Microsoft We love open source Part I
“Today, really, the world is around mixed IT,” Paoli says. “Today it is a reality that many customers, if not the majority of customers I talk to, use Oracle and Red Hat and Microsoft and IBM and VMware and Google, etc. It’s all around what we are calling mixed IT. You have commercial software and open software together, in many, many cases.”
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Microsoft’s bold patent claim in 2007 didn’t amount to much. The claim seemed intended to lay the groundwork for a tougher stance on intellectual property and licensing, but after public backlash Microsoft has gotten smarter about how it approaches Linux and open source issues, says analyst Jay Lyman of The 451 Group.

“I think it’s been hard, if not impossible for Microsoft to live that down,” Lyman says. “They were asked to cite which patents were violated and they never did take it that far.”

As Linux gained in popularity, Microsoft reached out to the Linux community directly with its biggest move toward reconciliation. It submitted driver source code for inclusion in the Linux kernel, with the intention of providing “the hooks for any distribution of Linux to run on Windows Server 2008 and its Hyper-V hypervisor technology,” as Network World reported at the time. The code submission had to occur under the same GPL license, which Bill Gates has been known to criticize.

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Two months after this decision Microsoft was criticized by Greg Kroah-Hartman, the Linux driver project lead who accepted the code from Microsoft. Kroah-Hartman reported that “Microsoft developers seem to have disappeared, and no one is answering my e-mails.”

But Microsoft got its act together and everything seems to be fine as of now.

“From my perspective, [it’s going] great,” Kroah-Hartman said in an e-mail to Network World. “The code is in the main kernel tree, Microsoft is continuing to send patches to fix up things and a few new features have been contributed by other developers, and there have been a number of patches from the community to fix up some of the more obvious problems in the code.”

Despite the early hiccup, Kroah-Hartman now says, “I can’t think of anything negative about this [project].”

Going forward Kroah-Hartman says to expect “More of the same, patches continue to happen, the code is cleaned up further, and eventually, the code will move out of the staging tree into its own subdirectory in the main portion of the kernel. All the while, people are using the code just fine, every day.”

When told of Paoli’s comment that Microsoft loves open source, Kroah-Hartman says, “That’s a nice quote, I like it.”

But while the Linux driver project seems to be a success, it does not mean the entire “open source community” is ready to call Microsoft friend instead of foe. Open source is an approach to developing technology, and to some extent a philosophy. By its nature, open source cannot be represented by a single voice.

“You need to be careful about the term, ‘open source community,'” Kroah-Hartman says. “That’s a huge group, all of which operate independently and have their own views and goals. All I can represent is my own view as a member of the Linux kernel team and as a developer who creates different Linux distributions. So, in that viewpoint, it’s nice to see Microsoft become part of the Linux kernel development team. They are responsive to bug reports from users and other developers and interact quite well, making it a pretty good ‘relationship’ from my viewpoint.