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Why Microsoft is Still the Biggest Enemy of “Open Source”, Not Just GNU/Linux

"Microsoft has gotten so big that it can put out a Preview that will install itself without checking first to see if it has expired. The message here is that Microsoft's time is worth more than yours.... no start-up company could get away with being that arrogant."

--Jerry Pournelle, Byte columnist



Summary: A look at how Microsoft and its former employees/current partners have been subverting the “Open Source” label while redefining what it actually means

A LOT of projects and companies are said to have 'diluted' the impact of "Open Source" by calling things that have no source code "Open Source". The newest examples we found are "open-source media project", associating "Open Source" with transparency as an answer to corruption, and "open-source game developer". To quote one example:

US open-source media project TEDTalks is being made available to television networks around the globe.


When it's written as "open-source" (minus, not dash) it usually means that the source code was omitted or never existed. They are trying to ride the wave of buzzwords because "open source" has connotations like ethics, sociability, and trust.

“Microsoft has deliberately hijacked the term "Open Source", which it continually subverts and uses to market proprietary software under false or misleading labels.”The above uses of the term "Open Source" (or "open source" or "open-source") are mostly harmless as they do not encourage proprietary software in disguise of the very opposite. That's where Microsoft comes in.

Microsoft has deliberately hijacked the term "Open Source", which it continually subverts and uses to market proprietary software under false or misleading labels. That's just what makes Microsoft so unique, even though SAP is doing something similar these days.

One company/firm that routinely participates in corruption of terminology is the Gartner Group, to whom Free/open source software does not constitute a source of revenue, unless of course it's just pseudo-open source or what Novell calls "mixed source". One example of that is Talend, so Gartner is willing to make the exception.

This has not been lost on the VC community, who have invested in Talend to the tune of 28m dollars. Nor has it been lost on Gartner who have placed Talend in the highly desirable visionary quadrant in their most recent Magic Quadrant for data integration.


Let's remember that Gartner got sued for granting such status mostly to companies which pay the "analyst tax" [1, 2, 3, 4]. Not so long ago we saw the proprietary software company known as Black Duck (still masquerading as "Open Source") also promoted by the Gartner Group (Black Duck is turned again into a Microsoft booster for CodePlex). One of Microsoft's favourite open source fakers (Aras) is also receiving legitimacy from Gartner, which Microsoft and Gates help fund.

Aras still describes itself as "Enterprise Open Source" [1, 2], but it's just a Microsoft stack disguised as "Open Source". It's a wolf in sheep's clothing.

“It's revealing that almost nobody in the GNU/Linux world is gullible enough to fall for Microsoft's charade...”A lot of former Microsoft employees seem to have turned to the 'other side' only to 'reform' that side to be more like Microsoft, their former employer. We previously wrote about Ohloh for example [1, 2], noting that it was promoting Microsoft in all sorts of ways under the disguise of "Open Source". They are now adding features to SourceForge, having already tilted SourceForge more in Microsoft's direction. Microsoft too is adding features to its Microsoft-centric parallel universe of "open source", where merely every piece of software is just some 'addon' to proprietary software. See the comments in LWN. It's revealing that almost nobody in the GNU/Linux world is gullible enough to fall for Microsoft's charade; but Microsoft's target audience is probably managers who are not aware of/familiar with technology, or even clueless developers who think that by adding function to SQL Server and .NET they are really doing "Open Source". They don't.

As we showed in some previous posts, Microsoft Austria and Microsoft Canada apparently target GNU/Linux users in their country and try to get them to abandon their preferences/beliefs, then embrace Microsoft. Here is a brand new example of this, from the United States for a change. This GNU/Linux blogger received a sort of invitation from Microsoft, so he responds with:

The irony is the fact that this email came out around the same time as Microsoft decided to utilize closed source patents in IE9 instead of public domain codices such as Theora. Apple even followed suit. To make matters worse, Microsoft is waging a patent war against Android smartphones, claiming that they infringe on their patents. So with all of this activity against open source, how can Microsoft claim that they are committed to it?

The thing is, nothing about this makes sense. At first, I got the impression that they are planning to destroy Open Source while masquerading as supporting it. That would make sense, given their patent wars against open source software. Then again, if they really wanted to get word out that they support open source, wouldn’t they push this nonsense to more sources? What exactly are they trying to achieve?

Microsoft has a history of not making sense when it comes to open source software. First, they submit code to the Linux kernel knowing that it would never be accepted anyway, and then they opened up the Outlook file format. After that, this year Microsoft starts their war with Android and HTC, bullying companies into buying license agreements for things that haven’t been proven to be under Microsoft’s ownership, and then announcing that IE9 will use proprietary media formats.


Watch the second comment which says: "Open source is simply a ‘buzzword’ for Microsoft. They know it’s good for marketing. While the FOSS software market has been growing very slowly, it is still growing. Users are more aware and are beginning to request ‘open’ things such as open standards, open hardware and yes open source software. Microsoft as “pro open source” is plain and simple marketing. They just really don’t want to have to deal with not being able to charge for every line of code."

“When Microsoft was just publicly mocking "open source" every other day (i.e. not pretending) it was possible to rebut with logic.”Another case of "Open Source" fakes from Microsoft is one that's to do with biology and "open". We wrote about it some days ago, having previously given more examples which the Seattle press is promoting and Dana Blankenhorn falls for (we have been writing about this whole "biology" trick for months). He implies that Microsoft is "leading the open source bioinformatics movement," but they don't lead it, they hijack and fake it, selling proprietary software with a false label of "open source". As the commenters point out, Microsoft only pretends to be a leader (there are prior movements) and this is not even "open source"; it's just Microsoft's proprietary software with some 'dressing' on top of it, intended to give it some luring label like "open source" (many companies do this with the word "cloud" and Microsoft sometimes does that with the word "Seven").

There is still a difference between fakes and the spreading of fear. When Microsoft was just publicly mocking "open source" every other day (i.e. not pretending) it was possible to rebut with logic. In this case, Microsoft is embedding itself in everything and then redefines what things mean. This way, people get confused and may in turn become apathetic towards "Open Source". Watch this new DLP project which is labeled with the "open minus source" label:

Until last week, there really were no open-source agent-based DLP tools. There have been several open-source discovery tools, including Spider, Senf, and Find_SSN, but they had to be run on individual systems. Workarounds were created to use them in a distributed manner across many desktops, but the attempts were often very specific to a particular environment, kludgy, and required constant care and feeding.


The irony is that it's Windows-only GPLv3-licensed software, as pointed out by IDG:

OpenDLP runs on an Apache Web Server using a MySQL database. This version only works on Windows computers via an installed agent. The project is hosted on Google code and is licensed under the GPL v3.


They will hopefully port it to Free/libre platforms. At the moment, just like Chem4Word, this project urges users to buy proprietary software from the company that attacks "Open Source" more than anyone else.

Watch another IDG article where Microsoft employees make it abundantly clear that they don't understand or don't want to understand what Free/open source software is:

"It's something we talk about a lot," he [Microsoft employee] says. "We release quite a lot of stuff through open source agreements so people can access them and lift the covers off. You can download F# and run it as a standalone without Visual Studio on other operating systems and stare inside.


It's not about visibility. It's not about "lift[ing] the covers off". It's supposed to be about freedom -- something that Microsoft cannot or will not ever accept.

As one last item from the news, the Microsoft executives-run VMware carries on scooping up "open-source" and "Open Source" companies/projects, only to receive encouragement from the 451 Group.

The analysts at New York-based 451 Group have been pushing VMWare to buy, buy, buy, even offering a helpful list of targets, which includes Terracotta, Chordiant, and Mulesource, among others. (Yes, Gemstone was on the list.)


This is not something to be encouraged. VMware is where projects like Zimbra come to die, apparently [1, 2], at least as "open-source" projects. VMware never cared about Free/open source projects. It just wants more source code and the Microsoft folks who run the company after Tucci had overthrown the old management are not doing much to advance GNU/Linux (the old management did). There are allegations that VMware is also a GPL violator. It's truly a shame that VMware too was ruined by former Microsoft executives.

"We are going to cut off their air supply. Everything they're selling, we're going to give away for free."

--Paul Maritz, Vice President, Microsoft (now VMWare CEO)

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