Microsoft it was disclosed today will become a sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation, forking over US$100,000 a year for theprivilege . In return, Redmond will gain access to the Apache POI project, a Java port of file formats of Microsoft's Office suite of applications.
Based on Microsoft's history, I have my suspicions about the company's motives. Yes, it's been exhibiting a more open stance of late, but the sting of its exclusionary practices and once-closed file formats remains. But Microsoft has been moving toward opening its formats recently, and I'm willing to believe the move is yet another effort at interoperability. Besides, I hear that Apache's governance model is pretty tight.
To help explain the strategy, Sam Ramji, director of Microsoft's open source software lab, described an entry on his blog, what the move is to the company and what it is not.
"It is not a move away from IIS as Microsoft’s strategic web server technology. We have invested significantly in refactoring and adding new, state-of-the-art features to IIS, including support for PHP. We will continue to invest in IIS for the long term and are currently under way with development of IIS 8.
"It is a strong endorsement of The Apache Way, and opens a new chapter in our relationship with the ASF. We have worked with Apache POI, Apache Axis2, Jakarta, and other projects in the last year, and we will continue our technical support and interoperability testing work for this open source software."
I've been glad to see Microsoft's recent moves toward openness. Maybe it will blossom into an open version of Windows.