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Is The New 'Open' Microsoft For Real?

It was all about openness at Microsoft's MIX10 conference this week. What's going on with the notorious bastion of proprietary, locked-in software long known for holding out against the open-source barbarians clamoring at the Gates of Redmond?

Get it? "Gates" as in Bill? Maybe with him (almost) gone, the company is changing direction.

At one point during a live Channel9 broadcast from Las Vegas, a Microsoft exec, discussing open data, glanced nervously at the camera and wondered aloud how much of this stuff he could talk about. He didn't drop any bombshells, but he did allow as to how he was in continual contact with companies such as Google about working together on opening up standards and technologies.

Microsoft Software Architect Doug Purdy, in the Day 2 keynote, said, "Many of us strongly believe that OData is the mechanism by which we can get open data for the open Web, and we are extremely excited about the opportunities that we have with it."

(In a blog post, he said, "We recognize that it will 'take a village,' so-to-speak, to ensure that open data for the open Web becomes a reality.")

John Resig, founder of JQuery, said in the keynote: "It's a pure JavaScript library ... completely open source. We worked very closely with the Software Freedom Conservancy, a nonprofit, to host the jQuery project, and all this code is released and out there in the open, and we're really happy that Microsoft has really taken the opportunity to embrace it and work with us to create an excellent library."

Microsoft VP Scott Guthrie introduced another open initiative: "We're going to be talking about a new open source that we're sponsoring called the Orchard Project, which is a lightweight CMS and blogging engine built on top of ASP.NET MVC 2 all delivered under open source." (See video intro of Orchard here).

Andrew J. Brust blogged about the new openness. "This is not your father's Microsoft, it would seem," he said.

Visual Studio Magazine's Michael Desmond blogged on "Openness on Display at MIX 10."

Kathleen Richards reported on the open-source Silverlight Analytics Framework announcement.

Some aren't buying into this whole Microsoft openness thing. Tim Anderson wrote: "Why would Microsoft talk about such things? Arguably it is a kind of smokescreen, talking standards while busily promoting proprietary stuff like SharePoint and Silverlight."

What do you think? Is the company serious? What's behind all this talk of open standards and open source? Comment here or send me an e-mail.

Posted by David Ramel on 03/18/2010

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