06.16.08

Microsoft ‘Buys’ Parts of the Open Source Movement – Part Deux (Updated)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Ubuntu at 8:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Towards Redefining Free Open Source Software in the Darnest of Ways

Here we go again. SourceForge is one recent example of Microsoft's strategy that involves capturing "open source", which it maliciously compared to communism in the past, and thus becoming one of its leaders. There are many other examples like unsuccessful attempts around the OSA and even OLPC. It becomes quite an abomination when Microsoft then redefines open source.

The latest news is about yet another Microsoft sponsorship of a project that so far seems to revolve around champions like Firefox, Ubuntu and other direct competitors of Microsoft.

Microsoft has become a sponsor of The Open Source Census, a project started earlier this year that aims to track and catalog the use of open-source software in enterprises worldwide, the group announced Monday.

[...]

It is important to balance open-mindedness with skepticism when thinking about Microsoft’s open-source strategy, according to one observer.

Here is what Glyn Moody had to say about this.

Call it the “loving to death” strategy: Microsoft entwines its tentacles around more and more of the open source world until it becomes almost – almost – an indispensable part of it. Result: the person on the Clapham omnibus is confused about what is and what isn’t open source….

What Moody calls “loving to death”, Linux Today’s Managing Editor recently called “killing with kindness”.

To exemplify this further, a trollish article that we alluded to the other day is now being dissected by MTG, who shows us how “open source” gets exploited and misused not just by Microsoft.

So apparently the Boy Scouts of America are all Gun Ho about open source. Computer World explains us that they have launch their BSA Open Source Initiative.

[...]

Since a recent experience with Microsoft got me worried about people using terms out of context, I thought I’d browse through the open source BSA site to find out more. Especially worth reading (and source from most of the quotes) are the pages named classroom and history.

Redefinition/spinning is an issue we’ll be seeing more of in the future. Why is Bruce Perens not up there in OSI policing and defending the integrity of this ever-mutating sibling of Free software?

“There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist.”

Bill Gates, 2005

Update: Some more analysis of this sponsorship is starting to appear now, including some key observations from Mary Jo.

And note the mention of license compliance here — a hot button for Microsoft, the company which has alleged that open-source software violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. The Census discovery tool doesn’t search for open-source software on Linux boxes only; it also scans for open-source installed specifically on Windows machines.

Microsoft officials are emphasizing that Microsoft wants to know about open-source adoption levels and trends because the company is interested in helping its customers’ Windows systems better interoperate with open-source systems. I’m sure that Microsoft also wants a better understanding of where/how open-source software is gaining traction in enterprises in order to better fight it.

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5 Comments

  1. PitaGuy said,

    June 16, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Gravatar

    Microsoft is falling like a rock from the tech field…I guess they have lost a *huge* market share to mac/linux/openoffice

    They are struggling for survival…

    There is no Windows 7 coming anytime soon to save them.

  2. PitaGuy said,

    June 16, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Gravatar

    From groklaw … [PJ: Um. They want to figure out who to sue over their stupid patents they allege are being infringed? You think? Learning from history and past Microsoft paid-for studies, I'd also predict that we will see a headline that Novell is winning in adoption rates, thus "proving" that it was right to sell out and sign a patent deal with Microsoft. A secondary finding could be that enterprise use of Linux otherwise is slowing, compared to a healthy Microsoft, I've no doubt. Thanks, Mary Jo, for letting us know Microsoft is funding this "study", so we can ignore the results. I naturally hope no one joins the study, now that Microsoft is sponsoring it.]

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Gravatar

    Yes, it figures. Whatever Microsoft Microsoft touches turns to <put your phrase here>.

  4. Michael said,

    June 17, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Gravatar

    I think PJ is grasping a bit there. Why would they sue? It just doesn’t make sense. Not as much sense as just getting a good grasp on just how much free software is out there and where it is used. With that sort of market research they can work out which projects to target for co-opting, or even which products the free software is displacing.

    That would surely be more useful to them – even if it just used for FUD – than suing anyone – at least until the reach the SCO stage.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 17, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Gravatar

    There are independent opinions that align with that of PJ. CEO of MuleSource says;

    My guess? I think Microsoft wants access to the results both so it can understand open source but also so it can start to consider legal actions against the most popular products and the companies that develop them.

    I’ll apologize in advance if the motives are completely altruistic but if the past is any evidence, we should really avoid giving this kind of information to Microsoft with no benefits attached to open source.

    Either way, the factor of FUD (not just strategy) applies here. The message might be something like: “If your company uses FOSS, Microsoft is on to you.” It’s the notion of visibility. Bear in mind that each time Windows Update is invoked, Microsoft receives a list — via the network — of all the applications that you have installed. It has gone on for many years and Microsoft uses that list to compete better.

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