back to article Open Source's 2014: MS 'cancer' embrace, NASDAQ listings and a quiet dog

Ho hum. Another year, another slew of open source announcements that prove the once-maligned development methodology is now so mainstream as to be tedious. Running most of the world’s most powerful supercomputers? Been there, done that. Giving retailers the ability to deliver highly customized paper coupons to consumers based on …

  1. Denarius

    so long as its

    merely extend, not embrace. One would not want a SCO vs the universe legal show to start in about 5 years as to who owns what in source code trees. If genuine it may keep Microsoft very relevant to software for a long time. That would be tectonic as it looked until recently it was joining IBM in decline IMHO.

  2. BobChip

    Who bites harder?

    Looks like the lion's got the tiger by the tail. Bets as to who might win?

  3. nematoad


    “a paradigm shift for a goliath of a company and its perception in[the] industry,”

    Rather it should be :

    “a paradigm shift for a goliath of a company and its perception of [the] industry,”

    The FLOSS world already has a perception of MS and selective releases of software is not going to change this in a hurry.

    What MS has done is realise that the world is changing and that it is in danger of being left behind and somehow it has to clamber aboard the FLOSS bandwagon before it sinks into irrelevance. So MS is not doing this because it has had an epiphany but because the thing that really matters to it, the bottom line, is under threat and it's clutching at any straw it can find.

    1. Phoenix50

      Re: Nope.

      Of course it has - people can crow al they want about "embracing" this and that, but Microsoft is still a commercially-driven private enterprise. There's nothing more to it. This is about survival - only a fool would fail to recognise the shift in worldwide computing to a more open model. Microsoft are merely changing course to ensure longevity.

      And so what if they are? Doesn't everyone benefit? Can someone point me at a legitimate negative to MS embracing open source? And no, your saturated hatred of Microsoft as your raison d'etre will not suffice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Phoenix50 - Re: Nope.

        A legitimate negative would be the fact that extend is just the beginning of the road to extinct. MS has done it so many times that I strongly doubt this will be the beginning of a new era. How about opening some bits and parts of Active Directory or adopting some real open standards for office documents ?

        This is not hatred, it's just FOSS self preservation instinct.

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge


        One of the big differences between penguinistas and commercial software users it that penguinistas read the license (and either follow the rules or use something else). Microsoft has a long history of open source. The first open license I remember from Microsoft said something like "If one of your developers could have glimpsed this source code we can sue you for copyright infringement". They have progressed through stages with licenses like "If you use the source code, we can sue you for patent infringement" and "You can distribute something compatible with our documentation, but it won't be compatible with our software. If you distribute something compatible with our software, we can sue you".

        .NET has been shared source since 2007, but the license was the Microsoft Reference License. That was enough to convince plenty of penguinistas not to take an interest in .NET, and to take care that they did not rely on it for anything that mattered (or anything at all, depending on their level of caution/paranoia). The new .NET license is an MIT variant.

        The MIT/BSD licenses are an excellent choice for academic institutions with government funding. The license includes a requirement to retain attribution of where the source code came from, but has few other restrictions. The chances are you can use MIT licensed software in your commercial or open project with minimal inconvenience (read the licenses and check, because there are variations). The author of the software can then point at all the places her software is used as evidence that the grant money was used effectively.

        An MIT variant is not the GPL, and there are good and bad reasons for using it. For example libgcc is required by any software compiled with gcc. If libgcc were only GPL, it would not be legal to distribute closed source software compiled with gcc (the actual license is GPL plus some exemptions for distributing close source binaries). For parts of .NET, an MIT variant is an excellent choice for a language intended for both open and closed projects. The down side of the license is what happens when third parties contribute improvements. If the improvements have the same license Microsoft can include them in a closed source variant of .NET, say .NET++. The next step would be to create reasons why people need to buy .NET++ instead of using open.NET. Microsoft have repeatedly demonstrated their outstanding ability to find the smallest difference required to make an expensive upgrade essential to the bulk of their users. This is sufficient reason for a hefty chunk of developers to pick different project to contribute to, and will slow the progress of .NET.

        The MIT variant license is a very small sting in the tail. Like many penguinistas and closed source software distributors, I use many pieces of BSD/MIT licensed software. With this change of license in progress, my reason for not using .NET is because I no experience with it, and plenty of experience with its competitors that have been open for a long time. If a useful piece or .NET software turns up, instead of running away screaming as I would have done last year, I will read the license and then take a decision.

        Sun went through a similar period of change with some of its executives understanding how to benefit from free software licenses and others holding them back. There was a sequence of license changes, each better than the last, but with obvious reasons to convince third party developers to take no interest. Sun's profits plummeted and they were bought by Oracle. I can understand Microsoft taking their time to get it right rather than rushing into a broken compromise. Given their history, Microsoft will have to deal with the fact that penguinistas will search any gift-horse dilligently for the slightest possible hint of a way for Microsoft to exploit lock-in.

  4. Gray

    It's in the DNA

    Lest one think that Microsoft can merge constructively into the FLOSS universe, it might be helpful to consider the parable of the Fox and the Scorpion. Microsoft's very DNA will dictate its behavior; the scorpion will always be a scorpion, and Microsoft cannot be anything other than Microsoft.

    Trust is the foundation of all human endeavor; Microsoft can be trusted to be untrustworthy.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: It's in the DNA

      Microsoft's very DNA will dictate its behavior

      And this post is a fine example why this tired, useless "DNA" metaphor needs to be taken out back and shot in the head.

      Microsoft does not have DNA. It is not an organism. Even if it did have DNA, genes aren't destiny, so in what way is the metaphor descriptive, much less compelling?

      It's just lazy magical thinking, of the essentialist variety: "There's some intangible essence associated with entity X that explains its past and restricts its future, and we can predict that future by divining the nature of that essence". Might as well be reading entrails.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's in the DNA

        > Microsoft does not have DNA.

        Microsoft *does* have DNA. It is called "corporate culture" and it has it in spades.

        It guides the direction of the company in all its dealings and is much bigger than any one person which is why it is so resilient to change.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open is not Free

    The OSI is (like the Linux Foundation) nothing more than an industry talking shop.

    The software might be open, but the services are not.

    Stallman was right. Again.

  6. Salts


    Microsoft could have extinguished open source it would have done so by now, IMHO they are now starting understand the age old maxim "if you can't beat em, join em"

  7. Lapun Mankimasta

    I won't be completely happy with Microsoft until Microsoft opens its (obsolete) OS trees under the GPL 3 or something very similar, with similar patent provisions, that effectively put to death its long-standing "software patent" threats against Linux. (and gets IBM to do the same for OS/2 and HP with the VAX VMS source trees) thus putting to rest one long and unproductive waste of time ...

    But in the meantime, I'm pleased I can play with C# without worrying about some nebulous lawsuit to punish me for succeeding with it and thus competing with Microsoft.

  8. Jeff Lewis

    "Contributors ride first class in the open source world."

    Which would be like "People who contribute to the design of cars get to ride in safe ones...Good luck to the rest of you."

    Which is exactly where the whole open source movement and reality tends to get detached.

    What concerns me about the new open source .Net is that every open source project I've seen tends to be massively over-engineered, wildly inconsistent in terms of implementation, unable to pick one direction (hey - 58 different languages, three of which only 10 people in the world know, in one project is good, right?) and weirdly antiquated in design favouring solutions that protect the weakest coders at the expense of end users. ,Net has lots of problems that need to be fixed, but most of them were created by people at Microsoft with the same ADHD issues most open source programmers have. Now it's going to be concretised into standard practice (much as Agile does).

    Ah well. Soon the asylum will be run by the inmates. If nothing else, it will be entertaining to watch.

    1. Adrian Midgley 1

      You want part of it refactored in a language you know and approve of ...

      you refactor it.

      Nobody can stop you from doing that.

      Now try that with closed soruce.

  9. charlesy

    Microsoft doesn't do ideology

    I do wish people would take care to state things accurately. Bill Gates described GPL and 'copyleft' as a cancer and 'un-American', and as akin to communism. That was almost 14 years ago now. He did not describe open source, per se, in this way. The company was always careful to make this distinction. You fail to mention that Richard Stallman, who wrote GPL played a crucial and very personal role in the campaign to get Silicon Valley companies to lobby the DoJ to start Antitrust proceedings against Microsoft. You say nothing of the attempt at that time to use the courts to force Microsoft into a compromising position in the hopes that the Windows OS might prove vulnerable to copyleft, requiring it to be re-licensed under the GPL. Microsoft was under attack from the ideological wing of the open source community and fought back.

    The reason Microsoft is embracing open source to a much greater degree is not because the company has undergone some kind of ideological conversion. It is because the industry is currently in the middle of profound change driven by the adoption of cloud-based platforms. Microsoft is as commercially-minded now as they have always been. It doesn't take much thought to realise that, in this new cloud economy, open source often makes more commercial sense than traditional licencing models. For PaaS, and even IaaS to some extent, you don't rent software directly any more; you rent CPU cycles, bandwidth and storage instead. Microsoft doesn't do ideology. It aims, as best it can, to win.

    1. Hans 1

      Re: Microsoft doesn't do ideology

      >It aims, as best it can, to win.

      webmail (owa), Office360, .Net - severe headshots

      It aims, as best it can, to make itself irrelevant.

      Fixed that for you - yes, it started with webmail =:> no more need for outlook, Office360 =:> no more need for windows, .Net =:> please come back, developers, we do love you ...

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