Microsoft after Gates

in The Economist

Microsoft has indeed done many things that would not have seemed possible a few years ago. It has embraced industry standards, published “interoperability principles” that guide its developers, and released thousands of pages describing how its programs work together, so that rival products can join in. To boot, Microsoft has accepted that open-source software is here to stay. It has adopted some of the techniques of volunteer developers, given them code and even put some open-source code in its programs.

Still, many do not believe in the new Microsoft. When Information Week, an American computing magazine, surveyed some 500 technology professionals, more than half said they thought that Microsoft’s openness was mostly a publicity campaign. In a recent speech that was widely interpreted as taking a swipe at Microsoft, Neelie Kroes, the European Union’s competition commissioner, said that governments and businesses would do well to use software based on open standards. And Matt Asay, a blogger and executive of Alfresco, an open-source software company, speaks for many in the open-source movement when he says that Microsoft “is the only major software company other than SAP that has not fully engaged with the open-source community.”

Microsoft’s approach to open source hints that the firm has not yet made up its mind what it wants to be. Even as the company seemed to have made peace with the other camp, signing licensing deals with open-source companies, it accused open-source software fans of violating 235 of its patents and threatened legal action.

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