Microsoft Open Technologies is closing -- is that good or bad news for open source?
Microsoft is a company that can do no wrong lately. It is wisely focusing on devices and services -- its cross-platform support is a total 180 degree turn from years past. Hell, the company is even embracing open source lately, showing that it is listening to customers and taking advantage of industry trends.
When Microsoft Open Technologies was founded as a subsidiary of Microsoft -- under Steve Ballmer's reign -- many in the open source community hailed it as a major win, and it was. Today, however, the subsidiary is shutting down and being folded into Microsoft. While some will view this as a loss for open source, I disagree; Microsoft has evolved so much under Satya Nadella, that a separate subsidiary is simply no longer needed.
"During its operation, MS Open Tech has helped connect Microsoft with a number of open source communities. MS Open Tech’s projects have made it easier for Linux, Java, and other developers to use Azure, through SDKs, tools plug-ins, and integration with technologies such as Chef, Puppet, and Docker. We’ve helped bring Microsoft’s services and APIs to iOS and Android. We've contributed to open source projects such as Apache Cordova, Cocos2d-x, OpenJDK, and dash.js. We’ve brought Office 365 to the Moodle learning platform. And we’ve helped connect the Open Web by collaborating with the industry on standards for HTML5, HTTP/2, and WebRTC/ORTC", says Jean Paoli, President, Microsoft Open Technologies.
Paoli further explains, "open source has become a key part of Microsoft's culture. Microsoft’s investments in open source ecosystems and non-Microsoft technologies are stronger than ever, and as we build applications, services, and tools for other platforms, our engineers are more involved in open source projects every day. Today, Microsoft engineers participate in nearly 2,000 open source projects on GitHub and CodePlex combined. Through open source collaborations, Microsoft has brought first-class support for Linux to Azure, worked with Docker to integrate it with Azure and Windows, built Azure HDInsight on Apache Hadoop and Linux, and delivered developer tools for Android and iOS, and for Node.js and Python. And Microsoft is actively building open source communities of its own".
This does not mean that MS Open Tech employees need to update their resumes; quite the contrary. These employees will be welcomed at Microsoft under a new division called "Microsoft Open Technology Programs Office". I expect these people to be open source advocates (stealthy ninjas), and hopefully influence positive change from the inside out.
Some cynics will claim this announcement is nothing more than a positive spin on negative news, and sure, it could be. With that said, Microsoft would be foolish to abandon its focus on open source and risk damaging its ever-improving image while it is on such a roll. MS Open Tech has done some wonderful work and Microsoft is not likely to move away from that.
A Microsoft spokesperson answers the following BetaNews questions regarding the announcement.
BetaNews: Has Microsoft shut down the project?
Microsoft: Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc., (MS Open Tech) has operated as an innovative subsidiary of Microsoft. The MS Open Tech team will now move back to Microsoft to help open source and open standards activities including the creation of the Microsoft Open Technology Programs Office.
BN: Does this change Microsoft's stance on open source?
MS: No. Open source is a key business strategy across the company, and Microsoft Corp’s investments with open source ecosystems and non-Microsoft technologies are stronger and broader than ever.