Could Microsoft actually be getting an open-source clue?

OSCON displayed the friendliest things ever seen to come out of Microsoft towards open source

I couldn't make it to OSCON last week, but I have read the announcements that Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab, made at this open-source software show. They were the friendliest things I've ever seen come out of Microsoft towards open source.

The first announcement, that Microsoft was contributing a patch to ADOdb, a PHP database access interface, wasn't that big a deal. It is, after all, self-serving. Microsoft's contribution will enable people to use its own SQL Server instead of MySQL or PostgreSQL with PHP programs. Yawn. Nothing new here.

The second announcement, that Microsoft was placing its Communications Protocol Program under its Open Specification Promise, and clarified that developer could use the communication protocols to build open-source software for commercial use, sounded much more important than it really is. You see the European Union courts ordered Microsoft to open those protocols up. Samba and the SFLC (Software Freedom Law Center) hammered out an agreement late last year that spelled out how the protocols could be used while avoiding Microsoft patents.

Later, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, claimed that Microsoft could still charge you a patent license if you used some -- he didn't specify which -- of the protocols in commercial software. Not so nice, and not really what the European court had in mind either.

What Ramji did was to say that developers could create commercial software that would be free "from any patent claims from Microsoft now or in the future, and includes both Microsoft-developed and industry-developed protocols." Of course, that's what the European Union had demanded of Microsoft all along, but details, details.

Richard Wilde, associate general counsel for intellectual property policy at Microsoft, spelled this out in another public memo, The OSP and You. You know, I am not a lawyer, but personally I don't quite see how Ramji draws his sweeping conclusion from what Wilde wrote. If I were an open-source software developer and I planned on using some of Microsoft's communication protocols, I'd have my lawyer take a close look at this before I started coding. It seems to me that there's still might be a Microsoft IP poison pill in here.

Ramji's final announcement, though, that "Microsoft is becoming a sponsor of the ASF (Apache Software Foundation), [which] will enable the ASF to pay administrators and other support staff so that ASF developers can focus on writing great software" is a shocker.

It's not, Ramji hastened to point out that "a move away from IIS as Microsoft's strategic web server technology." But, he continued, "It is a strong endorsement of The Apache Way, and opens a new chapter in our relationship with the ASF. We have worked with Apache POI, Apache Axis2, Jakarta, and other projects in the last year, and we will continue our technical support and interoperability testing work for this open source software."

My word. While the money to support Apache is pocket change for Microsoft, it is noteworthy that Microsoft is putting any money into a real open-source project and that they're saying good things about a major open-source project. Will miracles never cease?

Now, don't take this to mean that Steve Ballmer wants to come sing "Kumbaya" with Linus Torvalds around a campfire. When it comes to open source I trust Steve Ballmer about as far as I can throw him. I do think though that it shows that at least some divisions in Microsoft are recognizing that they're going to need to maintain peaceful co-existence with Linux and open source. No matter how much it may gall Ballmer and the rest of the top leadership.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?