PARIS — Let’s face it. One of the things you don’t expect at an open source party is Microsoft. However, Microsoft is here at the Paris Open World Forum (OWF) and outlined its position on open source through the offices of Frederic Aatz, Director of Interoperability Strategy at Microsoft.

What does that title mean in English? You could describe him as the guy that gets things to work together — which was reflected in his message: Microsoft and open source need to get along.

Microsoft And Open Source

For any open source developers in the US that might be choking on their lunches over that claim, let us reiterate that, yep, this is exactly what he said. Not only that, but no one here seems to be disagreeing with him.

"Microsoft is more and more interested in open source because market pressures are forcing companies to look at it as a way of providing the technologies they need to give them a business edge,” Aatz said.

It’s a logical position to take, given the massive amounts of cash organizations have to pay out now to remain competitive. The question most CEOs or CIOs are asking is how to innovate as economically as possible.

Again, no arguments here, especially when Aatz talked about the costs off developing a mobile or social strategy and the need to deploy technologies or even develop technologies that can help organizations increase business value.

But is this what we expect to hear from Microsoft?

Microsoft’s Open Source Past

It seems Microsoft has moved on from the days when former CEO Steve Ballmer described Linux as a cancer. Ballmer spent years doing his best to treat open source as a scourge, until he finally gave up the reins last year. 

Now Ballmer has left everything but his professional basketball team behind — and Linux is still around. In fact, it’s not going anywhere. And now Microsoft looks like it’s getting all cuddly with it.

Last week, at a Microsoft event promoting its cloud business and future, Ballmer's successor, Satya Nadella, came out and said it: “Microsoft loves Linux.” He followed this up with an interview in Wired magazine, where he said now is the time to put old battles behind.

Learning Opportunities

Open Source Future

There are a lot of things Nadella has changed at Microsoft, including the company’s relationship with Linux. Nadella seems to have a nose for good business, as streamlining its business units and getting them to communicate appears to show, as does his faith in the development of Office 365.

Linux is no exception. Azure already supports CoreOS Linux, CentOS, Oracle Linux, SUSE and Ubuntu. Amazon and Google services also run on Linux.

Like we said, it’s just smart money to embrace open source. And that’s pretty much what Aatz said here today. But he stopped short of a full love relationship. What he pictures is a partnership, an idea that doesn’t appear to have taken long to cross the Atlantic from the mother ship.

Collaboration between both worlds is key in order to engage customers for better value for their budget. Mixed environment is the rule and existing world to stay [sic]. Microsoft has been working on interoperability and openness by listening to customers, working with body standards and communities, being open in the cloud by offering major open source language, frameworks and applications,” Aatz added.

Aatz only had eight minutes to sum up the Microsoft position. All speakers here are allotted 15 minutes, but the sessions were running over and Aatz got cut back. But he did well.

Microsoft now loves open source and is prepared to work with open source vendors. Hey, we’re in the city of love here. Anything is possible.

Title image by PreteMoiParis  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.