I just read Mary Jo Foley’s post titled: “Ozzie: Open source a more disruptive competitor than Google”. In it, she quotes Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie as saying:

“Microsoft has built up a culture of crisis,” Ozzie told conference attendees.

Competitors like his former employer, Lotus, and now, Google, have spurred the company to make changes to its business to stay ahead, Ozzie said. But while Google is a “tremendously strong competitor,” Ozzie acknowledged, “open source was much more potentially disruptive” to Microsoft’s business. (He noted that, unlike Google, many open-source programmers aren’t beholden to shareholders.)

Open source a larger threat to Microsoft than Google? I’m not buying it. (I keep thinking about FJS’s comment on 3 good days for Microsoft.) I’m not even buying that OSS is a threat; it’s a huge opportunity (more on this in another post).

I am buying that Ozzie would make this statement in order to elevate the focus on OSS inside of Microsoft. As Ozzie states, “Microsoft has built up a culture of crisis”, so when your Chief Software Architect says xyz is worrisome in public, the internal implications are profound. Depending on the press that this (simple) statement from Ozzie gets, it would seem that the lives of Sam Ramji et al just got a little easier. As much as Sam et al work to convince the market that there is a role for Microsoft in the OSS world, the other part of their day is spent driving change internally. I think Sam’s team should buy Ray a few drinks for making this comment ;-).

I’ve always been of the opinion that the OSS community underestimates Microsoft too much. It seems that Microsoft isn’t making the same mistake (anymore). As Mary Jo states:

Ozzie said that competing with open source “made Microsoft a much stronger company.”

Fun times ahead.