Has Microsoft made Peace with Open Source? #webnotwar

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“If Microsoft is the Borg, then you are Locutus,” said an audience member to the Microsoft employee on the open source panel, “And just as Locutus boarded the Enterprise to learn about humans so as to assimilate them, you are here to assimilate then extinguish open source.”

At typical open source conferences, such sentiments are predictable. Except, Make Web Not War is Microsoft’s own open source conference. They spent significant time and energy attracting Vancouver’s tech hordes to it.

But Microsoft let themselves be vulnerable to criticism.

Closeup of a stone sign bearing the Microsoft ...

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Why the hostility?

Some attendees of the conference didn’t understand why open source enthusiasts were hostile towards Microsoft. But Microsoft has not been kind to the open source movement. Between the infamous Halloween Documents and their dubious involvement in the SCO-Linux controversies, Microsoft has spent 15 years creating a hostile environment.

Organizers of Make Web Not War admitted this. “We’ve done everything to make the open source community hate us,” said a Microsoftie to me, “But we’re no hivemind. Humans live in Redmond, and we love technology for its own sake.”

Calling a truce

Nick Gargusha, Microsoft’s Open Source Strategy Lead, states their foray into open source “just makes good business sense”. But I don’t buy it (pun intended). The days of “Microsoft only” shops are ending. More corporations run LAMP stacks, and more employees are opt for iPhone and Androids.

Microsoft must evolve or die. Open source is no longer the future, it is “the now” — and “now” has been happening for years now. If Microsoft ignores open source, competitors like Google and Apple will swoop in and steal developer mindshare. In fact, they already have.

Steve Ballmer gaming

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Laying down arms

One irony of Make Web Not War was the plethora of MacBook Pros dotting the landscape. The few Windows users in attendance had Android stickers plastered on their laptop lids. For better or worse, Apple and Google have won the hearts and minds of developers — developers who had exclusively coded for Microsoft platforms 10 years ago.

But is there a need for Microsoft anymore? Certainly. Far more than Apple or Google, Microsoft is the company that balances usability and customizability. Anyone who has used an Xbox 360 or a Zune understands this. But to win back mindshare, Microsoft needs developers.

How did Apple and Google win developer mindshare in the first place? Both used open source to hook them. For this reason, Microsoft has ceased their war against open source, laid down their arms, and embraced the future.

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One response to “Has Microsoft made Peace with Open Source? #webnotwar

  1. I am the audience member that compared Garrett Serack to Locutus. For the record, Garrett is an awesome guy and he’s doing some amazing things that will benefit us all greatly. The point that I wanted to illustrate is that Microsoft and the Open Source community have inescapably conflicting goals. As wonderful as Garrett is, he’s only going to work for the benefit of Microsoft’s proprietary empire. That goal hasn’t changed over the years. Microsoft has simply adjusted their strategy, as they now feel it’s in their best interest to increase their support of the open source community. I don’t hate Microsoft. However, I enjoy and benefit from their failures and I’m honest about it.

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