Microsoft and the GPL

For some strange reason, people all over the net are oohing and awing over Microsoft releasing some drivers to use Linux on their proprietary virtualization software. I'm oohing too; not because of the drivers, but because of all the buzz that goes around it.

Ten years ago, I would have oohed and awed, too. At that time, Microsoft was fighting open source and free software like a cancer. Today, they're not; they provide open source software for Windows themselves (such as an installer framework which they provide through sourceforge), and actively cooperate with many open source and free software projects through their open source labs. They even have a section of their website dedicated to open source software

A large company like Microsoft can't survive if it tries to actively work against what the marketplace wants. The fact that they were indeed so actively fighting against open source software is quite likely why the first decade of the 21st century has seen such a huge loss of market share for them; like any large company, they needed to adapt or lose. They've chosen the first; good for them, and that might be good for us too.

Over the past decade, I've seen Microsoft warming up to open source, to some extent. This is why I don't understand much of the 'Boycott Novell' lunatics; sure, I don't trust Microsoft enough yet to be willing to say that they don't have any plans that will negatively affect us; however, that doesn't mean I will assume that evil things are their plans; unless proven otherwise, I will assume they have the best interest of their customers and/or shareholders as their main goal.

Which is why I was totally not surprised in seeing a GPL patch from Microsoft at this point in time. Rather, I find it normal and expected behaviour, a continuation of an evolution that has been going on for the better part of a decade now.