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For quite some time now, Microsoft has been trying to rally the support of open source activists and get on board the open source band wagon. Its attempts till now have bore little fruit, but the company has not given up. In Philippines, Microsoft recently established an open source laboratory and paid for a huge media coverage. This from a company that initially ignored Linux, then scoffed at it and finally launched a vitriolic attack against it.

From what has been said in their press release, interoperability and recycling of old computers seem to be a couple of areas which would be concentrated upon in this lab. Microsoft has been known to be notorious when it comes to interoperability. They have always maintained their own protocols and have flexed their muscles and forced other companies to comply with them rather than adopting global standards. Their business practices have been scrutinized and slammed by a lot of people and courts across the world. But they still are the number one software vendor on this planet.

Whether Microsoft has a hidden agenda behind this move is not known for certain, but it won’t be surprising if it does have one. Even though its dominance in the desktop computing arena is unquestionable, Microsoft had had very little success in the enterprise sphere where open source technologies like the LAMP stack and JEE have reigned for long. They have gone through a failed acquisition attempt of SAP and their enterprise projects like Project Green and Metro have never taken off. SQL Server, though improved vastly from its previous versions, still does not enjoy the same levels of popularity and performance as Oracle’s or IBM’s offerings.

Open source has stayed pretty much clear of Microsoft technologies and has embraced global standards and protocols. The popularity and widespread adoption of open source technologies have further alarmed Microsoft which did not believe in the value that open source offered. It tried to vilify the movement in many ways, including but not limited to publishing studies that it sponsored and that showed open source software in poor light. These attempts however have not returned the results that Microsoft expected. Instead open source actually gained from it as it came to attention of the IT heads of different organizations and appeared to be a viable option.

In the field of desktop computing, Microsoft, still the dominant force, has taken a very serious beating with the release of Windows Vista – a bloatware of a program that hogs resources for reasons apparently of little or no direct use to the users. Moreover the different flavors that it offered confused the buyers immensely. Microsoft is still fighting a lawsuit over misleading customers with the “Windows Vista Ready” tag on PCs that were clearly ready for certain version of the OS and not others. The biggest gainer out of this fiasco has been Apple whose sales have steadily picked up. In a lesser way, the desktop Linux offering of Ubuntu/Kubuntu have also registered increasing number of downloads and interest. Ubuntu/Kubuntu is probably the nearest possible alternative to Windows on the desktop.

So, practically on every front that Microsoft had been dominating till now, it is facing a challenge from open source that is getting stronger. It has realized hat it cannot outright kill a movement of this scale. When you can’t beat it you join it. That’s what Microsoft seems to be doing. Though they have expressed an altruistic intention of supporting and forwarding the cause of open source software, their history is pretty much against their own words.