Government // Enterprise Architecture
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2/9/2009
11:27 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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About That Microsoft 'Open Source' Job Opening

Scarcely a single open source- / Linux-focused blog hasn't been abuzz (or a-Twitter) with news about a job opening at Microsoft for a "director of open source strategy." From the outside, it looks like the first of many pre-emptive strikes against the likes of Ubuntu and the Linux-powered netbook world. But is it a sign Microsoft is desperate, or just smart?

Scarcely a single open source- / Linux-focused blog hasn't been abuzz (or a-Twitter) with news about a job opening at Microsoft for a "director of open source strategy." From the outside, it looks like the first of many pre-emptive strikes against the likes of Ubuntu and the Linux-powered netbook world. But is it a sign Microsoft is desperate, or just smart?

The details in the job posting, as other people have commented, hint at the strategy in question: not just to stump for Windows ("Create a rational set of proof points that promote Microsoft's comparative value"), but to actively stay ahead of the open source competition ("Manage technical analysis of competitive platforms"). What is not part of this job description is any sort of community outreach for open source for this position, but I suspect that's a) not what's needed here, in their purview and b) something Microsoft still feels is best left to the parts of their team that are already doing that in a cooperative way: the Port 25 gang, for instance.

The whole approach Micrososft is taking here is two-pronged: embrace open source as something that can be run on Windows, but fight it as a replacement for Windows. My addendum to that would be: at least until such time as Windows itself is forcibly evolved into an open source product, which is something my colleague Charles Babcock has opined will be an eventuality and not an option for Big Redmond in the long run.

But there's no getting around the fact that this is schizoid, and they know it. They're trying to engage in what is simultaneously a holding action and a transformative stance -- which means the schizoid behavior they've shown before will continue. On the one hand, they'll be building a great place for open source to play; on the other hand, they'll continue to try and prevent it from eating into the walled kingdom they've created on the desktop.

What I'm seeing is not a battle where Microsoft is changed from the outside -- at least, not like it has been in the past, with lawsuits and antitrust actions -- but from two competing cultures within the company. I didn't think it was likely before, but both sides are now starting to make themselves heard that much more loudly from within. Interesting times, indeed.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on overhauling Microsoft. Download the report here.


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