What does Microsoft think of open source?

It’s easy to forget that Microsoft is a software company. Given our near ubiquitous exposure to the Windows operating system (OS), many people don’t think of an OS as software in quite the same way as an application – or “app” as it is increasingly becoming known. You might even think that the ever popular Xbox games console compounds this impression as it is, after all, hardware.

But from a purist’s or a developer’s perspective, of course Microsoft is a software company. The company’s .Net Framework is a library of coded modules that software developers can use to automatically solve common or often repeated programming processes.

But although the .Net Framework supports multiple programming languages, it is essentially intended for applications created for the Windows platform – and this keeps things relatively closed and proprietary in nature.

So what does Microsoft think of open source?

The company’s official statement is as follows, “We are actively participating in open source and share the common industry view that software users will continue to see a mixed IT environment of open source and proprietary products for years to come. We also understand that open source software alternatives can represent healthy competition and an opportunity to complement or enhance Microsoft technologies and products.”

But then they would say that wouldn’t they? So should we take Microsoft’s words at face value or should we question the legitimacy of the organisation’s statement?

The truth is that we probably don’t have to. What Microsoft knows is that the trend across the industry is toward a mixed-source world in which the bottom line for any technology, development and distribution approach, or business model is going to be based on best practice, best value and best profit margins.

Going forward, we can be sure that there will be Microsoft, there will be open source, there will be Apple and there will be something else that we are calling the next big thing in roughly five years time. OK it could be ten years, but new platforms will surface and you can be sure of that.

Is thing a good thing? Yes it is – so let’s continue to keep our world multicultural and our technology multifarious and multi-faceted. Or as the French would say, Vive La Différence.