In its short but illustrious history the FOSS movement has been accused of being akin to communism. And while the bad old days of the McCarthy era are over, this view still makes people a bit antsy. Not many people want to be seen internationally as the reds under the bed, and using the communist label is still a convenient way of writing off somebody you don’t like. However, there have been some interesting new developments with Microsoft saying things recently that suggests a couple of things: Microsoft have decided that they will begrudgingly admit that there are some merits in open source (previously referred to by their illustrious leader as “communism”); and that Microsoft are softening in their old age and have decided that being all powerful is no fun if everyone thinks you’re the school bully.
So just the other day as I was considering whether to wear my hammer and sickle shirt or my Che Guevera shirt, I saw some Microsoft press releases that made me choke on my unpleasant dark rye bread. Microsoft Executive lauds open source? Pardon? Apparently, the open source movement has spawned lots of talented developers and has even... wait for it... “bolstered innovation”. That’s right, from commies to innovators in one swift leap! And then there’s Microsoft Announces Principles to Guide Future Development of Windows. That’s right, Microsoft, after those pesky antitrust rulings, have magnanimously admitted that yes, they play a super important global role in computers, and they feel that playing a bit fairer would make them a better organisation and promote market competition. And here was me thinking it was communists who were anti-free market competition the whole time! How wrong I’ve been!
Microsoft have decided that they will, from this day forth, be “transparent and principled”. And two of the major sections in their principles document relate to manufacturer and customer choice, and developer opportunities. This means that if a manufacturer wants to put a non-Microsoft product on a PC before selling it, they can. And it will be easier for users to do this too. AND developers are allowed to create products to use on the Windows platform... even if these creations compete with Microsoft products! Very big of them I must say. You know my favourite bit about these priciples? They’re regulated in-house. And I guess that means they have an out-road in case communism rears its ugly head again—or the free market becomes a bit too genuinely competitive.