One of Microsoft's top open source thinkers and strategists, Bill Hilf, is taking on a new role: general manager of Windows Server marketing and platform strategy.
Hilf used to be a general manager of platform strategy, where according to his bio he led "long-term strategy planning in the Windows Server and Tools organization." Until now, Hilf has primarily been concerned with -- and noted on -- issues concerning interoperability between Linux and Windows and evangelism of Microsoft's open source efforts. Earlier this year, Hilf announced that Microsoft was launching a Web site on Microsoft.com dealing with open source.
"This expanded role is a natural evolution of the work Bill has lead 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," Microsoft said in a statement.
Now, Hilf will take on a broader strategy and marketing role just as Windows Server 2008 approaches release. Microsoft, which long had a marketing page called "Get the Facts," which disparaged Linux, now has one called "Windows Server/Compare," which encompasses a broader view, including some Linux comparisons. Next week, for example, a Microsoft group product manager is hosting a chat called "Perspective on Windows Server and Linux" on the site.
The announcement of Hilf's new role comes quick on the heels of a new ratcheting up of Linux criticism from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who has a history of calling Linux out for intellectual property violations. At the British opening of Microsoft's Startup Accelerator Program last week, Ballmer said that Red Hat users should pay Microsoft because they're using Microsoft intellectual property. Earlier this year, Microsoft openly said that Linux violates 235 of its patents.
Even Hilf, who's generally played good cop in regard to open source, has gotten some flak for things he's said about Linux. Earlier this year, Asian press outlets reported that Hilf had said he was out to "debunk a lot of the mythology around open source" and that "Linux doesn't exist in 2007." Though he apparently only meant that the open source movement has turned capitalist, those comments were maligned by open source bloggers and some others.
That said, Microsoft has been making some progress in working with the open source community, including a controversial interoperability deal with Novell and others with open source vendors such as SugarCRM and Xandros. Earlier this year, Microsoft hired Tom Hanrahan, a top Linux Foundation engineering manager. Last week, the company announced it was making available a limited-use code release of its .Net programming code libraries. Hilf came to Microsoft in 2003 from an open source role at IBM.