Is This the Right Room for an Argument?
Subject:   What is Microsoft "learning"?
Date:   2002-07-25 15:06:45
From:   edfactor
(First off, I am probably the only person who both was there for Craig Mundie's speech last year and also saw Jason's speech at the iLaw conference in early July.)

Both Craig and Jason stressed they are "learning" from open source. But the speeches, a year apart, showed no progress. Craig tried to back off comments by Balmer, Allchin et al. that open source was a bad thing. Despite that difficult PR move, I thought Craig's speech was sincere. I do think he lost the debate on the basis of Microsoft's reputation and some smaller points. (Tiemann also had the home crowd advantage, to say the least) Craig promised Microsoft would do the right thing in this area.

Fast forward a year to Jason at Harvard. Jason says basically the same thing as Craig, but unlike Craig, he cannot help but squeeze in just a little fear about the GPL, saying that Microsft tells people that they need to be careful about using those products due to the licensing issues. He later then told the audience during Q&A that he didn't want the whole session to be about the GPL. (Kind of a hit and run)

Microsoft is intentionally spreading fear about the GPL and hoping to catch all open source in that sentiment.

Some of what Jason said was quite true. He pointed out that the vast majority of Microsoft's customers didn't want the source - saying that that was "their job" in Redmond. He also said that it's not Microsoft's goal to totally open their stuff. Agreed all around.

I actually don't expect Microsoft to like open source at all! I expect them to hate it. After all, they compete against Linux, Apache and many others.

What Craig didn't get and Jason still doesn't get is that people have real concerns about their motives in shared source and sponsoring events dedicated to openness. It's like when a tobacco company sponsors some youth anti-tobacco campaign. People wonder, "Why are they doing this?" With cigarettes, we wonder if the tobacco companies sponsor prevention programs just so they can tell juries that they are not the big, evil companies that people think they are.

So with Microsoft, it's not unreasonable for people to question their motives in this area, especially when their executives and salespeople continue to spread FUD about open source.

And even though a year has passed, Microsoft has apparently not learned that unless they do a few huge things to prove they have good motives (something on par with Sun bringing J2EE to Linux against their own Solaris interests) no one is going to trust them.

Maybe next year.