One of the major indicators that your large organization has become a dysfunctional bureaucracy is when you spend millions building up one perception and a similar amount tearing them down. This is what Microsoft has been doing with Open Source software. Recently, headlines have touted "MICROSOFT EMBRACES OPEN SOURCE" and "MICROSOFT AFFIRMS OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY".
But this weekend's headlines have all been about Microsoft SUING people and organizations using open source software. Regardless of the legal merits of Microsoft's patent claims, the bigger story for me here is the internal disconnect this represents. Microsoft significantly invested in Open Source integration and were simultaneously undermining that very effort.
There are many out there who are outraged at Microsoft's actions. But in the end, Microsoft has greatly damaged their credibility.
Magazines like Fortune are saying things like this:
...there's a shadow hanging over Linux and other free software, and it's being cast by Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500). The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft's patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsome competitors like Google (Charts, Fortune 500), Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won't be free anymore.
A SHADOW. Microsoft has gone in one week from being (guardedly) welcomed to the open source party to being more barred than ever. Fortune magazine calls Microsoft a shadow ... a stalker ... not to be trusted.
They would have been better off saving the money spent on Open Source PR and investing in conflict diamonds and child labor.
Blogged at my house in Seattle with Live Writer