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Opining on Openness

Our buddies over at Redmond magazine are at it again, poking around Microsoft about issues related to open source and discovering some very interesting things in the process. Whether it's Ray Ozzie's touted Live initiatives or the SourceForge-esque CodePlex site for sharing open source code, it's clear that Microsoft has been changing its tune.

The question is: What tune will it eventually follow? While Microsoft's open source maven Bill Hilf is saying (and to some extent, even doing) all the right things, suspicions about playing ball with the original 800-pound gorilla abound.

The most telling quote comes from Michael Tieman, president of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), who chides Microsoft for the lack of transparency with its various licensing structures: "We don't want anyone claiming they are open source if they aren't. Microsoft has always extended a friendly gesture to anyone willing to build on the Microsoft platform, and then kept the other hand clenched to strike if that application company becomes successful."

Is Tieman being too hard on the Redmondians? Maybe. As Hilf points out, the company has sued over IP infringement only twice in its history. And with so much open source software being developed for Windows, there's definitely a platform imperative for Microsoft to get in on the open source applications game.

What do you think? Could Microsoft's engagement help advance and diversify the arena of open source development? Might we be looking at a classic Trojan horse gambit to inject Microsoft IP deep into open projects? Or is it simply Microsoft doing what it does best: protect, extend and leverage its Windows platform into growing markets?

You tell me, and let me know how these concerns impact your development efforts. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/21/2007 at 1:15 PM

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