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Ballmer may not win buying open source

If Microsoft wants to get value from open source investment it's going to have to do the changing, rather than insisting that its acquisitions do things the Microsoft way.

Snow Dogs, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. from Amazon.com
Scanning the headlines this morning one point stands out.

Open source is about customers and developers. It's not about strategy, not about marketing. It's not, in other words, about Microsoft's strengths.

So Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who admitted to our own Matt Asay yesterday he'd buy open source companies, may be disappointed. The Jerry Maguire "show me the money" days are done.  It's more about another Cuba Gooding Jr. vehicle, the largely forgotten Disney movie Snow Dogs.

It's one of the few movies Gooding Jr. tried to carry himself. Like his father, a soul singer by trade, he's more of an ensemble guy.

The movie in question is also about teamwork, in this case a group of dogs. And it's about family, a convoluted plot which has him as the illegitimate son of the late (great) James Coburn.

Point is, the motivation here wasn't money, and the key to success wasn't strategy. It was about listening, about letting go, about nurturing. And the film only did well because it was relatively cheap to make. Snow Dogs was not a blockbuster.

All these mushy values turn out to have financial consequences in open source. Oliver Alexy writes that projects designed to crush competitors end up being worth less than those designed to serve customers. Steve Brady of Nuxeo says the open source developer community's transparency, and the proprietary attitude among project leads, can make them great hires.

This flies in the face of "traditional" Microsoft strategy, in which competition is everything and loyalty is to the firm, not the project.

Joe Torre, from Keppler Speakers Bureau
All of which says to me if Microsoft wants to get value from open source investment it's going to have to do the changing, rather than insisting that its acquisitions do things the Microsoft way. 

I really doubt Ballmer can do that. Keep winning managers in place when they're not taking titles? Do what your fans say they want you to do?  That's not this yankee's way.