First off, let's face it, it's obvious that we won't be mentioning much else of what happened at the MTS2007 apart from the OSS bits. At least I won't anyway, because I'm just too jetlagged to process anything else. Secondly, I don't reckon we'll mention anything about taking a piss at Microsoft anymore after this, because you can only stretch a bodily function joke so far.
Sam Ramji, the Director of Platform Strategy and the lead for Microsoft's OSS Lab took to the stage in the morning to talk about what Microsoft is doing with regards to understanding and supporting OSS. It was ... interesting. Sam notes that there is a generational change within Microsoft today, since the new developers being hired are more likely to be exposed to OSS before being employed by Microsoft. This results in better acceptance overall within the company. He also mentions (during and after the talk) that this process of understanding and acceptance of OSS is an ongoing evolution and that Microsoft is today better disposed towards engaging with the community than before. He hopes and feels that the interaction between the two would only get better over time.
Sam talked about how his crew managed to pressure the product groups within the corporation to, among other things, optimise PHP for IIS 7.0 and to make Samba work properly with Vista. Echoing Bill Hilf's talk a day earlier, he noted that these things are done not so much to help the OSS community but for sound business reasons on the part of Microsoft. For example, he said that a large proportion of PHP applications were coded on Windows boxes which are then deployed on a LAMP platform. Therefore, from a revenue perspective, the Windows platform loses out. In the case of Samba, he guesstimated that there'd be some 50 million users accessing Linux-based NAS devices which wouldn't be able to do so anymore when they upgrade to Vista because there was some implementation changes in Vista which broke Samba connectivity. It's not an optimal reason from an OSS perspective, but I suppose it's reasonable enough from theirs.
We asked him about whether there were conflicts between his group and the various other product groups, and he said sure there were. But they're not the boss of him so he's going to do what he needs to do. For example, he invited some of the Mozilla team over which got on the IE team's tits, but he went ahead anyway.
Microsoft is schizo. But this is normal for any company with thousands of smart people employed. Which goes some way towards explaining why they'd have a team that's trying rather hard to both "interoperate" with OSS, as well as educate the rest of their shower about OSS yet at the same time have another bunch of people dissing OSS.
IBM spent $1,000,000,000 on Linux and yet do not have a native Notes port. Same difference. Superficially, at least.
Here are some random notes:
I think that in some cases Microsoft somehow views standards and interoperability as two rather distinct issues. Which is orthogonal to how most advocates of open standards would view it. From an open standards perspective, the standards begets interoperability and that's the end of that. For Microsoft, interoperability means making sure that their stuff works with other people's stuff, as long as a business case can be made. Occasionally, interoperability is an imperative, infusing them with the spirit of cooperation when they don't actually have a choice in the matter. They'd also be most comfortable using standards which they can control. But that's nothing odd. Other corporations look at it the same way too.
Bill Hilf, Sam and their team feels the pain whenever StevieB (which would be a good name for a member of a Boy Band) says something that riles up the OSS community, like threatening to sue countries for patent violation when using Linux, or that OSS is a cancer and un-American. Sam thinks that they've managed to get StevieB to show some love and understanding towards OSS -- where it also provides benefits for Microsoft.
I'm not sure that the disabled access doors at the Microsoft Conference Center behaves the way that it's supposed to behave. When you press the disabled access button, the outer door swings open but the inner door doesn't. I kept trying it throughout yesterday and today, enough to annoy Dinesh. Seems like itsatrap! Made a video of it, which you can find on YouTube here: The Handicapped Doors.
There are some other things which Dinesh and I discussed that I think should be said, but I'm just too jetlagged now to remember them. So we'll keep those for later.
Oh, and on the ODF/OOXML thing, it'll have to wait a bit. Sam said that we've misunderstood the issue. Or that we're misunderstood. I'm not sure. Same difference.