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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

February 21, 2008 at 9:48 AM

Microsoft sharing: Lemonade from lemons?

Microsoft executives seemed to channel their current Office ad campaign — “It’s a new day, it’s a new Office” — this morning when they announced a bunch of steps they’re taking to appease antitrust regulators, open-source developers and customers tired of friction and uncertainty around patents, sharing and litigation.

But so far it’s hard to tell what’s really new and what’s a continuation of the lumbering steps the company has taken over the past five years to share more of the technical information that gave it a competitive advantage as it pushed into corporate datacenters.

The irony is that Microsoft would probably have started sharing more even if it wasn’t forced to by regulators. As the executives said today, the company has to be more open and accepting of competitors and open-source products if it’s going to succeed in a world where companies are running all sorts of products and want to be sure they work together.

So did they announce a sea change or call attention to one that was already under way?

Microsoft might have been speaking to more than just antitrust regulators and customers today. A friendlier approach to open-source software could make the company more appealing to potential employees, such as Yahoo engineers more sympathetic to Linux than Windows.

I asked Steve Ballmer if the new approaches described today will make it easier for Microsoft to integrate and retain engineers from Yahoo. He said there “might be a lot of ancillary benefits” but that isn’t the primary focus.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s new in the announcements and what effects they’ll have on the industry.

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