Microsoft has been making noises for over a year now about working with open source software (OSS) in some form or fashion (and understanding the OSS community), and a Microsoft senior vice president recently reiterated the need to interoperate with open source products, as well as the need to adopt open source methodologies. From eWeek:
“We are open to ways of working with the open-source community broadly, and even in the GPL space we are trying to find ways in which we can build bridges to GPL, but the bridge has to be carefully constructed,” Muglia said.
As Microsoft continues along its road of interoperability, it wants to ensure that it will be able to work with software licensed under the GPL and that people will be able to build solutions under the GPL that interoperate with Microsoft’s offerings, he said.
Before you draw the conclusion that everything is just peachy between Redmond and OSS, let me clarify that the senior vice president of Microsoft’s server and tools business, Bob Muglia, feels that while there are points where the two can play together, in some cases the GNU General Public License (GPL) presents an impassible barrier to coexistence. Businesses are in business to make money, and Microsoft is in the business of software as intellectual property. The GPL, on the other hand, does not allow software to be licensed as intellectual property.
Yet the quest continues to find points of interoperability and neighborly head nods with GPL. In addition, the GPL isn’t the only OSS game in town, and Microsoft is looking at other forms of OSS to find points of connection that make sense.
Microsoft is also looking at aspects of the OSS community that it can benefit from, and in fact all the “open Microsoft” blogging and related initiatives are a direct result of studying OSS’s community development process, which Muglia declared, “the way of the future.” In addition, Redmond is highly interested in the distributed nature of the OSS community, although they acknowledge it would be a challenge to, um, integrate Microsoft’s product integration tactics with such a development process.
Regardless, it looks like Microsoft is serious about taking some cues from OSS. Before we start looking for Windows LX Ubuntu Ultimate Edition 2010, however, let’s remember that closed source software has made Microsoft very, very rich and they’re not going to throw away their entire business philosophy over a few good ideas from OSS.
Edit @ 9:00AM June 14, 2006: There is some concern over my characterization of the GPL license as it concerns intellectual property. See comments thread for more.