Microsoft Tries to Put Open Source Background in the Past

| About: Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)
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Dennis Byron submits: As we’ve been noting since mid-2007, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is making every effort to put its anti-open-source baggage behind it. This is covered in detail in our annual Microsoft report released in December. On February 21, Microsoft announced sweeping open-source interoperability “principles” related to its volume software products (Windows Vista, the .NET Framework, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007) that basically put its agreements with the European Union Competitive Commission, announced in October 2007, into Microspeak.

The announcement has three implications:

First, previous tactical opposition to open source software [OSS] has been a distraction to Microsoft’s “Software Plus Service” strategy, which hopefully will become more about providing IT and business services than mundane closed or open technology terms and conditions. This means “Software Plus Service” is misnamed (but don’t get hung up on words, as the U.S. presidential candidates are saying to each other). The Software Plus Service strategy has been a work in progress since Ray Ozzie joined Microsoft and dropping all the anti-OSS tactics makes that clearer to investors.

Second, although at the February 21 press conference Microsoft specifically said this announcement had nothing to do with the proposed Yahoo (YHOO) acquisition, that acquisition has everything to do with bringing Microsoft services to consumers just as most of the current available Microsoft “Live” services support enterprises. Microsoft is uniquely positioned to support both enterprises and consumers. More importantly, it can support each individual in his or her enterprise and consumer roles as those roles change during the day.

Third, the announcement covers all interfaces used by Microsoft itself in tying its volume products to “other Microsoft products.” That means it will be easier for open source software providers to connect to the BizTalk integration engine (if that’s considered separate from Windows Server 2008), the Greats Plains heritage application software (even the smallest OSS ERP provider can write its version of SAP Duet), and more.

Apparently, when it crossed all the t’s and dotted all of the i’s on the agreement Microsoft made with a free-software-oriented organization called the Protocol Information Freedom Foundation in December 2007, it decided to just open the kimono and eliminate the middle man.

Can you say this means Microsoft is now open source? No, and Microsoft took time in the press conference to spell out its intellectual property rights (licenses will be reasonably available but not freely available). But anyone who argues about the differences at length (and many long-time Microbashers will of course) is strictly splitting hairs.