I like to keep myself up to date in terms of technology news. One of the things I do is subscribe to RSS feeds of several, reliable news sources and blogs. It is always interesting to see some new story or post popping up on a block of my iGoogle and them see the repercussions on this new issue popping up on the other feeds blocks.
On this June, 16th, I learned from a story on IDGNow that Microsoft was sponsoring Open Source Census, a quite bold initiative trying to find out what the volumes of all of the the installed open source packages. Other sponsors for this census are IDC, CollabNet, Unisys and the Open Source Lab (OSL). As I have participated on Microsoft's interoperability and open source initiatives, I was not quite surprised by this. Since Microsoft made public its Open Source Lab and started posting about it on Port25, on March, 2006, the company is being quite explicit about its approach with the open source community. Of course, this approach was not , is not welcome by everybody. This is Ok. A Brazilian writer, Nelson Rodrigues, once said "all unanimity is dumb".
When a company sponsors a project, it is obvious the results of this project are part of this company's interests. As a result of this census Microsoft will get a comprehensive map of the open source software usage. This will help directing the company's strategy when approaching open source projects and its develpers. It also may point situations Microsoft might be losing market to open source competitors. There is no evil here. Companies pay for market researches all the time in order to make better decisions, have better strategies for the future.
The term "conspiracy", however, poped up very quickly in a post from Dave Rosenberg to CNET. Dave says: "My guess? I think Microsoft wants access to the results both so it can understand open source but also so it can start to consider legal actions against the most popular products and the companies that develop them.". Michael Tiemann, on Linux Today says he doubts the census will bring valid results, "just more confusion".
Of course there is still time for more repercussions. I believe, however, this never ending "conspiracy theory" that comes up all the time Microsoft announces anything regarding open source is getting old, tired, boring, boring, boring. Markets are a dynamic thing. So must be the companies that survive in these markets. Microsoft is also the main sponsor of the Community Choice Awards, idealized by SourceForge in order to recognize open source projects. Recently, Sam Ramji ordered the removal of a project from Codeplex once it did not comply with the company's open source policy, apologizing publicly to OSI (Open Source Initiative).
Are there still things to be done? Sure! A lot of code can be opened by Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Unisys, Google and so many more companies. Personally, I will always applause the initiatives towards the opening of knowledge, even if this happens gradually.