Microsoft forms unit to engage open source community

SAN FRANCISCO (04/12/2012) – Microsoft on Thursday is spinning out a wholly owned subsidiary to bridge the gap between proprietary Microsoft technologies and non-Microsoft technologies in mixed IT environments by engaging with open source and standards communities.

Called Microsoft Open Technologies Inc., the subsidiary is intended to advance Microsoft’s investment in interoperability, open standards, and open source. “The subsidiary provides a new way of engaging in a more clearly defined manner. This new structure will help facilitate the interaction between Microsoft’s proprietary development processes and the company’s open innovation efforts and relationships with open source and open standards communities,” said Jean Paoli, who becomes president of the subsidiary after serving as Microsoft’s general manager of interoperability strategy.

“This structure will make it easier and faster to iterate and release OSS software, participate in existing open source efforts, and accept contributions from the community. Over time, the community will see greater interaction with the open standards and open source worlds,” Paoli said in a blog post due to be posted this afternoon.

Microsoft, Paoli noted, already has engaged with such open source software organizations as OuterCurve, which the company had formed as CodePlex, as well as with Apache Software Foundation and many standards organizations. Open source environments like Linux, Hadoop, MongoDB, and Drupal have run on the company’s platform, he said. But the company’s relationship with Linux has been less than friendly at times, with the company charging Linux violates Microsoft patents and then reaching usage agreements with Linux users.

Formation of Microsoft Open Technologies might be the result of legal wrangling over open source, analyst Al Hilwa, of IDC speculates. “This is an interesting development. It suggests to me that this arrangement is the best one they could come up with to deal with issues Microsoft lawyers may have with open source code isolation and IP protection,” he said. “As long as open source developers are legally working for Microsoft directly, there is likely a legal overview process that is not suited with open source agility. Additionally, accepting contributed open source code, authored by outsiders, may be problematic.

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