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Microsoft embraces open source -- to a point

Paul Krill | Feb. 15, 2013
The company is expanding its participation in open source endeavors, no longer believes Linux is a 'cancer'

tAt the same time, however, there is a point to be made for being open, because we need to get developers. You need to make sure that you have a very solid story when it comes to developers, because they are the ones who make the investment in your platform and they are the ones that care about openness. But let's think about what openness means here. Openness here means having a solid set of reliable APIs. Openness means having everything documented. Openness means being out there for Microsoft and have places where we have a conversation with developers. Microsoft is no stranger to that. MSDN is huge if you think about it.

InfoWorld: Do you think Microsoft is no longer viewed as being the nemesis of open source?

Rabellino: I can tell you that when I joined Microsoft [two years ago], I of course asked around, I had quite a few contacts. [I talked with] my friends are very, very into open source. Every single one of them told me to go for it because they didn't see it as a problem at all. They clearly understood that Microsoft had changed over the years and that the market had changed as well. So this was the right time.

InfoWorld: Microsoft used to have cross-licensing agreements regarding patents. Does Microsoft still claim that Linux infringed Microsoft patents?

Rabellino: I am not involved with that particular side. We take pride in what we do. We are not shy about saying that we have open source software and proprietary software, and we think that they can go together. We are [respectful] of others' intellectual property. We just ask the same. We are in negotiation, ongoing, with other companies and other providers. That's par for the course in the industry. We are being very vocal, for example, on the of patent reforms.

InfoWorld: Steve Ballmer said something about Linux being a "cancer." How does Microsoft feel about Linux these days?

Rabellino: I opened up telling you about Linux images [on VM Depot]. We began to realize that what the customers are running are complex IT infrastructures where they are using more than one technology. What we want to do is make sure that we provide the best place for those technologies to run together. This is why, as an example, we're now listed as one of the top contributors [to] the Linux kernel.

InfoWorld: What has Microsoft contributed?

Rabellino: We have contributed drivers for Hyper-V, for our virtualization layer. You can run Linux as a guest operating system on a Hyper-V hypervisor.

InfoWorld: What does the Git embrace in Visual Studio mean?

Rabellino: It's part of the way that Microsoft has changed as a company and become more open. There is an important trend, this important trend is distributed version control and there is a well-established player out there. Developers are depending on it. They know it. They like it, so we're going to support it.


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