products.

Microsoft is actually more like Adobe Systems, publishing details of its Flash specs to the world but being very careful not open source the code.

2015 is seven years away and why Ramji picked this date is not clear. Perhaps, because it has taken a good seven years for IBM, Oracle, Adobe and others to devise their current stances on open source. While these companies have yet to fully open up to open source, Microsoft is behind them in terms of having a positive corporate attitude and consistent - if limited - strategy on engagement. That's thanks to the fact it's held out for so long.

The challenge for Microsoft - thanks to its size, product diversity and an unpredictable management stance on open source - is to use the next seven years to not just pull level with IBM, Oracle et al by 2015 in its corporate policy, but to actually overtake them.®

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