Microsoft bought a seat at OSCON. There are problems with both what they are telling us and what others might not be able to tell us because of this. A small retrospective is in order.
Microsoft’s keynote speech at OSCON promises more “openness” and change. This is a familiar song and dance because the company has been saying the same things for nearly a decade. We can look back to Steve Ballmer’s “We’ll outsmart Open Source” talk that he gave to a 2002 conference of Microsoft MVPs:
We cannot price at zero, so we need to justify our posture and pricing. Linux isn’t going to go away–our job is to provide a better product in the marketplace. … Linux is not about free software, it is about community. It’s not like Novell, it isn’t going to run out of money … It’s weird! IBM says ‘Hey British Aerospace! Buy Linux…. From SuSE.
Mr. Ballmer laughably blustered about making Windows better at “clusters” than gnu/linux was but the rest is not so funny. Consider what happened to SuSE and Novell which received most of Microsoft’s charm offensive. SuSE became Ballnux, a taxed and Microsoft infested distribution and Novell went down the drain. Steve Ballmer’s nasty little threats about patent “liabilities” blossomed into Microsoft’s full out judicial extortion scheme.
Back in 2002, Lori Moore, vice president of product support services at Microsoft, promised a renewed “shared source” initiative.
“There are many options on the table. There are many ways to be more open, and we are reviewing ideas.”
This became the mostly failed CodePlex effort to distract and deform free software developers [2, 3, 4]. Years later, Steve Ballmer told the world that Microsoft would, “love to see all open source innovation on top of windows.” An astounding amount of effort was wasted porting free software to Microsoft’s jail but this represents a tiny, stale fraction of the free software universe and Windows itself is becoming irrelevant.
As you can see from the text at O’Reilly, “This keynote is sponsored by Microsoft,” the company paid for an audience. Richard Stallman had this to say about last year’s OSCON,
Microsoft typically demands a price for its sponsorship, a price that implies a change in the nature of the event. The price might be, let someone from Microsoft give a speech. … One way or other, Microsoft wants us to stop saying the most important thing to say: “Proprietary software is an injustice and we want to help you escape from it.”
There is no new Microsoft. The recent destruction of Skype, Nokia should be enough to prove the point.