Sunday, July 10, 2005

TECH | Microsoft keeps its options ‘open’

It's interesting that Microsoft is keeping its options 'open', so to speak, by being an exhibitor at open source and Linux shows such as LinuxWorld, and participating in open source conferences.

There is some logic to this, apart from the general notion that Microsoft wants to keep an eye on developments in the field, which potentially threaten its business.

Microsoft, it seems, realizes that it will have to go down the open source route someday, and may even be preparing the products to do so sooner than we think.

It was well publicized last year when Microsoft made exceptions for several governments in Europe and the Far East by opening up Windows source, just to prevent these governments from building their national information systems around Linux.

That development was a major change of policy for Microsoft who has fiercely guarded its intellectual property over the years and it shows some rare humility on the part of a software goliath who usually call the shots in its relationships with customers.

It's not the case anymore. In fact, Microsoft officials are even talking about 'building bridges with other platforms to ensure collaboration'.

Simply, Microsoft needs to ensure its products are integrated with or can communicate with open source environments to maintain the happiness of its clients, many of whom will want to venture into the Linux or open source worlds.

That way, at least, they don't have to abandon Microsoft solutions to experiment with Linux.

Also recently, Microsoft professionals certifications have included open source. The Microsoft Certified Architect material, for example, covers open source tools and technologies.

The open source movement has given the IT world so much, and forcing companies like Microsoft to adopt open source strategies is just one of the benefits.

The real and now tangible benefit is the empowerment of programmers all over the world to create the software systems necessary for national progress in poor or developing countries at a fraction of the cost required to buy or license these systems from Microsoft and others.

In the Arab World, we’ve picked up on that with an impressive open source movement, that is now visible and creating Arabic applications that should serve home and business users.

Supported now by a number of donors and regional offices of IT companies like IBM, it’s looking likely that the Linux platform will emerge as a viable Arabized alternative for organizations in the region.

Linux and open source are driving a noble notion that makes the information age more democratic for less fortunate countries and societies.
Judging by the recent change in Microsoft’s strategy, not even the world’s largest software company will be arguing with that.


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