Is Microsoft Irrelevant?
At OSCON, a top software architect questions Microsoft's relevance as Linux and open source march on into the enterprise and the overall computing landscape.Is Microsoft irrelevant? That's what Brian Aker, director of architecture at Sun Microsystems' MySQL, called the software giant in an onstage Q&A during the opening day of keynotes and sessions at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention here July 23.
Aker's response came to a question from O'Reilly Media CEO Tim O'Reilly, who asked Aker and Michael "Monty" Widenius, founder of MySQL AB and author of the MySQL server, a series of questions, including their views on several leading companies in the computer industry. When it came to Microsoft, Aker replied that "Microsoft is irrelevant."
"Sam Ramji is the Senior Director of Platform Strategy leading Microsoft's platform strategy efforts across the company, including long-term strategic planning in the Windows Server and Tools organization. Sam's primary focus is to drive Microsoft's Linux and Open Source Strategy, working together with Microsoft technology development teams and open source communities to build interoperable solutions."In an interview with eWEEK, Ramji cited many of the same issues as Bray, including: Microsoft's work on interoperability with Sun, Novell, IBM and others; the steps Microsoft has taken with its Shared Source effort and more permissive licensing; the work that Ramji's lab has done; and steps like working with the Eclipse Foundation, gaining OSI (Open Source Initiative) license approval, and supporting open-source projects on CodePlex. In addition, Microsoft's hiring moves have reflected a move toward more "open"-minded individuals. For instance Hamilton Verissimo de Oliveira, founder of the Castle Project, recently said he will join Microsoft as project manager of the MEF (Managed Extensibility Framework) team. MEF provides developers with a tool to easily add extensibility to their applications and with minimal impact on existing code. The Castle Project is an open-source project for .Net that is aimed at simplifying the development of enterprise and Web applications. In any event, Verissimo de Oliveira joins a slew of other recent and not-so-recent hires from the open-source and open source-friendly worlds, including John Lam and Jim Hugunin, who lead Microsoft's IronRuby and IronPython efforts, respectively. Ramji acknowledged Microsoft's move to hire more people with Linux and open-source experience. "I grew up in Oakland in an area that was a melting pot," he said. "It takes all kinds to make this work and we understand that." Asked how he would characterize Microsoft's efforts in the open-source community thus far, whether they could be considered "baby steps" or entry-level moves, Ramji said: "If you know football, we're at the 30 yard line." I then asked whose 30, and Ramji said, "We have 70 yards to go." Microsoft is indeed learning as it goes. Witness a recent incident where the company had to pull the Sandcastle open-source project from its community site only to later put it back up on its CodePlex site. So if Microsoft is on its own 30 yard line, we'll have to see what awaits in the end zone and what kind of "defense" the software giant will have to play through to get there.