Is OpenOffice.org a Threat? Microsoft Thinks So
Published 11:15, 29 December 09
One of the unusual aspects of open source is the fact that the software development philosophy spills over into the way that the project is run. This means that how and why things are done, and by whom, is plain for all to see. Contrast that with Microsoft's approach, which mimics the black box of its software: mostly, all we ever get to view are the results, and rarely the cogs and gears behind those results.
Sometimes, though, some apparently obscure document grants us a rare insight into what is happening deep in the bowels of the Microsoft machine. Here's an example, a delightfully jargon-ridden job advertisement for the “Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary (CSI Lead)” that John McCreesh flagged up:
If you’re looking for a new role where you’ll focus on one of the biggest issues that is top of mind for KT and Steve B in “Compete”, build a complete left to right understanding of the subsidiary, have a large amount of executive exposure, build and manage the activities of a v-team of 13 district Linux& Open Office Compete Leads, and develop a broad set of marketing skills and report to a management team committed to development and recognized for high WHI this is the position for you!
Once you've got past the entertaining “top of mind” and “complete left to right understanding” phraseology, this reveals something incredibly important about the current thinking at Microsoft: that OpenOffice.org now figures almost as largely in the competitive landscape as does GNU/Linux, and the fact there are no less than *13* “district Linux and Open Office Compete Leads” focussing on what is described as "one of the biggest issues" for no less a person than Steve Ballmer.
That's huge: until now, most people have tended to dismiss the open source office project as a distant runner-up to Microsoft Office, and certainly not a serious contender. Microsoft obviously feels otherwise, which means that OpenOffice.org is clearly doing something right.
The ad has some more details about the post:
The core mission of CSI is to win share against Linux and OpenOffice.org by designing and driving marketing programs, changing perceptions, engaging with Open Source communities and organizations, and drive internal readiness on how to compete with Commercial Linux and participate with Open Source Communities.
What's of note here is not just the business about marketing programs and changing perceptions, but the fact that a key part of this “Linux and Open Office Compete Lead” position is “engaging with Open Source communities and organizations”. This confirms what many of us have been warning about for some time: that Microsoft's new-found eagerness to “engage” with open source has nothing to do with a real desire to reach a pacific accommodation with free software, but is simply a way for it to fight against it from close up, and armed with inside knowledge.
Free software projects need to bear this in mind when Redmond comes knocking on their doors, and tries to suggest that it would be mutually beneficial for them to work together. The intent is for that benefit to flow one way, and one way only, as this job advertisement makes clear.