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Does Microsoft really love open source?

Paul Rubens | Aug. 22, 2014
Microsoft is involved in many major open source projects, including Hadoop and Docker. What's motivating the company to abandon its 'proprietary-only' roots?

There's simply no sense in Microsoft competing with successful projects like Hadoop anymore. "Customers are becoming more demanding," Driver says, and they won't put Microsoft on their short list if the company isn't involved in these types of projects. Address the projects, he says, and Microsoft can influence the customer.

Driver also says that Microsoft embraces openness and interoperability in order to gain more traction for Windows Phone, the company's mobile OS, which has struggled to gain acceptance in the market. If developers can use whatever open source software they want to develop for Windows Phone, he says, the mobile operating system may gain the developer support that's crucial if the operating system is to succeed.

"The least Microsoft can do is invite open source developers to the (Windows) party so there isn't a preordained bias to Android," Driver says. "But it wouldn't shock me if Microsoft offered Android as well, as it needs an open source level presence in the mobile market."

Separate Open Tech 'Free of the Anti-Open Source Stink of the Past'
One final question worth is exploring is why Microsoft established Open Tech as a separate entity. It seems odd, especially considering that not all of the open source software projects in which Microsoft is involved emanate from Open Tech. Contributions to Hadoop come from Microsoft itself, for example.

Driver's theory is that it all stems from Microsoft's virulently anti-open source past. "The big mistake that Microsoft made was that it looked at Linux and saw a threat, then saw all open source as a threat," he says. "Now it knows what is and what isn't a threat."

Creating Open Tech, Driver says, is therefore a reaction to a vocal minority in the open source community that treats Microsoft as the eternal "bad guy" for opposing all open source software in the past, he says. "Open Tech is Microsoft's 'demilitarized zone,' which is free of the anti-open source stink from the past."


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