OSDL boss hints at Microsoft collaboration

OSDL boss hints at Microsoft collaboration

Summary: The head of Open Source Development Labs, Stuart Cohen, has added weight to rumours of greater collaboration between Microsoft and the open source community


Microsoft software designed specifically to run on open source platforms such as Linux could be closer to reality than previously thought, according to comments made by the head of Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) on Monday.

Stuart Cohen, OSDL's chief executive, claimed that it was quite likely that Microsoft would begin developing applications to run on open source platforms in the near future.

"I would not be surprised to see them [Microsoft] participate in software that runs on top of Linux in the future," he said.

Cohen added that proprietary software development was enormously important to the future of Linux and open source software, and that they would continue to co-exist. "There is an opportunity for a tremendous amount of software, mostly proprietary but some open source, to be developed on Linux. Proprietary continues to grow and grow rapidly," he said.

Cohen's comments come at a time when the hard battle lines between Microsoft and the open source community appear to be softening. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer recently met with Red Hat chief executive Matthew Szulik for more than an hour at a McCormick & Schmick's restaurant in New York.

And in late May Microsoft hired Daniel Robbins, the founder and former chief architect of Gentoo Linux, one of the most popular and highly regarded Linux distributions.

Cohen was speaking to the Commonwealth Technology Forum (CTF) in West London, via a live video link to his office in Portland, Oregon.

Cohen decided not to appear at the conference in person because of concerns about security following the terrorist attack on London last Thursday. "Following 9/11 I was outside of my home for five days, so my wife wasn't keen on me being in London at the moment," he explained.

The OSDL also announced that it is setting up its first European facility in Luxemburg to promote open source in Europe. The company already has offices in Oregon and Tokyo, recently added one in Beijing and hopes to have around 100 different member companies in the organisation by the end of this year.

Cohen said that setting up a European office would enable the OSDL to help stimulate local economies in the region in the same way it had done in Asia. "When I think about Linux and open source it is about collaborating all across the world," he said.

Cohen comments followed an earlier speech by Microsoft's UK chief executive Alistair Baker who tried to downplay the threat of open source to Microsoft's ability to sell into developing markets such as China and Africa. "What it comes down to at the end of the day is whether the technology is up to the job. We have seen people who have gone to open source for development eventually come back to us," he said.

CTF was intended to highlight the importance of information technology to emerging or developing countries.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and ZDNet.co.uk.

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.



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  • Nice words, but I'll believe it when I see it. Until then it's just Microsoft PR to me inching towards one-sided deals with lots of strings attached. Ofcourse, this is just based on Microsoft's track record so far but proven to be a reliable approach nonetheless.
  • That would not happen during the next few years. Why ?

    Because Microsoft have shoot themselft in the foot many times by telling the world over and over how bad opensource is. It would also harm there 'sometime in the future comming' Longhorn OS. It would like to say that 'We know that we have created a lousy OS so we trust in Linux now'. The effect would be a mass sell of the Microsoft stock and Red Hats share would probebly beat the sell price.

    Another effect would be that Microsoft in a linux world. Would put them as a regular software developer. They would not be seen as the biggest , brightest or the smartest anymore. SUSE, Red Hat and IBM have that lead. So the only way Microsoft can compete in that kind of world 'is too play fair game'. And that have Microsoft not managed so far.

    But probebly this will happen sooner or later anyway. It is full speed ahead now in Europe to change from less secure and high priced windows desktops to Linux ones all over Europe. EU have thrown the patent directive in the bin and that means harder competition for Microsoft. Competetion that they can't handle whithout cheating. So sell all your stock in the risky business company Microsoft before it is way too late.

    I say only one thing more. A thing that Microsoft said during the unfair fight whith Netscape.
    'You can never beat zero price'.
  • Let's see...what could they do?

    Intentionally put out inferior versions of Windows packages and blame Linux for the inferiority.

    Break other things ("Yeah...you have to install this as root...") and blame Linux for the breakage.

    I'm sorry, but what sane person would trust software from the home of "DOS isn't done till Lotus won't run" and the bogus "you're not running Windows atop MS-DOS, so we can't guarantee it will work" popup? At the very least, it would have to be open source, and even then I'd want an independent group to go over every single line before I'd even let it anywhere near my computer.
  • Right! And we all know how Micro$oft 'collaborates', as a rattlesnake with a mouse.
  • Messing with Microsoft, no matter how smart you think you are, is like shooting heroin with speed because you believe you won't become addicted that way.
  • Curious. Makes one wonder if the OSDL is targeted for a takeover by MS. They have done that with at least one 'Linux' trade press publication, the "Linux Insider'.

    Wonder what Linus thinks of this.
  • There's only one way to do business with Microsoft and that's to hire more and better lawyers than they do (This is what I hate about America). Oh, and you'd better have more than $60 billion in the bank, because they ARE going to screw you and there will be nothing you can do about it.