Microsoft opens up to open source


6 Apr 2007

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The difference of opinion between closed source vendors like Microsoft and the emerging open source software movement is not quite as stark as it has been publicly portrayed and Microsoft has actually opened up over one million lines of code to the open source community, a senior executive at the company has told siliconrepublic.com.

Bill O’Brien, platform strategy manager with Microsoft Ireland, said: “A large portion of open source software actually runs on Windows. For example, 50pc of JBoss software runs on Windows as well as 35pc of SugarCRM and 40pc of MySQL.”

O’Brien said Microsoft has had an open source group operating for the past three years that focuses on ensuring Microsoft’s Windows operating system and other applications can run smoothly alongside applications like SugarCRM.

“We don’t compete with open source. It is a way of developing software. We do compete successfully with products that come out of that model,” O’Brien said.

Explaining Microsoft’s rationale on the open source movement, O’Brien said the company is sticking to its own view of how software drives business value. “The core of what we do is create software that is crucially familiar and easy to use and we do that through through research and development (R&D). That’s the proposition we will always have with our customers.

“But a lot of the open source movement’s software runs well on Windows and it is important to us that the software runs well on Windows. On that note it makes sense for us to work with those communities with a goal to having a good experience for customers in the long run.”

O’Brien said that so far Microsoft has opened up one million lines of source code to developers in the open source movement. As a consequence Microsoft’s code features in up to 30pc of projects on SourceForge (www.sourceforge.net), the world’s largest community of open source developers.

“Members of those communities are developing products that work with Windows,” he explained.

Asked if he sees a day where the actual full source code to Windows and Office will ever be released, O’Brien said: “No, that’s not going to happen. The IT industry is built on intellectual property (IP) that is protected by patents and without it there would be no Adobe, Oracle or SAP. People patent their copyrights and everyone protects their IP and that’s how the industry works.”

O’Brien concluded: “Make no mistake, we believe completely in the value of the commercial software model. However, optimal conditions for innovation in the industry is the co-existence of closed and open source. The competition that creates is good for customers and the industry overall.”

By John Kennedy