How Microsoft Learned to Stop Worrying and (Almost) Love Open Source

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Sam Ramji insisted that he wasn’t joking, that he wasn’t crazy, and that he hadn’t joined some sort of dark Microsoft conspiracy.

The year was 2006, and Ramji had just been named Microsoft’s head of open source software strategy. Up to then, Redmond’s most famous contribution to the open source community was CEO Steve Ballmer comparing Linux to a malignant cancer. Even Ramji was skeptical — and a little afraid — of his new job.

The job would involve speaking to, in his words, “fairly polarized” audiences across the software world. “Polarized” is a bit of a euphemism. “That was a doubly scary proposition as I was not a public speaker and I knew the audiences quite well,” Ramji said later, indicating he too was once part of this hostile audience — i.e. the open source lovers who hung out on sites like Slashdot.org. “I’d competed with Microsoft for many years in prior companies and used Slashdot as my homepage.”

But ultimately, Ramji decided he could help change not only Microsoft — but also the general perception that the company is the mortal enemy of open source software.

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