UPDATE: I remember that Scott Hanselman proposed that Microsoft put
together an organization like
for Open Source Software in an editorial aside a while back while
Hanselman Editorial Aside: It’s a shame that Microsoft can’t put
together an organization like INETA (who already gives small stipends
to folks to speak at User Groups) and gave away grants/stipends to the
20 or so .NET Open Source Projects that TRULY make a difference in
measurable ways. The whole thing could be managed out of the existing
INETA organization and wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred grand -
the price of maybe 3-4 Microsoft Engineers.
This sounds like a great idea and it is a shame I didn’t think to link
to it in my discussion here.
writes that Microsoft should financially support open source
in response to this blog post on Microsoft’s Open Specification
There are two key points he makes in defense of his thesis.
- It’s in Microsoft’s own financial best interest.
- It is good PR for Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Financial Benefit
For the first point, Dave supplies anecdotal evidence in which open
source software (DotNetNuke which has
been supported by Microsoft) helped his company keep costs low and stay
in business when they were just about to fold. Because of the
turnaround, Microsoft received the financial benefit that his company
was still around to purchase Microsoft licenses as they received
Although I tend to believe this type of evidence as my own
company has also implemented DotNetNuke
successfully for a client in a project that would have otherwise been
unprofitable, I am not easily convinced by anecdotal evidence. I
doubt Microsoft would be.
It would be interesting to see Microsoft fund some studies to bolster or
contradict these claims. If open source software built on Microsoft
tools really does benefits Microsoft financially, they would probably
like to know by how much.
Microsoft’s PR Benefit
Now this argument is a more compelling to me. As Dave points out,
performing a Google search on the term Evil Empire and Microsoft shows
up on the first page of results.
It’s amazing when you think about it. Despite the legion of Microsoft
bloggers who put a real, articulate, and passionate human face to
Microsoft, Microsoft still suffers from an image problem. I think the
world of Microsoft because of bloggers like
Don to name too few.
Why should Apple or Google enjoy the so hot right now status when
Microsoft is the one really opening up. Microsoft’s PR problem seems to
extend to its ability to retain top talent lately, though I don’t know
if the perceived talent drain is truly real (they could be hiring just
as many top quality replacements but we don’t hear about it).
I don’t know if supporting open source software would suddenly give
people warm and fuzzies when they think of Microsoft, but it might
attract developers to the platform who would otherwise be lured to Ruby
on Rails or other such alternative platforms.
My Take On This
Ultimately I think Microsoft is not a charity and should do what’s best
for Microsoft. Ultimately, I think it is in its best interest to look at
this seriously and consider helping projects (like NDoc) out.
As for me, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m going around looking
for a handout. It’s not why I started this project nor why I devote my
time to it. It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to spend my time and hone
my skills, not to mention that the doormen at all the hot clubs in Los
Angeles are Subtext users and let me cut to the front of the line (ok,
I have implemented one instance of Subtext for a client at a steeply
discounted rate, but I don’t see generating a huge amount of business
from it. The point being, I don’t know if Subtext specifically is a
benefit that would even register a blip on Microsoft’s radar. Could be
I’m thinking too small. At least I know some of my posts have helped
developers find solutions to problems saving them money.
However if someone were to wave money in front of me to help develop it
with a good business case, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. I’m proud,
but not stupid.
The situation I daydream about is one day having a position in which my
job is to help a company implement some product that provides a service
to the open source community (such as something like CodePlex, or a
source search engine for open source software, or a blog host, etc…)
and as part of my job description be given a decent amount of work time
to lead development on Subtext. The Subtext time would have to not be
charity, but seen as contributing to the company by keeping it relevant
to its consumers.
But again, I digress. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments,
either here or over on Dave’s
UPDATE: Joe Brinkman has a great post on this
that pretty much aligns with my views. However, I would only add that I
do think it is in Microsoft’s best interest to be more active
in leveraging successful open source projects to benefit Microsoft.
Especially in cases where software is licensed in a favorable manner
(BSD baby!) for
inclusion in its own products. Why write your own unit testing tool when
you could have used MbUnit or
NUnit and would not have any obligations to release
your customizations if you so choosed (although my mom taught be that
sharing was a good thing to do)?
tags: Open Source,