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Why Microsoft Is Being Nicer To Open Source 231

Posted by timothy
from the in-some-markets-at-least dept.
itwbennett writes "Is open source's growth in emerging markets what is driving Microsoft to say 'we love open source' with an attempt at a straight face? 'The emerging markets (like the BRIC nations) are a huge potential market for Microsoft,' says Brian Proffitt. 'And I believe Redmond is wisely not taking the FUD route on open source software in those markets. Why? Because open source already has some strong roots in the BRIC nations (heck, in Brazil, open source is the whole darn tree), and any attack on open source would be seen as a foreign company attacking local software projects. If Microsoft attacked open source publicly in this environment, a lot of potential customers and developers in those countries could react in a protectionist manner and start giving Microsoft the stink-eye.'"
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Why Microsoft Is Being Nicer To Open Source

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  • by martiniturbide (1203660) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @08:33PM (#33431530) Homepage Journal
    Nobody will fall for MS OSS strategy. It is focus to harm MS business partners, and not too touch MS money source. Check my article: http://martin.iturbide.com/?page_id=114 [iturbide.com]
    • Mod Parent Up (Score:2, Insightful)

      Your article is far more interesting and substantial that the little blurb in the /. post.
    • by HermMunster (972336) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:23PM (#33432056)

      The slide in your editorial demonstrates Microsoft's vision of OSS during initial announcement a couple years ago. They were all for OSS as long as it fit their definition of it. They were working quite hard to get enterprise businesses to embrace their vision of OSS. If they had business following their vision then the vision of true open source would be blurred and out of sight.

      What was identified by the OSS community regarding their definition of OSS those couple years ago was exactly what you have identified here. They showed that Microsoft's definition of OSS was only OSS if it was done for Windows. Of course, that's not what true OSS is nor how it was defined some 17 years ago.

      Their definition of OSS was released not too long after several Microsoft employees spoke out about how Microsoft was going to kill Linux. One of them went so far as to predict that that year was the start of the death of Linux.

      Their definition is nothing less than embrace, EXTEND, extinguish. By getting business to embrace their view they can reduce the reach of OSS into business because they believe Microsoft's version is the only true OSS. That in effect will cease adoption of OSS by business and hence the death of Linux.

      I must admit that Linux adoption seems to have slowed and the amount of press has considerably declined. Certainly some areas have continued to expand.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        They showed that Microsoft's definition of OSS was only OSS if it was done for Windows

        understandable.. they don;t care what software you write .. as long as you buy their stuff to do it with. It'd be an interesting software ecosystem (even on Windows only) if they were the only software company allowed to sell software!

        I wonder how they'd react if something they sold lots of started to be replaced with an OSS equivalent? A Sharepoint -> Drupal converter for example :)

    • Nobody will fall for MS OSS strategy...

      Because many of these government entities are simply waiting for Microsoft to offer them deep discounts. Sad but true.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cyclomedia (882859)

        When your systems are *already* running OSS then Microsoft can't discount themselves into them, because they would have to give away all their software and licences for free just to match what you're already paying. This is why MS's western-world strategy can not work in BRIC economies.

        In the west MS's software is already in business and government systems and the costs and training requirements (or FUD-driven perceived costs, at least) to migrate _away_ from MS _to_ OSS is what MS has traditionally relied

    • by mjwx (966435)
      It's MS's standard strategy,

      Embrace <- You are here
      Extend
      Extinguish
  • Yes, something is up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by transporter_ii (986545) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @08:33PM (#33431532) Homepage

    I get MSDN magazine and the latest issue has a seriously good article on sqlight. They said it works really well on cell phones, etc., where it was almost impossible to install a database server and/or could not always have access to a server to connect back to a database.

    transporter_ii

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sodul (833177)

      You mean SQLite [sqlite.org] ?

    • by PCM2 (4486)

      Yeah, but SQLite isn't even open source -- it's straight up public domain software. Hardly a threat to Microsoft or its business model.

      • Yeah, but SQLite isn't even open source -- it's straight up public domain software.

        It sounds like you're confusing "open source" with "copyleft".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is Microsoft's old M.O.

    Nothing to see here folks ...

  • by the Gray Mouser (1013773) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @08:38PM (#33431554)

    Microsoft is always going to be concerned with maximizing their profits (their legal fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders). If they see ways to do that by working with or using open source, then they will.

    Microsoft is in a position similar to IBM, where they can provide solutions and support them. If part of that solution is open source, MS still gets all the support dollars. A lot of companies use some open source stuff now, but the last thing you want to tell your PHB is that your support comes from some usenet forum.

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @09:07PM (#33431726)

      If you recall, the original "Anti-GPL" stance that Microsoft had, went something along the lines of "Contaminating the software ecosystem."

      This was at a time when Microsoft was a quasi-dominant force in the server market, when their IIS server platform actually had a reasonable install base in production environments, and Windows was totally unchallenged by Linux and pals.

      Fast forward about a decade now. Ubuntu Linux (and it's sub-flavors) is gaining popularity, Android is devistating Microsoft's offering in the handheld OS market, FOSS software is gaining deeply established traction in many developing countries and making inroads in countries that were previously deeply in Microsoft's pockets, and the FUD campaign that GPL==Communism has failed miserably.

      As such, their "Cherished" "Software ecosystem" has had no choice but to accept the new competition, which if you re-read their old FUD campaigns, is exactly what they were saying was wrong with GPL software; It is a disruptive license that destroys the status quo, and threatens for-profit development (as it was practiced at the time.)

      In the face of their major competitors (like apple) who have at least partially embraced FOSS software (OSX is based on BSD, IIRC.. could be mistaken. That's why Darwin is FOSS.) and are leveraging it like a catylist to gain more and more market penetration and market share, microsoft can no longer afford to try and play the status quo card. That's why the whole "Software ecosystem" rhetoric has dried up. Now they are playing damage control, and trying to butter up to the same projects and people that they snubbed just a decade ago, hoping that small time developers have as short a memory as do MBAs. (Or, even more disturbing, that they can bamboozle new, young and fresh talent in the FOSS community into drinking the koolaid.)

      I would trust Microsoft to "Actually like" FOSS, as I would trust Darl McBride to make a linux kernel patch.

      Like you pointed out in your post above, Just about the only thing you can predict that Microsoft will do is do whatever is necessary to increase its bottom line; including redact its own policy statements. Likewise, you should expect that Microsoft will do the same thing concerning FOSS policies and licenses, should it cease being profitable for MS to continue such licensing tactics.

      This is a very important situation to quietly think to yourself "Caveat Emptor" about, because when you buy into their new policies, you need to be fully aware that Microsoft, can, and likely will, pull the rug out later. Their ONLY loyalty is to their stockholders, and to the all mighty dollar. They don't even have loyalty to their own rules; it would be absurd to expect that they have somehow had a change of heart in a deep way, or to behave ethically if money is involved.

      Personally, I find that as a company, they are overburdened in a faulted development and managerial model that wont fare well in the current market environment. Microsoft is slowly but surely being left behind by smaller, or more agile players, much like IBM was neutered by the end of the 90s. As such, I personally would approach this whole issue with a more forward thinking eye.

      As much as I DESPISE apple and Mr Jobs, I feel that he is a much more savvy CEO than Ballmer ever was, or ever could be, and this is probably the main reason why there are rumors of his imminent replacement. As such, I would predict Apple's market share to continue to grow in handheld electronic devices, and through that, leverage more into the personal computer market, though Apple seems to be taking the stance that the macintosh market is now a secondary priority.

      About the only thing Microsoft has going for it right now is market momentum, and the upgrade inertia of other corporations. (The exact same reason why IE6 refuses to die.)

      So, personally I would focus more on other platforms than the microsoft offerings. Microsoft has the smell of death about it.

      • by jd2112 (1535857) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:59PM (#33432220)

        Fast forward about a decade now. Ubuntu Linux (and it's sub-flavors) is gaining popularity, Android is devistating Microsoft's offering in the handheld OS market, FOSS software is gaining deeply established traction in many developing countries and making inroads in countries that were previously deeply in Microsoft's pockets, and the FUD campaign that GPL==Communism has failed miserably.

        They were just ahead of their time. Today the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world call anything they don't like communist/socialist and people just accept it without question.

        • by Opyros (1153335)
          Dunno about "ahead of their time", though — Joe McCarthy was doing the same nearly sixty years ago, and he was far from the first.
        • One might say, perhaps more accurately, that the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world are actually the ones behind the times. Not too long ago, communism actually was a threat. Russia had a policy of capturing western countries and making them vassal states in the name of Communism. The USSR had infiltrated important weapons programs (like the Manhattan project, for example). In those days there were real reasons to be afraid of communists, and unscrupulous men took advantage to increase their own
      • by exomondo (1725132)

        Personally, I find that as a company, they are overburdened in a faulted development and managerial model that wont fare well in the current market environment.

        Absolutely! This seems to be their biggest problem these days, i certainly agree with most of what you said regarding their support of policies that drive profits. I don't particularly like MS, or Apple even, but they do provide products that work for most people.

        Microsoft has the smell of death about it.

        Really? [linuxjournal.com] Windows 7 seems to be doing very well.

        This is a very important situation to quietly think to yourself "Caveat Emptor" about

        Why do people use that term? No-one speaks latin, and in fact it's one letter shorter to write "buyer beware".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maugle (1369813)
      Except, unlike IBM, they can't get too cozy with open source without risking their OS and Office cash cows. Though I haven't seen any numbers, I would guess that the income from support is absolutely dwarfed by the income from sales of Windows alone.

      As Microsoft has said in the past, open source does have a tendency to spread ... infectiously. If Microsoft suggests using an open-source program instead of a commercial one, any smart client will notice and begin wondering what else they can get without ha
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If Microsoft suggests using an open-source program instead of a commercial one, any smart client will notice and begin wondering what else they can get without having to pay licensing costs.

        By your logic, the latter would happen for any free product that Microsoft offers, not necessarily FOSS (since the client is presumably mainly concerned about saving $$$). Which does not stop MS from releasing stuff for free or very cheap (e.g.: SQL and VS Express, DreamSpark, BizSpark).

        Why? Because sometimes, when you drop the price, or even give something away for free, it boosts sales for the rest of your stuff. For example: free Windows development tools -> more Windows applications -> higher Wind

    • by gtall (79522)

      I don't think that maximizing their profit is what animates MS. Sure, they'd like that but they are more interested in control. This guarantees their survival and jobs over the long haul. There's also a pirate quality about the company. They seem to believe that for them to succeed implies someone else must fail. And in a way, they are correct. They wait until a market has developed and then jump in. That sort of strategy will enforce their belief that for them to succeed, they must cause someone else to fa

  • What's this "'could react in a protectionist manner and start giving Microsoft the stink-eye'" shit? Isn't that the normal reaction?

  • From the article...

    since business-types and engineering-types don't often communicate to each other very well.

    Oh boy...did he ever hit the bullseye with this one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @09:39PM (#33431872)

    Few years ago, right here on /., someone compared Microsoft and Open Source to being a dinosaur
    spinning in circles within a tar pit and several animals barking and chattering around it, watching
    and waiting as the pathetic creature was sucked in completely by the tar.

    Could it be the dinosaur's head is slightly above the tar's surface and a fat, greasy, yet
    tiny rodent like clawed hand is reaching out with a large slice of bacon and waving it around
    for every animal surrounding it to see, with a pathetic grin and swan song expressing a last
    mournful love interest in the solidarity of its foes?

    Do not fall for the melody of the monster, nor the pit which welcomes him and his own kind.

  • Geeks Know Better (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IonOtter (629215) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @09:47PM (#33431896) Homepage

    Emperor: Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station! *click* Fire at will, commander!
    Crewfish: Sir, we have star destroyers!
    Admiral Ackbar: It's a trap!

    Zoe: So. Trap?
    Mal: Trap.
    Wash: Wait...how do you...
    Mal: You were listenin' I take it?
    Everyone: ....
    Mal: Did'ja hear us fight?
    Zoe: No?
    Mal: Trap.

  • not true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 8086 (705094) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @09:47PM (#33431898) Homepage
    I don't know about the whole BRIC, but I've been practicing computer science for 13 years in India and haven't seen a single person use Linux as a desktop OS. Even as a server OS, people usually go for Windows instead of Linux, web servers being an exception. Most people just pirate MS products if they can't afford them. My two cents: MS realizes that people use mixed UNIX/Linux-Windows environments and that they're not going to gain any more market share by bashing open source, since it has 'arrived'. What they are trying to do is show interoperability with open source software, so that you buy Windows because it won't hate your Linux machines. Also, like everyone else, they're trying to build 'community' around the Windows programming environment, because that's where they've been lacking so far. ASP is losing to PHP because a lot more free code is available that can be quickly and lazily deployed. Another reason why this might be happening is because younger people who have grown up with open source software are now working at MS and they probably want to change the evil MS image.
    • Re:not true (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HermMunster (972336) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @10:43PM (#33432156)

      The guys that make the WUBI product are from India.

      I know India is heavily into math. It really would make sense to have more in India using Linux because more people would have examples to learn by, especially complex code such as the OS kernel.

      If India is a lot like their nearby neighbors in Asia most people would be pirating Windows.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I know India is heavily into math.

        My daughter's Sunday school in the temple has about 180 kids almost all of them in the top 5-10% of their schools. Would be considered stunning statistic. By law of averages no more than 20 of them should be in the top 10% of their school. But if you randomly pick 180 kids of all ethnicities in America from families with two college educated parents, with a median family income of 55K, you would find they too are in the almost always in the top 5-10% of their school. This is known as sample bias.

        Most Ind

    • I don't know about the whole BRIC, but I've been practicing computer science for 13 years in India

      Dude! It's time to stop practicing and give it a go for real!

    • Re:not true (Score:4, Interesting)

      by the_womble (580291) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @02:10AM (#33432890) Homepage Journal

      I agree. Here in Sri Lanka most people have never heard of Linux, are terrified of trying anything new, and only ever use Linux because it is free of cost.

      It is gaining some traction, but it still has a tiny desktop share (it is fairly widely used ons servers though).

      It has also had a significant impact on MS's revenues. Corporates has successfully used the "we will switch to Linux" threat when MS has tried to make them actually pay for software (AFAIK the only software ANYONE here actually pays for is either very specialist stuff, Lotus Notes and some Adobe stuff - the first because they need the support, the others because it is more expensive to switch platforms than pay up).

      • by devent (1627873)
        Of course you need some investment to switch the platform, but after you take the switch the costs will get accumulated because a Linux server is more secure, more reliable and easier to administer. Also you never have the fear that MS is try "to make them actually pay". After MS is dropping support for WinXP and WS2003 they have to switch platforms anyway, so why not to the better and the more free product?
    • by gtall (79522)

      I like to think of them as being a snake at the dinner table with that astonished look in their eye after being accused of swallowing the whole turkey while a suspicious lump is sliding down their body.

  • Standing joke (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dhammabum (190105)

    Along with beowolf clusters and Russia doing stuff in reverse, we now have the equally tiresome joke that Microsoft is being nicer to open source. Why do these articles keep getting posted?

  • ... but they still won't give it a reach-around.

  • Simple, really. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tokerat (150341) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @11:26PM (#33432310) Journal

    Developers, developers, developers, developers.

    Open Source projects for Windows mean more functionality, interoperability, and convenience for Windows users, and Microsoft doesn't have to do a damn thing to get it. Open Source and Linux are two different things, and Microsoft now realizes this.

  • "publicly"

    Is bad press to be the big guy bullying the small one. But that don't mean that the big guy loves him, or that "pay" a slightly smaller guy (i.e. Oracle?) to do the dirty job.
  • So basically, Microsoft is making itself irrelevant?
    If you support or recommend open-source software, people will use it. If they use it, they aren't paying you.
    Thus, your business becomes built on a foundation of others' OSS software, and at that point, you're selling something people can get elsewhere for free.
    Same thing has been tried, and unless you're IBM and you're aggressively selling to big business/enterprise, you don't make a whole lot of money, and you're likely to fold in a few years.
  • by voss (52565) on Wednesday September 01, 2010 @01:13AM (#33432710)

    Oracle is already killing off opensolaris, suing google over android, and who knows what will happen to mysql
    or openoffice down the road.

    Microsoft paranoia has blinded us to the enemy in our midst. Bill Gates never did as as much damage to open source
    as Larry Ellison is doing.

  • *rant warning*

    any attack on open source would be seen as a foreign company attacking local software projects

    I bet they considered this in the beginning, but just didn't give a damn because they only thought of themselves, and not of the betterment of the software community.

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