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Microsoft's Open Source Business Conference

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Microsoft is no stranger to open source and Linux conferences. In the dark ages, Microsoft was simply the target for venom, but in recent years Microsoft has stood up to be counted (and accounted) for its open source actions.
Is this a good thing for Open Source?

This week's Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) is a great case in point. In fact Microsoft had an entire day (ahead of the official conference) for its second annual Open Source ISV forum. At the core conference itself, Sam Ramji (whom I've spoken with before) sat on panels (including: What
Open Source Can Learn From Microsoft and the Proprietary
World
)
and Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith delivered a keynote.

Wait a sec..what's wrong with this picture?

Isn't Microsoft's legal team (headed up by Smith) the same group that has alleged (without providing any evidence) that Linux and Open Source technologies infringe on over 200 Microsoft patents?

OSBC conference chair Matt Asay blogged that:
I asked Brad to speak because I figured it was the shortest path to
getting clarity from Microsoft vis-a-vis open source and the nettlesome
legal issues that have plagued Microsoft's relationship with open
source.

From my take on Asay's report on the actual keynote which was followed by a panel discussion - there were no real answers forthcoming from Microsoft on the patent issue. Certainly Microsoft has stated before that they can create a bridge with the open source community on intellectual property issues.

I respect what Microsoft is trying to do with its outreach to the Open Source community and I respect the fact that Smith took the stage in front of what wasn't likely to be the most friendly audience he is likely to face.  Certainly open discussion on issues is the right way to go. It's much more productive for everyone involved to be open as opposed to just trading barbs and rumors.

Will it actually make a difference?

Well that remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that Smith's appearance at OSBC might result in further interoperability - or maybe just further patent deals - with Open Source vendors.

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