back to article Everything OK with Microsoft? Windows giant admits it was 'on the wrong side of history' with regard to open source

Microsoft president Brad Smith (pictured) has admitted that the Windows giant was "on the wrong side of history" when it came to open source. While nowadays the born-again company seems unable to resist the embrace (if that's the right word) of the open-source world, it was not always so. Former CEO Steve Ballmer memorably …

  1. Teiwaz


    15 years from now, a future MS exec will express much the same sentiment about the choice of the wrong side in history over customer privacy RE: 'Telemetry'.

    Do you think?

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: So...

      With Microsoft, I find that what they say one day, may not be true in a week, or a month, etc.

      Also: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

      You cannot argue the fact that they own the office desktop and a good portion of the servers, but the inconsistent quality and performance is detrimental to their reputation. You'd be hard pressed to find an office worker who will tell you they LOVE Microsoft!

      So bravo to the gentleman for being able to admit he made a mistake, and that open source is a force to be reckoned with, but I'll wait a bit before agreeing that Microsoft is a champion of open source.

      1. Chris G

        Re: So...

        His words " "The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn... "

        To see a way to make a profit from something you saw as an enemy.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: So...

          ...if life is long another Balmer scale asshole will inevitably end up in control again

          1. Updraft102

            Re: So...

            Windows didn't become the spying mess that it is now under Ballmer...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Antron Argaiv - Re: So...

        Reputation matters only if you're a small fish. For giants it doesn't apply at all.

      3. Teiwaz

        Re: So...

        but I'll wait a bit before agreeing that Microsoft is a champion of open source.

        They embraced open source not because they believe in the philosophy, but because they could no longer hold back the tide.

        They don't give a fig for the open source ethos or the philosophy, it's all about keeping MS relevant and market retention.

        They finally do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.

      4. aks

        Re: So...

        Why would I LOVE my operating system, computer, desk, chair etc? It's only compulsory for Apple. For the rest of us, it's something we use, like a kettle or a bicycle.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: So...

          If you had to spend eight hours a day on your bike, you'd probably want one that worked just they way you wanted it to. If you found one that made that eight hours fun, or even just bearable, you might sing its praises.

          For an application comparison, think about being a heavy spreadsheet user but you have to use SuperCalc rather than Excel.

          MS is also merely admitting that they failed to appreciate the threat of FLOSS. MS lost out to Google (search, cloud, Android), AWS and Apple (BSD Userland & Darwin lead to OSX which allowed them to launch (closed source) iOS.). The competitive landscape has been reshaped by open source, even if open source itself is being shunned by Apple and Android.

        2. Teiwaz

          Re: So...

          Why would I LOVE my operating system

          I don't LOVE Linux, it's got tonnes of issues and caveats to use over better commercially supported OS

          I do Love that I have an alternative to MS, apple or whichever of Googles Frankenstein(s monster) trojan horse OS.

    2. teknopaul

      Re: So...

      Side note: 15 years from now they will be saying one particular MS exec was on the right side of history.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Teiwaz - Re: So...

      Don't think so! At the time Linux could have jeopardized their bottom line but nowadays telemetry is money sitting on the table just waiting to be grabbed. It's not only Microsoft, it seems to be the norm these days even for the modest app developer: slurp first, offer something in exchange, eventually, later if ever.

      1. Teiwaz

        Re: @Teiwaz - So...

        It's important not to confuse Linux with Open source. logical syllogisms can only be partially converted. 'Steve Jobs is dead, but only part of the class of dead people are Steve Jobs'

        Started out, offer something 'free' to entice - well, the user might understand nothing is free, and data gathering while you use the free resource was the payment.

        That proved popular, and lucrative, so much so that companies that charged for their product already wanted some of that. The users had gotten used to the data gathering and let it slide.

        So now we have every nose in the trough, thinking their users data is theirs for the taking. Telemetry and Slurp you can't sufficiently switch off & a licence fee?

        Going by the amount of bear pit competition over our data these days, it should be clear by now that it's worth more than a few measly apps

  2. Anonymous Coward

    What a pity....

    ...we've not forgotten that the last part of the policy is "extinguish." A read of the Techrights web site any day of the week is a reminder that the leopard has not yet changed its shorts.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: What a pity....

      I'm afraid I just can't let myself believe they have changed / will change / will stay changed. My bet is on a damn good shafting somewhere along the line. (That sounds very wrong, but you know what I mean)

  3. a_yank_lurker

    My Hope

    My relationship with Bloat 10 (company computer) is pure hatred of the evil abomination. My hope would be the Rejects from Redmond would ditch Bloat in favor something that is stabler and generally works. Until the Rejects get their act together I will try to avoid their trash whenever possible.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: My Hope

      "My hope would be the Rejects from Redmond would ditch Bloat in favor something that is stabler and generally works."

      Maybe, in 15 years' time...

      I'd just like to see them "get religion" with respect to the 2D FLATTY FLATSO FLATASS McFLATFACE that was somehow "snuck in" and CANONIZED by Sinofsky [who was allegedly fired over it] and Larson-Greene [who also invented "the ribbon" yet was NOT fired... go fig].

      I guess it means that "" are compelled to HIT ROCK BOTTOM before they get a "moment of clarity".

      In the mean time... how about if they make a "Windows Sub System for Linux" ? You know, like Wine, but actually WORKS and lets us RELIABLY run windows applications on Linux... [I would PAY MONEY for that... as long as it supports Win32 API!!!]

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: My Hope

        Others were also responsible for the Horror of Fat Slab *, not just dumb old Microsoft's Metro and Modern UI: Ubuntu's Unity, Google's Material Design, Apple MacOS, and a host of me-too designers --- all part of the degraded death-ride into minimalist 'clean' nothingness.

        I blame the Swiss.


        See pictures of Old London pre-WWII in all it's vileness and glory, and what flat towerblocks came after that; and know this was not done by Hitler's bombers, which were transient, but by tasteless developers making themselves obscenely rich.

        * To go all Lovecraftian.

      2. aks

        Re: My Hope

        What's in it for them? I assume you're not asking for Office to be sold on Linux. I also assume that you don't want to pay Microsoft for such a version of Windows.

        Only relatively simple apps can make money being ported to Linux as it would be impossible to support anything complex for each and every Linux build. That can only work if it's open source and can be rebuilt and tweaked for the target platform. As a professional developer and supporter, I'd run a mile.

        BTW, I happily use LibreOffice and have almost never paid for software, using many of the freeware ones available. Yes, I've built software for more operating systems and their variants than I care to remember. That goes double for variants of SQL dialects on everthing from mainframes to DOS to Windows 10.

    2. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: My Hope

      My neighbours have a rather nice Lenovo Ideapad 110S. It only has a 32GB SSD so of course Windows 10 got stuck in an endless "update" nightmare. It also has a 64GB micro SD card but Windows update can't see it. It is possible to make Windows use the SD card for updates but it wants to delete everything on the card. There is only about 5GB of data on the card so Windows is totally incapable of using over 50GB of free space without screwing everything up :(

      The good news is that the Lenovo is now running Linux Mint 18.04 and everything works* out of the box.

      If you want a cheap netbook I can recommend this device. Just dump Windows and you're good to go.

      *before installing I did a bit of searching and it seemed that I might need a USB to RJ45 dongle. In fact you don't need one, but after the initial install from a USB stick Linux Mint will do a rather large update. (about 30 minutes via Wi-Fi)

  4. karlkarl Silver badge

    Its not just Microsoft. ~50% of developers agreed that "open-source" is bad. I feel these "kinds" of professionals should be put on an offenders register and have to admit that they make bad decisions during any interviews or on their CV.

    That way, it lowers the risk that I ever need to work with them again :)

    1. damiandixon

      It's the 'not invented here' and 'nobody will pay for the open source we are using' philosophy of senior and middle managers. Personally you are paying for my time. If I can get the job done quicker and cheaper by using open source I will use it (as long as the licence permits me too)... especially as it will give me more time to spend on the value part of the project rather than reinventing the wheel yet again...

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    While I am happy that Microsoft have softened their stance on open source, as at one point they were firing off sue balls in all directions for anything that might have breached a Windows patent. But their new approach isn't about them necessarily seeing open source as the future for MS, (as I would be very surprised if the ever open sourced Windows, office etc. even out of support editions or started to contribute towards Libreoffice, ReactOS). But its about how they have realised they can make money from open source, use it to their advantage, such as the recent switch of Edge to Chromium engine, and having competition reduces the risk of anti monopoly legislation causing them to get broken up, fines etc.

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The problem with knowing everything and not doing anything worthwhile for a difference.

    amanfromMars [2005141755] ...... just saying on

    The intent has, always, been the Fed would own everything, including the fillings in our teeth. .... bunkers

    And then the problem has always been what to do with everything once you think you have it? I'm not overly impressed with their performance so far. Can you cite any instances of actions truly memorable and highly disruptive?

    Yes, .... there be serious consequences, for one can easily be charged with responsibility and accountability for all that is hosted for presentation with the complicity of multi media platforms ....... but somebody/something has to have a go at leading things otherwise things would be much more AIMadness on Display rather than CHAOS* in Command with Control. IT aint Rocket Science, is it, whenever Plain Common Sense ?

    *Systems Operating Advanced Hosting Clouds and vice versa.

  7. teknopaul

    Micro$haft was spent incorrectly throughout that article. I thought we had all ageed at least the "Microsoft" was technically incorrect.

    1. RM Myers

      spent incorrectly

      A spelling error in a comment about spelling - priceless!

  8. John_3_16

    History repeats; full of examples...

    His meager verbal admission is not a mirror into the soul of M$. American Indians, WWII Japanese Americans; our dark & tan American brothers & sisters have all been assured publicly by the powers that be that they are equal & important parts of the American Dream. After decades of committing horrific acts against all in history & many even today; we have heard minuscule apologies for the lies; theft & death forced on them as groups & individuals. Offering approbations in the form of a few thousand dollars to pay for years of torture, death & theft as if that is the going price for generations of torture & theft.

    That is what I think of when I read an article like this from M$. As far as M$ is concerned, all customers are enslaved minorities to be raped, plundered & abandoned at will. Even they can't kill all of us or our freeware open-source software that, in most cases, are more reliable & one heck of a lot more user friendly. They grew from a garage startup into a monster living only for wealth, power & control over the tech world. Special place in hell for this long line of shot callers. And I don't imagine there will be any shortage of volunteers to shovel coal on top them.

    1. aks

      Re: History repeats; full of examples...

      If you don't like their product, don't buy it. Simples.

      1. Maventi

        Re: History repeats; full of examples...

        > If you don't like their product, don't buy it. Simples.

        Not that simple - in many cases it's forced upon us by senior management, regardless of whether it's the best tool for a given job.

  9. DerekCurrie


    The departure of all the Microsoft founders has inexplicably made the company wake up to their perpetual blunder-fest.

    Now if only Microsoft would do something about their ongoing current blunders.

    We can dream.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Belt and suspenders?

    Oooh Matron!

    Trousers and socks staying up at the same time - never!

    (anon - cause, well....)

  11. Robert Grant

    Now they've building more open source stuff themselves...but making it so it runs only on CosmosDB.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Embrace, Extend, Claim IPR over everything contributed to, Extinguish.

  13. slartybartfast

    Exterminate! Exterminate!

    Micro$oft are like Daleks. They would love to exterminate all of the competition and force everyone to use their own, very closed standards, just like they tried with IE back at the turn of the century and as they almost do with Office (at least from a business level). Just like the Daleks, I believe MS execs are devoid of emotion and compassion and they believe they are the master race ;-) .

    1. aks

      Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

      Nobody was force to use IE. It was given away as part of Windows.

      The complaint was from companies who wanted to sell copies of their own browsers.

      Nowadays, nobody sells browsers; they're given away and make money in other ways.

      1. Maventi

        Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

        > Nobody was force to use IE.

        Yes they were - for a while it was only only browser that worked for a good portion of the web, as websites prioritised supporting IE over web standards.

        > The complaint was from companies who wanted to sell copies of their own browsers.

        Somewhat; the other big issue with the web's dependence on IE was that is in turn created a dependence on Windows, as nothing else could run IE. So effectively the web was in danger of becoming locked to a single vertically-integrated platform stack. Fortunately the world has managed to move on, however Microsoft still pull the same tricks with vertical integration - for example two decades later many of their web services still only work properly in a single browser.

        The big difference between not and then is that they've just finally figured out how to incorporate open source into their business model.

        1. Adrian Midgley 1

          Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

          And the chunks of the web written by Ftont Psgd, with its curious negative left margin, showed up find in IE, which oddly ignored negative values to thd left margin setting.

        2. Nosher

          Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

          How's that's different from Alphabet/Google? Google's vertical integration is now where Microsoft was but with bells on, with its increasing hold over the OS the web is accessed on (Android, in the mobile world), the browser the web is accessed from (Chrome), the front door of the internet itself (Google Search, ads, maps) and even large amounts of the content viewed (YouTube). That's not healthy.

      2. slartybartfast

        Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

        ‘Nobody was force to use IE.’

        I was a web designer back at the turn of the century and the dominance by Microsoft and refusal to update their browser to accept the better open standards adopted by other browsers was very real. They owned around a 98% dominance of the browser market at their peak making it hard to use the web with other browsers. Many pieces of code had to have backwards workarounds to work with IE or, as many did back then, only coded their sites to run in IE. Prior to that, Microsoft were found guilty of trying to turn the Windows OS into a browser and effectively eliminating all competition. Whilst my comparison to the Daleks wasn’t meant to be too serious, Microsoft certainly wanted to turn their business into a monopoly.

        1. Cletus

          Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

          Microsoft are now pulling this trick with their Teams product. It is pretty much a closed system as Teams users cannot dial out to video meetings held on other platforms. There are a handful of gateway integrations that allow users on other systems to dial into meetings hosted in Teams but it is a pretty token effort.

          The whole enterprise messaging space is a mess at the moment. The ideal would be seamless communication between MS Teams, Slack, WebEx Teams etc. but guess which vendor is making this difficult with crappy proprietry standards??

        2. Actionjksn

          Re: Exterminate! Exterminate!

          You know this is what businesses do? If you sell a product for a profit you want everyone to just buy your products and not other companies products. If everyone buys your products and not others then you have a monopoly by definition. I didn't get into computer stuff until around 2005-2006. I very quickly switched to Firefox and still use it as my primary browser.

          Companies are not trying to be evil, they are just trying to be as successful as possible. That can look evil at times I admit. I just never took any of it personally. I also try to make as much money as possible.

          As far as operating systems and other programs I never cared for things like Linux but understand that it's good to have them around. And that it's better in a lot of ways. Linux always seemed to take too much effort to do what I thought were simple things. To much opening terminal and typing a bunch of gibberish. I was always more inclined to put any extra effort into pirating these things like Windows and office, I always enjoyed the challenge of getting programs to work without paying. And no I don't feel the least bit guilty about it.

          Now if I find the free version of something to be the best option for me then I will use that instead of pirating. For instance I love 7z instead of trying to pirate something. And for PDF I have always used a freeware program called Foxit over the Adobe thing. I do like their Photoshop though.

          I do think that Microsoft is a lot less "evil" than they used to be. I think they have figured out that they don't have to fear open source.

  14. Adrian Midgley 1

    Earlier than thd beginning of this century

    A bit of rewriting history snuck in.

    Date FLOSS to 1984 or sl.

  15. Mike 137 Silver badge

    The greatest joke of all

    "... the Windows giant was "on the wrong side of history" when it came to open source ..."

    Of course the original IBM PC that put Microsoft on the map was open source. I remember the manual including both full circuit diagrams and a complete BIOS listing. it was this that made it such a success. P/S2 failed because it didn't follow the same principle, so the add-on industry didn't support it.

    What is unclear, though, is how open source licenses can be respected if open source code is absorbed into closed source products, which is clearly what is happening. That would seem to amount to breach of intellectual property rights.

  16. IGnatius T Foobar !

    Domestic abuse

    When I hear "I was wrong, I learned I need to change" from someone who's been abusing someone else for so long ... all I see is a wife-beater saying "Don't go, baby, it'll be different from now on." It's still an abusive relationship, and it always will be.

    If there's any reason Micros~1 "loves" open source now, it's because they're slowly moving everyone into their NEW monopoly: the "Microsoft 365" and "Azure" clouds. Those who take the bait will continue to be abused.

  17. robot66

    This is about not having to fight with the US government about sales to China.

  18. W. Anderson

    The deceitfulness ofMicrosoft

    On the day that Brad Smith was speaking at Columbia University, New York City in early 2000s, I was unfortunately not able to attend, literally traveling with moving vans to my new home in outer New Jersey.

    I never forgot however the disparaging, denigrating terms that Smith and his boss Steve Ballmer used to describe not only Linux itself, but all those involved in the development, maintenance and distribution of Linux.

    Mr. Smith's statements of regret fall on deaf ears, since he declared quite belligerently and publicly that Linux infringed Microsoft software patents, threatening litigation against all those involved, but "never once" put forth any corroborating credible legal evidence to support such claim.

    Worse yet, Microsoft sought and received "Platinum " membership in the Linux Foundation, yet as the company's Chief Legal Counsel never retracted it's threat or sought to explain why this charge remains un-recinded at Microsoft legal office.

    Most readers of The Register will most likely not be fully aware of just how draconian and oppressive Microsoft became in attempting to thwart any efforts of hardware vendors to promote, pre-install or even test compatibility of Linux on their computer systems and supposedly forced large corporations like Boeing to pay for thousands of computer purchases with Windows only to remove and replace with Linux themselves.

    There are literally dozens of stories of similar such tyrannical behavior by Microsoft to Windows hardware clients, even threatening companies like IBM with withholding all Windows configuration and development for their platforms if Linux is adopted as optional default Operating System (OS).

    Fortunately my memory, and grasp of "facts" concerning Microsoft position of "Embrace, Extend and then Extinguish" for Linux - which continues to this day, has not diminished and neither Brad Smith nor Microsoft has taken any concrete, verified non self serving actions - not statement - to prove otherwise.

  19. mego

    Don't trust a word they say...

    Experience - rude experience - has taught that Microsoft have a tendency to embrace, extend, extinguish anything rivaling their own systems. This happened with a number of things over the years - from development tools to hardware even - so, no, I don't trust it.

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