Microsoft Should Step Up Its Open-Source Strategy

Opinion: Microsoft needs to do more than talk a good game when it comes to open source. (Microsoft Watch)

Its time for Microsoft to put its software where its mouth has been.

Late last year, an individual with connections to the open-source community submitted one of Microsofts Shared Source licenses to the OSI (Open Source Initiative) for approval as an OSI-sanctioned open-source license.

The license submitter, John Cowan, was not a Microsoft employee. At press time, we knew little about his motives. We did know, however, that Microsoft was none too pleased that it was being rushed into taking the seemingly momentous step of getting the official OSI blessing of its Microsoft Community License.

In some ways, I cant blame Microsoft for rebuffing Cowans efforts. Would I want someone submitting a story I had written for publication in a magazine or newspaper without my prior knowledge? Or if I had developed a patentable product or service, would I take kindly to someone else seeking patent approval for it—even in my name?

Nonetheless, Microsofts reaction to this latest development says volumes about the companys thinking, these days, about open source. Microsoft officials rarely are lashing out at open-source vendors, strategies and policies these days. Instead, Microsoft wants to be seen as a potential partner—perhaps even a "friend"—of the open-source community.

Just last week, the head of Microsofts open source lab invited the Mozilla development team to Redmond to participate in a Vista porting lab to insure that Firefox and Thunderbird work properly on Windows Vista.

In late July, Microsoft invited some leaders in the open-source programming community to take part in the .Net Lang confab on campus.

But Microsoft isnt ready to take the next step. Microsoft officials have said they believe some of their Shared Source licenses would pass muster with the OSI. OSI members and backers have said they are interested in seeing Microsoft submit these licenses. So why arent the Softies submitting the Shared Source licenses themselves?

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