Microsoft and Open Source

There’s some speculation that with Bill Gates’ departure from Microsoft will come a friendlier attitude toward Open Source. From the article:

Will Microsoft become more open to open source with the departure of Bill Gates?

It’s a tough call. Observers from both the open and closed source worlds say the exit of Microsoft’s longtime leader won’t usher in a GPL era at the company but it will likely accelerate what is already a changing attitude in Redmond.

“We already see quite a different approach to dealing with OSS and OSS companies from Sam Ramji’s group [which is] doing a great job in establishing dialog,” said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange and a former marketing exec at SUSE Linux. “With Gates’ departure, the only mammoth remaining is Ballmer. With him away in a near future, Microsoft will definitely open up. They have to.”

Gates’ exit will help acceptance of open source, another observer said.

“For much of Microsoft’s history, its primary strategic initiative has been Windows everywhere. Bill Gates was the primary architect of this and it has served the company well in reaching the $50 billion revenue mark. To get from $50 to $100 billion, however, they will clearly need to embrace the non-Windows world,” said Barry Crist, CEO, Likewise Software. “I suspect this will be easier for Microsoft to accomplish without Gates. We see substantive signs of this happening already.”

One open source backer hints that Gates’ early departure from Microsoft signals the beginning of the end for proprietary software.

“Bill Gates figured out how to harvest from software licensing early on in the game, and built the biggest software company on the planet from it. [But] selling software licenses has become a triviality,” said Juergen Geck, CTO of Openxchange, which competes against Microsoft Exchange.

Now, even with Bill still at Microsoft, the company has been slowly changing its attitude toward Open Source. It’s certainly been an internal struggle, and while some in the company are coming around some are still as averse to Open Source as ever. I maintain that the company will be unable to truly change until Ballmer steps down. The old way of thinking and acting it too ingrained into him and it permeates the decisions he makes. Even so, it’s great to hear a Microsoft rep say something like “We should have done it earlier” about Open Source.

While on the topic of billg, it’s a bit comical to see that even he had major usability problems with Windows.


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