At the Linux Collaboration Summit, held last week in San Francisco, an interesting panel discussion took place about Linux’ position in the wider operating systems market. Included were Jim Zemlin, Linux Foundation executive director, Ian Murdock, Sun community and developer vice president, and Sam Ramji, Microsoft platform strategy director. Titled “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”, the discussion focussed on Microsoft’s somewhat dubious relationship with the open source community.
Ramji explained that his role at the company is to educate people in and outside of Microsoft about open source, and how important open source software is for the Windows platform. More and more people are interested in running open source software like Apache and PHP on Windows servers, and this has led Microsoft to tighten its bonds with the Apache project. As Ars notes, “Microsoft joined the Apache Foundation last year and has already contributed some of its code to an Apache interoperability effort relating to service-oriented applications. Microsoft also adopted Apache’s permissive open source license for its Web sandbox initiative instead of using one of its own two OSI-approved shared source licenses.”
Ramji further noted, as paraphrased by Ars:
There is no dichotomy between Microsoft and open source software, he claimed. He said that open source software offers an opportunity for Microsoft and should exist across all platforms. He also emphatically distanced himself from Microsoft’s anti-Linux marketing campaigns and said that he doesn’t support that approach to competition.
He also made an interesting remark regarding competition with Linux. He said that Linux should not be conflated with open source, and that competition with Linux should not be seen as opposition to the open source development model. This is more or less an acknowledgement of the fact that competing with Linux simply isn’t the same as competing with any other closed source piece of software; the rules are different. You can’t sue Linux, you can’t buy it, you can’t stop it.
Microsoft still has a long way to go when it comes to working with the open source community, but there’s no denying that lots of progress has already been made. Still, I’d love to see more openness, especially on the interoperability front, between Microsoft and the open source world. As it stands now, Microsoft is often ambiguous about potential patent issues, which really hinders open source developers in working on interoperability. Let’s hope this can improve in the future.