RealTime IT News

Microsoft: The Open Source Company

If you can't beat them, join them? That may well be Microsoft's mantra, as it joins the open source community today with the blessing of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

After weighing the software giant's license terms against 10 criteria defined by the Open Source Definition, the OSI said it approved the the Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL).

"Is this the beginning of the end? Or is this the end of the beginning?" Michael Tiemann, vice president of open source affairs at Red Hat and president of the OSI, wrote in a blog post. "I know that the eyes of the technology world will be on the OSI and on Microsoft to see what happens next.

"If, as some fear, the approval of these licenses ends up damaging open source, perhaps we will learn of some 11th condition or some change to the 10 that must be made to better preserve the integrity of what we call open source."

In July, Microsoft said it would pursue OSI approval of Ms-PL and the Ms-RL, a move that came nearly two years after the company first announced them.

At the time, Ms-PL and Ms-RL were among three licenses that Microsoft whittled down from 10 to represent its simplification of the Shared Source licensing program. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) praised Microsoft for developing the three Free Software-like licenses.

Bill Hilf, general manager of Windows Server marketing and platform strategy for Microsoft, said since the OSI approval process began in July, the company has worked closely with the open source community and the OSI board to listen to feedback, address concerns and make appropriate changes. "Today's approval by the OSI concludes a tremendous learning experience for Microsoft and I look forward to our continued participation in the open source community."

But Microsoft's submission to the OSI was met with some derision from those on the OSI mailing list, including some notable negative comments from Google.

Chris DiBona, open source program manager at Google, wanted to impose some additional conditions on Microsoft's OSI application, including having Microsoft refrain from using what he called its market-confusing term "shared source."

"If not, why should the OSI approve of your efforts?" DiBona wrote on the OSI mailing list. "That of a company who has called those who use the licenses that OSI purports to defend a communist or a cancer? Why should we see this seeking of approval as anything but yet another attack in the guise of friendliness?"

For some, this announcement is confirmation that the sky is falling and the end of the world is nigh, wrote 451 Group Analyst Matthew Aslett in a blog post. "For others, it represents the conclusion to a process that has seen Microsoft engaging with the OSI on the OSI's terms and showing that it is willing to be flexible."

Microsoft's support for open source may strike some as being somewhat ironic, considering that the company is also once more beating the war drum on payments from Linux customers.