Bruce Perens: Microsoft and Apache - What's the Angle?
For a decade, Microsoft was open source's worst enemy, combating it at every turn. But last week Microsoft joined the Apache open source project as a platinum sponsor, promising to put $100,000 per year into a project that beats its own IIS (Internet Information Services) in the market. Microsoft also made some of their patents available for use in GPL software like Linux without a royalty. Has Redmond given up the fight? Or is this just their latest strategy?
Years of Ill Will
Just a few years ago, Microsoft exec Jim Allchin called open source "an intellectual-property destroyer, I can't imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business." Craig Mundie called it unhealthy and economicaly unsound." But that was the old Microsoft, not the new cute one with an Apache feather in their hair and Bill Gates gone forever.
Now they just want to interoperate, right?
Wrong. You wouldn't have to look too far to convince yourself that Microsoft still engages in hard-edged fighting against open source. The Office Open XML standard has recently been pushed through ISO with so many irregularities in process that four nations complained. There already was an ISO-accredited office document standard called OpenDocument, created by the OpenOffice team. It was one-tenth the size of Microsoft's effort, and did the same work. But it would have put Microsoft and open source on an equal footing. Office Open XML, in contrast, is 6,000 pages long, so large that it's not possible for a programmer to learn it in his or her useful lifetime. That'll keep the open source folks from ever handling files quite the same way that Microsoft does.