Microsoft Extends a Hand To Mozilla

It may be August, but they’re having a snowball fight in Hell right about now.

The head of Microsoft’s  open source lab extended a very public offer to the Mozilla community to work to insure Mozilla software will run properly on Windows Vista.

Sam Ramji, director of the Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft, posted the offer this past weekend on the Usenet  newsgroup, where Mozilla developers discuss future product plans.

“I’m writing to see if you are open to some 1:1 support in getting Firefox and Thunderbird to run on Vista,” he wrote. Mozilla is the spin-off from America Online that developed the Mozilla browser, the basis for the Firefox browser. Thunderbird is an e-mail and Usenet newsreader that complements Mozilla and Firefox.

Ramji offered Mozilla developers access to space set aside at the Windows Vista Readiness ISV Lab, which is normally only for commercial software developers. The lab would offer a four-day event for up to four people with full access to the development team and support stag.

“I’m committed to evolving our thinking beyond commercial companies to include open source projects, so I went to the non-trivial effort of getting slots for non-commercial open source projects,” said Ramji.

Ramji made the post, then went on vacation and won’t be back until next week. But some members of the Mozilla Foundation have responded, including Mike Beltzner, user experience lead for Mozilla.

“I think we’re already in discussion with someone on your team about this, but for the record: yes, we’d definitely be interested in getting some 1:1 support,” he wrote in response to Ramji.

Mozilla has already been testing its software against Vista. Beltzner expressed an interest in the new application security mode, InfoCard security, integration with the common RSS data store and services and integration with the Vista calendar and address book.

This move makes a lot of sense and it shouldn’t be surprising, said Mike Silver, research director for Gartner. “Vista is only going to be a success if users can run the apps they need on it. Certainly they’d rather see users using Firefox on Vista than Firefox on Linux,” he said.

Silver doesn’t think it’s a reflection of a new direction under new chief software architect Ray Ozzie, but more the result of Microsoft’s legal battles.

“They’ve been ordered to play nicer with the competition. The EU is watching them, I don’t think they are immune from DoJ oversight. The more open Microsoft is to these apps, the better it is for them,” said Silver.

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