At the Web 2.0 Expo, Tim O'Reilly predicts that Microsoft will emerge as a leading proponent of the open Web, despite the company's tradition of fostering its own proprietary operating systems and development languages. O'Reilly says Microsoft's recent deals to index Twitter tweets and use Wolfram Alpha's APIs for computational data show a shift in its willingness to work with other Web companies. Moreover, the Windows Azure cloud computing operating system is designed to work with open-source technology.
publisher Tim O'Reilly has predicted that Microsoft
will emerge as a leading
proponent of the open Web, a statement that must seem highly unlikely to a
computing world accustomed to Microsoft's love of fostering its own proprietary
operating systems and development languages.
"Microsoft is going to be one of the great allies of open
standards," O'Reilly told thousands of people at the Web 2.0 Expo
Nov. 17. That statement picked up where O'Reilly left off in "The War for the Web,"
a cautionary blog
post published Nov. 16. He wrote:
"Microsoft will emerge as a
champion of the open Web platform, supporting interoperable web services from
many independent players, much as IBM
emerged as the leading enterprise backer of Linux."
But he didn't qualify that statement or explain how Microsoft would do this.
O'Reilly used the blog post as a lead-up to his Tuesday keynote at the Web 2.0
Expo he helped foster years ago.
Toward the end of his keynote, which discussed how cold wars between
companies are paving the way for mutually assured destruction, O'Reilly said
Microsoft's recent deals to index Twitter tweets
and draw on Wolfram Alpha's
APIs for computational data show a
shift in its willingness to work with other Web companies.
While O'Reilly was making his case about the various factions fighting it
out for our interest (and dollars) online, more evidence of this openness emerged
at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference.
Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said Microsoft would release
its Windows Azure cloud services operating system
in 2010. But the
big news was that instead of just supporting the company's .NET
programming language, it will support PHP, MySQL and other open-source tools.
For example, Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg said his company is launching
a site called OddlySpecific.com that runs on SQL Azure. That Microsoft would
trumpet the existence of a customer so early on in Azure's young career is not
big news, but Automattic makes WordPress, a blogging platform based on
Betanews' Joe Wilcox, who has covered Microsoft extensively for the last 15
"From a marketing perspective, it
was a stunning announcement, since Automattic uses open-source tools like
Apache and MySQL. The message: Azure isn't just about Microsoft products or
development tools. I must say it was simply shocking to see WordPress creator
Matt Mullenweg on the PDC stage."
So there is something to O'Reilly's position that Microsoft is opening up.
However, O'Reilly said companies such as Microsoft shouldn't open up only because
they are trying to catch up to Google in the field of cloud-based computing.
"Don't do it just because you're the underdog," O'Reilly said,
pointing to IBM's embrace of Linux to battle
Microsoft and Google's launch of OpenSocial to contest Facebook as other
examples of such defensive jabs. Do it, he said, because it's the right way to
do business in the Web economy.
His parting comment for the audience: "As you build services, do what
you do best, link to the rest."
eWEEK will have more this week on O'Reilly's cautionary tales about
computing cold wars between Google and Apple and Facebook and Twitter.