Microsoft is redoubling its efforts to persuade business leaders that it
is committed to working more closely with the open-source community.
Jerry Fishenden, U.K. technology officer at Microsoft, took to the stage at
the Open Source Business Conference in London on Wednesday to
promote the technology giant's strategy of cooperating, as well as competing,
Fishenden told ZDNet UK that the conference was a good opportunity to address
the "misconception," as he put it, that Microsoft
was anti-open source.
"The issue is not as black-and-white as that," Fishenden said. "We're not
saying 'either use Microsoft or use open-source technologies.' We are part of a
broad ecosystem. Fifty percent of open-source projects are currently using
Microsoft products, for example."
The company cited recent partnerships
formed with open-source vendors such as JBoss and MySQL as evidence that it
was possible to both compete and collaborate in this space at the same time.
"Take Sun, for instance," Fishenden said. "It's obvious we're still competing
with Sun, but we are doing joint work around Web services and interoperability.
And we've recently released shared-source licenses for some of our products as
Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative covers a range of programs. Some of
these licenses allow developers to view, modify and redistribute Microsoft
source code, but others are more restrictive. The Reference License, for
example, only allows code to be viewed.
Some open-source advocates, such as Richard Stallman, have claimed in the
past that developers should approach Microsoft's Shared Source licenses with
caution because of these restrictions. Earlier this week, Microsoft
launched a site called CodePlex where people can access code made available
under a Microsoft shared-source license.
As the premium sponsor of the Open Source Business Conference, Microsoft's
open-source offensive was much in evidence, and dominated many conversations
among attendees. Few, though, would agree to speak openly about Microsoft.
Graham Taylor, program director of independent open-source body Open Forum Europe, told ZDNet UK that some people were
skeptical about Microsoft's involvement with the event.
"I would prefer to see an open-source supporter as the platinum sponsor, but
it shows a sign of maturity in the open-source market that Microsoft is getting
involved," Taylor said.
But Taylor also thinks Microsoft has a long way to go to gain the trust of
the open-source community. "We're not likely to see the leopard change its
spots. For instance, (Microsoft) said it supported the idea of an open-document
format, but won't support the ISO (International Standards Organization)
standard recently introduced to support this."
Ovum open-source analyst Laurent Lachal said the market has forced Microsoft
to be more pragmatic in its approach to open source.
"I think it will open source some of its products, in response to the
pressure from increased technology convergence," Lachal said. "And it will be
increasingly important for it to interact with open-source products and move the
discussion about 'open source' onto 'open standards.'"