Government // Enterprise Architecture
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4/10/2008
10:27 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Another Red Letter Day For Open Source At ... Microsoft?

Time for some open source news from a place where such a thing ought to be an oxymoron: Microsoft.  Sam Ramji, who used to head up Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab, has been promoted to the head of that company's worldwide open source / Linux operations team.  Great, but what will it really mean for MS's stance on open source?

Time for some open source news from a place where such a thing ought to be an oxymoron: Microsoft.  Sam Ramji, who used to head up Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab, has been promoted to the head of that company's worldwide open source / Linux operations team.  Great, but what will it really mean for MS's stance on open source?

What's been clear for a while is that the rank-and-file engineers and programmers within Microsoft do take open source pretty seriously.  Ramji himself is one such person.  I've been following the goings-on of the OSSL through its Port25 blog, and the people there all have great enthusiasm for their work.  Frankly, I can't imagine the Microsoft of old ever talking openly about how open source influenced Windows Server 2008 (even if WS2K8 itself isn't an open source product), or hosting internal conferences about open source at MS.

It's good stuff to hear about all around,  but ultimately it's not guys like Ramji that call Microsoft's outward-fired shots on open source.  It's the folks at the very top -- Steve Ballmer & Co. -- who have gone from ignoring open source completely to condemning it to grudgingly accepting it.  They're the ones who dictate how Microsoft is going to deal with open source -- and you can bet as long as those people remain in their current positions, the overall stance on open source that Microsoft presents to the world is going to be "Nice, but we don't do that.  Oh, and by the way, there's these patents..."

Microsoft's current stance on open source seems to revolve around making Windows a great place to run open-source, and getting Windows to be an incrementally better player with existing open standards.  In short, it's about making open source serve Microsoft, not the other way around.  Still, I hold out hope that Ramji and his cohorts can eventually build up enough clout within Microsoft to make their collective thinking a little less closed-ended.

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