Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Microsoft: Open Source Software's New Best Friend

Pardon me while I geek out. I wrote this post a while ago but its still relevant.

Microsoft has long been the enemy of Free and Open Source Software. Some people at Redmond are beginning to change that, but prevailing forces continue to hamper progress. Luckily, Bill's boys are fostering FOSS anew, and they don't even know it! As Microsoft enters its second decade of desktop dominance, also-ran software vendors are trying a new strategy to gain market share: open sourcing.

It began with Netscape. Bleeding market share thanks to MS's (not so legal) IE bundling practices, Netscape decided to open source the browser. That project became Mozilla and that became Firefox - the thing you're using right now (right?!). A right Cinderella story of open source. They proved that open sourcing works as a competitive strategy and boy are they cashing in.

More recently, Sun open sourced Java. To the keen observer, the reason is obvious: MS is pushing .NET full tilt. (Full disclosure: I work on the Mono project which is an open source implementation of .NET. I also happen to think that .NET kicks Java's ass).

More recently still, Adobe announced plans to open source Flex. As pressure mounts from Silverlight and the <canvas> tag, I think Adobe would be wise to GPL the whole Flash stack. They've already released their Tamarin ECMAScript VM.

In conclusion, Microsoft is now driving other companies to seek market share by any means necessary. Increasing this means open sourcing, and that's good news for us in the open source community!