Microsoft: Hiring its way into open source(?)

by Matt Asay

Hank Janssen may not be drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid, but he's certainly jazzed about his work at the company. And I was frankly a bit bowled over by something he said:
[W]e have been touching a lot of items people never thought a few years ago would be likely. Getting Mozilla people on site for one. Another one that would have been considered impossible is Microsoft writing plugins for Firefox. Here is a cool one for example Photosynth, and you can listen to my podcast in which I interview Ian Gilman one of the Photosynth developers....

Just think about that for a second, Microsoft writing Firefox plugins!!!
I am thinking about it, and I'm very impressed. Microsoft is either the shrewdest company on the planet or it's actually feeling its way toward open source. I'm not suggesting that the company has a grand strategy to go open source, but I do believe that it's hiring a generation of developers and business people that are intelligent about open source, rather than knee-jerk against it.

I grew up in open source. I never had a career outside open source. It's therefore easy for me to accept it as the default business and development model. For those who grew up on proprietary software, the inverse is true. Not because they're bad people, but because they were "raised" differently.

As Microsoft attracts good people from the outside (Bill, Sam, etc.), and as it hires from the universities that increasingly teach open source, Microsoft will "get" open source more and more. I don't think this will fundamentally change the company from a products company to a services company, but I also believe that Microsoft's vision of baking services into software meshes well with the underlying ethic of open source.

In short, I continue to believe that open source is a massive opportunity for Microsoft, and I continue to be impressed (not always, mind you - I still despise the Novell patent fiasco and am not a fan of the "Get the Facts" campaign) with steps the company is taking to figure out open source. Maybe it will never quite arrive, but at least it's trying, which is much more than I'd say about some of its proprietary cousins.