Sam Ramji was the keynote this morning. Taking the cue from yesterday’s keynote, Fake Steve Jobs, Sam announced that Microsoft was acquiring the Eclipse Foundation. This was obviously a joke! Sam went on to explain the work that his team has been doing around OSS. You can read the highlights on Sam’s blog entry here. I’ll mention three things that stood out for me.
First, Sam plainly stated that a few years ago you could accuse Microsoft of “missing the OSS boat”. But since 2005, the Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft has been helping the rest of Microsoft realize the importance of OSS. According to Sam, it hasn’t been easy, they could do more, and the job is nowhere close to being done. They’re just 3 years into a 10 year journey in reorienting Microsoft’s internal and external views on OSS.
Second, the majority of folks in the room (>1,000 people?) didn’t know much about Microsoft’s work with OSS. Now let’s be fair, Microsoft hasn’t done as much for/with OSS as other large software/IT vendors (IBM, HP, Intel, Red Hat, Oracle, Sun, etc). But for so many OSS proponents in the room to not know that, for example, Microsoft had 2 OSI approved licenses was somewhat surprising to me. I believe that the OSS community is doing itself a disservice if we actively choose to ignore what Microsoft is doing, because, well, they’re Microsoft. Let me be clear. Microsoft doesn’t love OSS. But don’t let that trick you into thinking that Microsoft won’t figure out how to leverage the momentum of OSS to continue its own revenue growth. (Let’s be honest, you could insert any successful software company’s name for “Microsoft” in the above two sentences.)
Third, Sam was asked the size of his budget for the Open Source Software Lab (considering that Microsoft’s revenue $50B). Sam explained that the budget was ~$5M, but that his group could influence the work of other teams at Microsoft. For example, the folks at Mozilla contacted Sam’s team to ask why the Windows Media Player 11 (WMP) user experience in Firefox on Vista sucked vs. WMP in IE on Vista. Sam’s team reached out to the WMP team and put them in contact with the Mozilla guys. The WMP team addressed the issue and it didn’t cost the Microsoft OSS Lab a dime. Sam made another key point about the lab’s budget. The only way that the lab’s budget is going to increase is if developers, partners and users tell Microsoft that the work that his lab is doing is valuable. So, in a way, if you want Microsoft to do more with OSS, it’s up to you to pat them on the back for the steps they’re taking. ;-)
It’ll be interesting to see what Microsoft does next with OSS. Rest assured they’re not ignoring OSS anymore….which is exciting and scary at the same time if you’re an OSS proponent.