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Reactions to Microsoft's 'Embrace' of Open Source at OSCON 2008

'Embrace' (to Extend) versus Embrace for Promotion, Contribution

Leaving the spin from the press aside, it's worth taking a close look at what Microsoft has done at OSCON.



Microsoft wants to blow FOSS developers a kiss while at the same time securing Microsoft's income. Some innocent developers and passive Microsoft employees/recruits liaise with a company that, objectively speaking, has a criminal past and an appalling history. In fact, even recently it has proven that nothing whatsoever has changed. It is that same old spoiled brat that disregards the law, resorting to bribery, bullying, fraud, extortion, technical sabotage, and blackmail. It's all well documented.

Bruce Perens and this Web site are far from the only sources that are critical of Microsoft's latest moves. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, for instance, is not buying it, either.

You see some people still believe that Microsoft offering patented protocols under “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms,” or “for free for noncommercial use without fear of lawsuits” is somehow some kind of olive branch to the open-source community.

As Tiemann put it: “A free-of-cost license that prohibits commercial use is useless to open-source developers. And therefore I cannot understand why anybody would think that Microsoft is doing the open-source community any favors.”

He’s got that right.


There are some more details from Vaughan-Nichols in ComputerWorld

The first announcement, that Microsoft was contributing a patch to ADOdb, a PHP database access interface, wasn't that big a deal. It is, after all, self-serving. Microsoft's contribution will enable people to use its own SQL Server instead of MySQL or PostgreSQL with PHP programs. Yawn. Nothing new here.


Apache too was considered over the weekend [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft uses Apache for document lock-in, making its formats more prevalent than the real international standard [1, 2]. Apache might not mind this, but it's being used against other groups of FOSS developers. Sean Michael Kerner had this to say, based on what he had seen at OSCON.

Ramji also said Microsoft has been working with the Apache POI project, which develops APIs for using pure Java to manipulate various file formats based upon Microsoft's OLE 2 Compound Document format. Those include most Microsoft Office formats, except for the more recent Office Open XML formats, for which Microsoft has embarked on a massive campaign to see adopted as industry standards.

[...]

Overall, Ramji tried his best to ingratiate himself with the OSCON crowd -- even wearing a Mozilla Firefox T-Shirt, and telling the audience that he wants to engage openly and honestly with the open source community. That's a message that he's been preaching for some time.


Steve Stites writes:

For several years the Microsoft astroturf has periodically reported on the activities of a pro open source faction within Microsoft. This factional fight is probably one of many within the Microsoft bureaucracy which apparently endures constant, intense infighting. But I don't see what interest it is to anybody other than a Microsoft bureaucrat.


Another comment of interest:

Fourth, it means MS wants to seed the Apache Group with Code that they will attach their IP to. This way, they can extract funds from users in the future, with their contributions.

Is it a good deal for Apache? In the short term, it provides them with cash. Is it a good deal for MS? Of course, it gives them access to a code base and hopefully developers they desperately need. Is it good for the development and user community? NO!!! Why not? It means MS is once again employing their extend, embrace, and extinguish paradigm, which has worked so well for them in the past.


From Rex Ballard:




   Message-ID: <2fee4c71-f8a7-4abd-bc29-654ea71b24f4@x41g2000hsb.googlegroups.com>    From: Rex Ballard <rex.ballard@gmail.com>    Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy    Subject: Re: Microsoft donate to Apache    Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2008 23:08:59 -0700 (PDT)



[...]

> ,---- > | Microsoft has bolstered its credentials with advocates of open source > | software.

Microsoft's credentials and "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" tactics are well-known throughout the industry.

What's surprising is that the Apache organization actually took the money.

> | It has given cash to the Apache organisation which oversees development > | of open source web server software.

This may be yet another sign that Microsoft's IIS is not doing what Microsoft would like it to do. Furthermore, benchmarks between Apache on Linux or Unix, and Apache on Windows Server NT, 2000, and 2003 have always been disappointing. Normally, Microsoft sponsors it's own benchmarks, comparing ISAPI applications to Apache CGI applications rather than Apache Plug-ins.

I would suspect that Microsoft is hoping for Apache's blessings of OpenXML, as well as the ability to shove Microsoft binary blobs directly through Apache servers into PCs, where the embedded OLE objects can run amok on any Windows PC capable of handling the OpenXML format.

Microsoft is also looking for ways to measure the Linux market more accurately, because the usual methods used to measure Windows are just not going to report Linux systems (unless the user has installed special software to enable ActiveX controls.

Perhaps they are looking at ways to embed signed Java Applets, which can also be used to install "snitch-ware" and other forms of malware on Linux systems.

We'll see.






To Apache, this deal seemed harmless, but it may harm other groups of FOSS developers. Tomorrow, hypothetically speaking, another group might sell out to Microsoft and be happy with it while hurting Apache. In that respect, it is the almost same as the funneling of money into Novell's bank account, which made some pointy-haired managers happy but almost everyone else in the FOSS world nervous.

Of course Apache will deny all of this because they want to believe, they are being defensive, they took the money and then encouraged to praise Microsoft, which is now their sponsor. Corel too thought it would enjoy its little deal with Microsoft while continuing its development of GNU/Linux. Where is it today? What about MySQL? Honeymoons rarely last forever. Sooner or later, it's purely down to business, to shareholders.

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