Why I invited Mozilla

by MichaelF on September 20, 2006 03:23pm

I’ve seen a lot of speculation on the rationale (some call it strategy) for why I invited the Mozilla developers up to Redmond.  I thought I’d lay out my thinking so you can decide for yourself.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the press coverage of the invitation.  The articles I read varied from hopeful to suspicious – as it typically is for the work I do (collaboration between open source and Microsoft continues to surprise people).  Most misread my opening joke as paranoia rather than humor, which struck me as funny.  On the other hand, bloggers seemed to mostly get it right and see that my invitation was authentic and represents a real shift to do the right thing for open source projects.  And they got my joke 😉

Most importantly, Mike Schroepfer and Mike Beltzner got it, and accepted.  I am grateful to both of them for being open to real collaboration.  Mike & Mike – thank you.

As to the why of it

Part of my personal mission is advocacy for open source applications on Windows.  I posted a long time ago that dividing the world into open source and closed source doesn't make much sense.  Software is software. 

Software companies (or ISVs, as they are known inside Microsoft) that run on Windows have a broad set of resources available to them - from technology enablement to special licensing programs to business development and sales assistance.  Currently these programs are built to deal with software companies.

Open source projects - with some exceptions - are not run by companies, but by people (maintainers and committers), often without a legal entity and usually not interested in building a business.  Microsoft partner programs simply have never been set up to handle this kind of organization.  This is not surprising when you consider that as a commercial, for-profit company, Microsoft is already well designed to work with similar entities that have a shared goal of driving revenue.

All developers should be able to build applications that are able to run on Windows, regardless of licensing models.  Different styles of development call for different kinds of support.  As Port 25 readers are aware, Microsoft is working with JBoss and SugarCRM to help them deliver versions of their products on Windows, and these won't be the last commercial open source companies we work with.  We’re also working with XenSource to enable excellent virtualization of Linux on Windows – again, independent of the licensing model, I want to see technology work well.

In a way, I'm trying something new by inviting the Mozilla folks (both Firefox and Thunderbird) to Redmond.  I’ve gotten a number of emails from inside Microsoft – teams who want to meet up directly with Firefox developers to show them cool features and brainstorm together.   I expect not only to help Mozilla, but to learn how we need to change to support this style of development team.

Mike Beltzner pointed out that we have an opportunity to provide better support to open source projects in general – a jump start on Vista that includes docs, sample code, testing tools, integration points and what is changing.  In response, we pulled together the first cut at a site to bring this info together.  This will evolve over time as we learn what’s needed by the community.

From here, the lab will be expanding our work in this area – both by creating new resources for open source developers, and by growing my team to support more direct work with Open Source Software projects.

It’s going to be long ride and I’m here to see it through.



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