The head of Microsoft's open source business has offered help to get Firefox to work with the upcoming Vista operating system, but it remains to be seen if Mozilla and the open source community will respond positively to the gesture.
Sam Ramji, director of Microsoft's open source software lab, posted an open invitation to work with Microsoft on a Mozilla development discussion group on Monday.
"I'm writing to see if you are open to some 1:1 support in getting Firefox and Thunderbird to run on Vista," Ramji wrote.
He stressed that Microsoft was "committed to evolving our thinking beyond commercial companies to include open source projects" in the Vista project.
Ramju was also anxious that Mozilla and the open source community should not take the offer lightly. He stressed that his contribution to Vista is the "non-trivial effort of getting slots for non-commercial open source projects".
The early signs from the open source community are that some are suspicious of Microsoft's motives.
But others believed that Monday's offer was a sign that Microsoft was changing. The company has finally realised that "ultimately… proprietary technologies will always get replaced by an industry-supported, open-standard alternative, hence the embrace of RSS, Open Source Lab, XML and royalty-free access to Open XML", posted one enthusiast on the Ars Technica Web site.
Firefox already runs successfully on existing Windows, Linux and Macintosh operating systems. Testing by ZDNet UK Reviews found that it also runs well in Vista beta 2, so it's not clear why Mozilla would need help from Microsoft.
However, the Vista Readiness Labs does includes use of Microsoft's Application Compatibility Toolkit, which tests more of a product than might be explored during normal use.
Mozilla Europe said it was "too early to comment" on Microsoft's offer.