James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

Is Microsoft Changing Their Open Source Strategy?

with one comment

Jay Lyman at the 451 Group put out a post yesterday – Microsoft realigning closer to open source

I usually agree with Jay’s take on thing but not this time.

You can read my full take on Microsoft’s strategy in this post – Microsoft’s open source strategy

Microsoft and the Linux Foundation are aligned against a common enemy in the American Law Institute, it does not change anything between Microsoft and Linux or open source.

Microsoft learned 10 years ago that it is counter-productive to market against open source. Jay is correct that Microsoft is not targeting open source, instead they are targeting the users of open source (like TomTom). They can’t scare open source (code) into paying Microsoft, but they can scare users into doing that.

Microsoft’s ideal situation is for us to either pay to use their software, or pay to use a licensed open source product that pays royalties to Microsoft. The Novell deal is a good example of the latter, and now TomTom. I don’t think Microsoft is trying to ‘hurt’ open source. I think they are trying to find ways to get open source users to pay license fees to Microsoft (by asserting IP violations). That way Microsoft gets paid either way – revenue goes up but sales/marketing expenses stay the same.

Jay says that Microsoft has not made any IP accusations for ‘quite some time’. The TomTom suit only started 4 months ago and ended in March. That is a very short time in legal circles. I think it is very premature to say that Microsoft has abandoned a strategy they spent 10 years building up.

Codeplex does contain some Microsoft code, but nothing core that I could find. For example, from the wording, the Silverlight Toolkit seems to be developed by Microsoft but  – ‘CodePlex is hosted by Microsoft. Microsoft does not control, review, revise, endorse or distribute the third party projects on this site.’

What’s worse Microsoft’s ‘shared source’ is for reference only. If you happen to copy any code fragments from it you could be facing a legal battle – ‘You are warned that when you build a run-time image based on an OS design that contains shared source code, your run-time image might contain private code that cannot be released in a product under the terms of the Microsoft EULA’

Microsoft is certainly changing. A few years ago they did not have a discernible open source strategy (but I think they were working on it for years). Since then they have made their strategy known and they started to execute on it (Novell, TomTom). I see no evidence lately that they have given up that strategy. So I expect that we will see more IP-based legal cases against the users of open source.


Written by James

May 20, 2009 at 12:57 pm

One Response

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  1. I think the acceptance that Microsoft has changed combined with the persisting, healthy suspicion the company is actually trying to hurt open source in the end shows a couple of things. First, Microsoft is indeed a very large company itself, and this means not only mixed messages, but mixed strategies as well. Second, I think the real change is that Microsoft is now contributing to the legitimacy of open source software by forging long-term deals and projects (Novell AND Red Hat and many others). At the same time, it is true that Microsoft is continuing an aggressive patent and IP-licensing business that does at times involve Linux and open source. However, I think Microsoft’s licensing strategy is more about leveraging its IP wherever it can. If it can do so while avoiding attacks on open source software projects and vendors, I believe it will.



    May 20, 2009 at 4:03 pm

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