Microsoft Dons Sheep Suit, Joins Open Source Foundation

LinuxfudMicrosoft has decided to hide the teeth for bit and joined the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) in an attempt to convey some goodwill to the open source community. The Apache Software Foundation is one of the largest organizations in the open-source world and Microsoft’s new platinum membership nets the ASF $100,000 annually.

Of course there’s some good reasons to question Microsoft’s motives. As Bruce Perens, a well-known open-source advocate, writes on Slashdot, “there’s much reason for caution.”

For instance, Microsoft was once working very hard to mount a legal attack designed to sue the entire open source world out of existence. Obviously that didn’t come the pass on a large scale, and Microsoft now appears to differentiate between open source (potentially benign to its interests) and Linux (a threat). Still, it isn’t hard to see why open source advocates remain wary of the company.

Perens writes:

Historically, Microsoft helped to fund SCO’s attack on Linux — we have court testimony under oath on that. They briefed HP on their plans to sue the the developers of Sendmail, Linux and other programs — we have the HP memo, which HP admitted was real. Their agreement with Novell was calculated to break the spirit of the GPL without violating the letter, so they’ve shown they are happy to cheat the developer community when it’s to their advantage. More recently, they have cheated every way they could in getting Office Open XML through ISO, even having one of their executives pose as officer of a national standards organization.

Perens suspects that Microsoft may be trying buy its way into the open-source world to in an effort to gain open-source credibility so when it comes to deals with government agencies and large corporations, the company can pass itself off as open source friendly.

Their increased involvement in Open Source organizations means that they will be taken as a member of the Open Source community when they speak with national legislators. This is terrible for us, because it means they’ll be able to short-circuit our work to protect Open Source from software patents by speaking to government as an insider in our communities.

What do you think? Has Microsoft genuinely had a change of heart or is this classic case of one hand shaking with open source while the knife-wielding other hand sneaks around back?

[via Slashdot]

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