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Microsoft Pledges Another Round of Open-Source Links

By Peter Galli Print this article Print

Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia says the company is serious about finding ways to resolve the incompatibilities between open-source and commercial software.

BOSTON—Microsoft has been reaching out to the open-source community to try to find ways to overcome the incompatibilities between software distributed under the GNU General Public License and its own commercial software.

"Open source is a way of building software and, in its most basic sense, there is nothing incompatible [between] the concept of open source and commercial software.

"But the GPL has an inherent incompatibility that is, to my knowledge, impossible to overcome," Bob Muglia, the senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, told eWEEK in an interview here at Microsoft's annual TechEd developer conference on June 12.

A commercial company has to build intellectual property, while the GPL, by its very nature, does not allow intellectual property to be built, making the two approaches fundamentally incompatible, Muglia said.

Licenses like the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) and commercial software, on the other hand, are quite compatible with one another, he observed.

"We are open to ways of working with the open-source community broadly, and even in the GPL space we are trying to find ways in which we can build bridges to GPL, but the bridge has to be carefully constructed," Muglia said.

Open-source code advocates have called for cooler heads to prevail in the debate about the first discussion draft of the next version of the GPL. To read more, click here.

"One of the things I have learned is that engineers who work on commercial software really can't work on open source on GPL and engineers who work on GPL can't work on commercial software. You really have to separate the two," he said.

As Microsoft continues along its road of interoperability, it wants to ensure that it will be able to work with software licensed under the GPL and that people will be able to build solutions under the GPL that interoperate with Microsoft's offerings, he said.

He added that this initiative is being driven by Bill Hilf, who established Microsoft's Linux and open-source lab and who reports to Muglia, along with Craig Mundie, its chief technology officer for advanced strategies and policy, as they work on many of the company's broad standards efforts.

Due to the complexity and breadth of initiative, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and his team are also involved, Muglia said

To read more about Microsoft's efforts to convince the developer community of its commitment to interoperability, click here.

Asked what the reaction from the community had been to Microsoft's outreach on this front, Muglia said it was "skeptical but intrigued. What people are starting to discover is that people who write GPL code are not evil and people who write commercial software are also not evil, we just have different approaches."

The goal, from both sides, is to meet customer needs, he said, adding, "This is just the more mature view of the way the world is evolving, and we want to make sure that if customers are choosing Linux or other open-source-based products that we have ways of interoperating and working effectively with that."

Linux and open-source companies remain Microsoft competitors, and the goal is to do a better job than they do at solving customer needs, and ultimately to have customers choose Microsoft solutions. However, if customers choose not to, Microsoft needs to be interoperating and working well with those companies.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Can Windows and Open Source Learn to Play Nice?

This article was originally published on 2006-06-12
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.

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