MS breaks the sixth seal?

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (476 Words)

Quick check - ok, the sun is in fact not as black as sackcloth. But today, something earth-shattering happened - Microsoft has contributed code to Linux.

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that I’d never live to see the day this happened. It’s 20,000 lines of driver code to make Linux run better under Hyper-V, which is of course in their interest (since you have to buy a copy of Windows Server 2008 as the host) , but that’s par for the course for open source contribution (you scratch your own itch!), and it’s a massive watershed regardless. From what I hear there’s still a lot of concern at Microsoft about how to manage contributions across the company boundary (in both directions), so I’m not sure what extra procedures they would have put in place for the developers involved in this process to keep the corporate legal army satisfied - perhaps pre- and post-project selective mind-wipes 😉 - but the fact that they managed to make it happen is a big deal.

Microsoft has wielded by far the most acrid rhetoric about open source in the past - we all hear that it’s changing, and I know particularly of specific people at Microsoft (mostly developers) who take a much more open view, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that while the top brass who set the ‘old’ policies remain in situ, substantive change will be difficult. But this move is one of many lately that make me think that just maybe, people higher up the chain are starting to get it. Or at least, they’re starting to defer to people who know better.

I’d argue that very few people in the open source community are inherently anti-Microsoft, they’re just a little more free-thinking when it comes to technology choices, a little more honest with their opinions, and have come to view MS as ’the enemy’ primarily because of the old rhethoric the company used to use on a regular basis to attack them (and some parts of the company still don’t seem to be getting the ‘openness’ memo - as TomTom found to their detriment). Microsoft, or rather, Mr Gates and Mr Ballmer specifically, effectively made themselves the enemy of the open source community with their often ill-conceived tirades, and that’s something that will take a long time to heal. But, as we all know, actions speak louder than words - and if the company continues to make these kinds of conciliatory moves, they will start to win people in the open source community back, at least those people that judge on facts rather than old predjudices.

Trust takes a long time to be earned, particularly from where MS started from, so it’ll be a long road - but if this is how things are going to develop in future, then bon voyage, MS.