Microsoft extends a helping hand to Firefox developers - but why?

Summary:It seems that Microsoft wants to help aid in the development of the Firefox browser and has extended an invitation to the Firefox and Thunderbird teams to visit with the right people to get Firefox running under Vista. The invitation came in the form of a message posted last Saturday by Sam Ramji, Director of Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft to the mozilla.dev.planning newsgroup. But why?

It seems that Microsoft wants to help aid in the development of the Firefox browser and has extended an invitation to the Firefox and Thunderbird teams to visit with the right people to get Firefox running under Vista.  Firefox is very well behaved under Vista, something which has been true since very early buildsThe invitation came in the form of a message posted last Saturday by Sam Ramji, Director of Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft to the mozilla.dev.planning newsgroup.

On the face of it, that sounds like a cool idea, but what's behind it?  After all, I've tested Firefox on Vista using a number of different hardware platforms, and I've not encountered any issues specific to the Vista platform.  In fact, Firefox is very well behaved under Vista, something which has been true since very early builds.  Everything that you have come to expect from Firefox on XP or Windows 2000 holds true under Vista.  Hardware requirements are the same and consumption of resources is about the same as under XP.  It's also just as stable under Vista as it is under XP.

So, what's behind the invitation?  Well, I think that Microsoft has to be looking at creating a bridges to open source communities as part of a corporate reorientation strategy.  Open source is growing and Microsoft doesn't want to be left behind.  Maybe Microsoft is interested in seeing Firefox and Thunderbird on Pocket PCs and SmartPhones and this is a way of opening the door.  I know of a lot of people who'd like the choice at least, and maybe that concept of choice is filtering down at Microsoft

Another possibility is that there's something critically wrong with the way Firefox works under Vista and Microsoft wants this fixed early to prevent any kind of fallout.  Maybe Microsoft is seeing that there is a growth of Mozilla users and wants to integrate the products into Vista in a deeper way (perhaps offering updates via Windows Update).  Maybe this has something to do with Microsoft getting the EU to call off their hounds.  Maybe ... maybe ... maybe ...

I'm also pretty sure that there's also a PR angle to all this.  It's certainly got people talking about Microsoft and Mozilla together and in a positive way.  Microsoft is seen as extending a helping hand to the open source community and this is going to be seen in a positive light by many.

However, there's a part of me that wonders whether there's a freak-out element to this invitation.  Nah, I don't really believe that Microsoft wants to freak out the Mozilla development team in any way, but it's interesting to speculate on how this might change things nonetheless.  Imagine a future where there are closer ties between Microsoft and the Firefox/Thunderbird team.  Imagine how this would affect the whole Microsoft vs. Open Source and Internet Explorer vs. Firefox holy wars.  After all, there might be no better way for Firefox to lose market traction than to make it seem like it's becoming another IE.  This invitation alone has thrown a hand grenade into many a Mozilla fanboy blog/forum/website.  I've already seen a number of people claiming that this is Microsoft's way of somehow assimilating Firefox into Microsoft or that it's some scheme to torpedo the project.  The funny thing is, there's no need for any kind of mass-scale assimilation; even the possibility of a limited amount of cooperation between Microsoft and Mozilla seems to already be aggravating some segments of the community and that could alienate some advocates. 

Should Mozilla accept the invite?  Sure, why not.  It could be a great opportunity.  If nothing else, it'll probably be fun.  I don't know how much of Microsoft's help they really need, if any, but it could be an interesting learning experience for all involved.

For me, it's just making me wonder if there is some reason why I shouldn't be running Firefox under Vista ...

Topics: Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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