Let's forget about search for a moment, and Microsoft's obvious need to buy a leading online company or face extinction.
Microsoft's proposed $45 billion buy of Yahoo would give the Redmond, Wash company control over a top open source e-mail company, open source projects and an open source infrastructure. On September 17 of 2007, Yahoo bought Zimbra for $350 million. Yahoo's infrastructure is built on BSD. Yahoo has released a myriad of software to the open source community and even sponsors some open source projects.
So this deal would put Microsoft directly into the open source software business.
There's no doubt that Yahoo! shareholders would delight in such a mega transaction. But what about the open source developers who built Zimbra? What about all the Zimbra customers who bought into the open source e-mail specifically because it was an alternative to Outlook and other proprietary offerings? Will Microsoft crush Zimbra into non-existence? Feed the Zimbra features into Outlook?
Recently we've examined the M&A craze sweeping the open source sector, and acknowledged that open source is not only driving the rise of innovative startups like Zimbra and XenSource, but essentially transforming the business models of large traditional proprietary companies such as Sun, Oracle, IBM, Citrix .. and now Microsoft.
I suppose it was only a matter of time.
Citrix's purchase of XenSource late last year got Microsoft into the open source business in not so subtle fashion. Microsoft and Citrix are so tightly bound that the latter is viewed aalmost as quasi subsidiary of Microsoft. (Let's not forget that Citrix was one of the last ISVs that refused to move their flagship product to Linux).
It's probably a good move for Microsoft corporate, Microsoft shareholders, Microsoft employees and, of course, Yahoo shareholders. And perhaps it is evidence of the new direction that Ray Ozzie -- Gates' named successor -- is taking the company. But it's good for open source? I doubt it.