Microsoft's open source chief takes on Windows server marketing

Microsoft says it is opening up more to the open source community.

The leader of Microsoft's integration efforts around open source software and its proprietary technologies is expanding his role by adding the title "general manager of Windows server marketing," further indication that Microsoft plans to crank up the volume on its Windows/Linux story.

Bill Hilf, who is the director of Microsoft's Open Source Lab, and whose former title was general manger of platform strategy, added his new responsibilities in the past month, according to a Microsoft spokesman. Hilf's new title is general manager of Windows server marketing and platform strategy. Hilf is not eliminating any of the current responsibilities under his former title, which include coordinating projects across Microsoft platforms and long-term strategic planning in the server and tools division.

"This expanded role is a natural evolution of the work Bill has led at Microsoft over the past four years - working together with Microsoft technology-development teams and the open source community to build interoperable solutions on top of the Windows Platform, and continuing the discussion around Linux and Windows," a company representative said.

But Hilf's expanded role is not happening in a vacuum and is sure to raise eyebrows and fuel questions.

His move to encompass Windows server marketing comes at a time when Microsoft is gearing up for the launch early next year of Windows Server 2008.

The change comes amid a long-building storm that exploded in May, when the company said that Linux violates 235 Microsoft patents.

Microsoft had been saying for years that Linux violated its patents, but it was the first time that a number had been attached. Microsoft said it wasn't seeking litigation but wanted to license its intellectual property.

The timing of that news came as the open source community was working on Version 3 of its GNU General Public License, which has since been completed and includes language aimed at thwarting Microsoft's attempt to sign cross-patent licensing deals with Linux vendors.

The deals, most notably a contract with Novell in November 2006, have caused major rifts within the open source software community, and Hilf at times became the point man for criticism leveled at Microsoft.

Hilf, who came to Microsoft in 2003, previously had led IBM's Linux/Open Source Software technical strategy. He was brought to Microsoft to help stamp out the ill will generated by its Get the Facts campaign, which was criticized for presenting research that Microsoft itself had sponsored.

In April 2006, Hilf started Port 25, a discussion forum around open source software and Microsoft technologies that includes access to some of the lab's staff and technical research.

Get the Facts was finally dumped in August and replaced with a Web site called Windows Server/Compare, a marketing push around the upcoming Windows Server 2008.

The site is designed to help companies with their server evaluations and will share the experiences of real customers to show the value in Microsoft's server platform.

Microsoft says it is opening up more to the open source community and says the evidence can be seen in its Port 25 and CodePlex Web sites and partnership deals with open source vendors, such as SugarCRM, XenSource (Citrix) and SpikeSource.

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