Microsoft shutters its standalone Open Tech open-source subsidiary

Microsoft's three-year-old Open Technologies subsidiary is 'rejoining' the company, officials say, as its goals have been achieved.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is shuttering its three-year old Microsoft Open Technologies subsidiary, which the company originally created to "advance Microsoft's investment in openness including interoperability, open standards and open source."

Microsoft officials characterized the move as Microsoft Open Tech "rejoining" Microsoft, rather than closing down. In an April 17 blog post, company officials said that the Open Tech unit had "reached its key goals" now that "open source technologies and engineering practices are rapidly becoming mainstream across Microsoft."

When it was founded, Microsoft Open Tech was one of the forces championing open source inside the company. Its original team of 70 or so included engineers, standards professionals and technical evangelists. The head of MS Open Tech, Jean Paoli, was a well-known standards contributor and had helped jump start XML development in IE, Windows and Office.

Part of the reason Microsoft set up Open Tech as a wholly owned subsidiary was to try to speed up the arduous internal process of open sourcing Microsoft technologies.

Since then, a lot has changed at Microsoft. Various Microsoft business units are open sourcing more and more of their technologies. A year ago, Microsoft created the .Net Foundation that was chartered with open-sourcing big chunks of .Net, as well as other developer-focused Microsoft technologies. Microsoft is working with HortonWorks on Hadoop; with Docker on container management technology for Azure and Windows Server; with Apache on Storm analytics processing.

The Chief Technology Officer of Azure, Mark Russinovich, even went so far as to say recently that, theoretically, Microsoft could open source Windows. And CEO Satya Nadella has publicly declared on stage that Microsoft loves Linux.

My take is Microsoft doesn't need a separate org like Open Tech any more, especially not with the acceptance (and maybe even mandates) from the highest Microsoft management levels to partner with open source companies and developers, rather than to try to take them on as adversaries.

A company spokesperson, when asked, said there was no cost-cutting or other fiscal matters behind the decision to dissolve the standalone Open Tech unit. Microsoft is not planning to lay off any of the employees who have been working in the Open Technologies subsidiary, that spokesperson said.

Paoli "will continue to support the openness business strategies across Microsoft, including the Microsoft Open Technology Programs Office and other open engineering efforts." Microsoft will be finalizing its operational plan for the Open Technology Programs Office, which will sit in Microsoft's Developer Division, "in the next few months," according to a spokesperson.

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