How To Take (Yet Another) BeatingHow To Take (Yet Another) Beating
Is there any company in this industry that takes more of a drubbing from all sides -- its own customers, the competition, its ideological opponents -- than Microsoft? Especially when it's in the form of Microsoft's open source guy, Sam Ramji, <a href="http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2009/04/microsoft-rep-faced-tough-questions-at-linux-summit.ars">in a room</a> (and in front of an audience) with Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin and Sun dev veep Ian Murdock. These sorts of
April 14, 2009
Is there any company in this industry that takes more of a drubbing from all sides -- its own customers, the competition, its ideological opponents -- than Microsoft? Especially when it's in the form of Microsoft's open source guy, Sam Ramji, in a room (and in front of an audience) with Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin and Sun dev veep Ian Murdock. These sorts of things inevitably turn into a round of MS-bashing, but I give them credit for keeping their chin up.
Most of the pummeling sent Microsoft's way amounts to two complaints levied against them constantly in the past: 1) you can't talk out of both sides of your mouth about open source and open standards, and 2) stop using patents as a cudgel to keep other people in line.
The first complaint is something I've groused about myself a lot, and I suspect the biggest reason it exists at all is because MS's legacy -- and the people in charge of keeping that legacy alive, in various forms -- is and are all built on proprietary software. Getting MS to take a consistent inside-to-outside open source strategy right now is a little like getting a supertanker to stop on a dime. For a object with that much inertia, you need either a lot of force or a lot of patience.
The guys on the inside, the programmers and engineers who're the real friends of open source, are clearly straining at the bit. But they shouldn't be discouraged -- it's that very frustration and sense of urgency that allows them to steer Microsoft towards something a little bit less like the monolithic behavior of the past. I just pray they don't give up before the real rewards come to fruition.
Complaint #2 keeps coming back into the limelight, pretty much whenever the words "Microsoft", "patent" or "intellectual property" (pick any two) are breathed in the same sentence. My feelings about software patents have been deeply mixed for a long time, trending towards negative. The more I see of how little protection they actually afford, and how much of a hassle they end up being for everyone involved -- including the very people who are supposed to benefit from them -- the less I'm convinced they need to be defended so aggressively. They create more problems than they solve, even though in the short run it looks like you're winning.
So do face-to-face showdowns like this help or hurt? If nothing else, they show that all parties involved are at least willing to sit down at the same table and talk, and listen to some of their worst detractors. The next question is how far they can take any of the applicable criticisms in any reasonable stretch of time.
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