Microsoft: Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

Microsoft may love open source, but will open source ever love them back?

Headlines and bylines all over the web have trumpeted the fact that Microsoft loves open source. Regular readers of my blog (OK you two, you can sit back down) know that I have been saying this for a long time. Yes it is a gentler and kinder Microsoft when it comes to open source and even Linux interoperability. But the real question is will the open source community ever love Microsoft back? Sadly the answer may be not anytime soon.

As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. So while Microsoft may in fact whisper sweet nothings about open source, many open source advocates and influencers still think of Microsoft as an evil empire ruled by The Emperor Gates and Darth Vadar Ballmer.  They have literally grown up hating Microsoft for their entire technology lives. The anti-Microsoft feeling runs so deep, I am not sure there is anything Microsoft can do short of releasing Windows and Office under a GPL license to change it. I hate Microsoft has been grafted into the open source communities DNA it seems.

Also remember while Microsoft may be more willing to work with open source they are still a for-profit company, that will do what is in the best interests of their shareholders (of which Gates and Ballmer are two of the biggest). This means they will have to do somethings for their own best interests, that may not be seen as being open source friendly.  You know as soon as they do, the Pavlovian conditioning will kick in. The open source community will say, same old Microsoft.

Now over time with education and continued sensitivity a new generation of open source users will arise. This new generation may not know of the "Linux is a cancer" speech.  They may not have lived through the monopolistic phase of Microsoft's existence.  Heck, maybe the cloud renders Microsoft as just another player in the market. This new generation may save all of their evil empire anti-open source vitriol for Oracle, Apple or even Google, who knows. But it may not be Microsoft.  

I am afraid that day is still a day far off. There is just too much water under the open source bridge for many, if not most in the open source community to accept the olive branch Microsoft has extended and welcome them into the community.

Of course there is one scenario that could see Microsoft gain more sympathy and acceptance in the open source community. With the cloud and mobile computing threatening to make Microsoft a bit irrelevant, it could actually make people more sympathetic to Microsoft. People love an underdog. If Microsoft is perceived as the former champion who has fallen on hard times, they could get the sympathy vote in the open source world.  You can see it now, Steve Ballmer singing "brother can you spare a dime".  Yeah right.

Anyway, the real shame is that Microsoft is much more embracing of open source and they will probably never get credit for it. They do contribute code and resources to open source projects. They do more Linux interoperability then ever. In the bigger picture they are much more open source savvy and sensitive then say Oracle or Apple. But they also have to overcome a technological lifetime of open source warfare. Getting the Luke Skywalkers and Hans Solos of the open source world to work with Vader and the Emperor is something so crazy that not even George Lucas would do a movie about it.

In the meantime I wanted to dedicate this song to all of my friends at Microsoft who are working with the open source community:

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.