September 10th, 2009

Microsoft - In need of a bloodless coup

I found this article interesting:
http://blog.internetnews.com/skerner/2009/09/microsoft-launches-open-source.html

Is this a sincere effort by MS or not? The cynic in me says its not. But you know what they say about cynics, cynics are just wounded idealists.
Ideally... isn't this sort of foundation effort the sort of thing we want Microsoft to be doing? If we trusted Microsoft wouldn't this sort of announcement be a good thing {tm}?  But we don't..not when they are actively engaging in destructive patent litigation against the larger community's best interests. 

So here's the real question... can this foundation be used by external collaborators to start driving the process of cultural change inside Microsoft with regard to patents?

People interested in seeing MS step away from the patent litigation strategy its been using lately have two options really. One they can hold their breath and continue to encourage people to not participate in Microsoft community efforts until this changes. This is a boycott approach to forcing change by setting up an us versus them dynamic.

Or people who want to see Microsoft's patent litigation culture change can engage and participate in something like this foundation and try to drive a cultural change from inside Microsoft's own ecosystem.

I think ultimately we are going to need both...both the carrot and the stick. We've gotten a good handle on hold to wield the stick. I'm not so sure we know how to comfortably hold the carrot without risking our fingers getting bitten off.  Horses can be a bit bitey at times.

Corporate culture is always multi-faceted. What we have to figure out how to do is lift up the individuals and teams who are trying to spread a more open business culture..even when their views are not yet the dominate culture in the corporate entity.

It's going to be tough to do in Microsoft's case, but we have to figure out how to do it. Cultural revolutions are not imposed from the outside...not even a business cultural revolution. The seeds of a Microsoft transition into a community friendly business that is willing to voluntarily dismantle its own patent litigation apparatus must be sown inside their own ecosystem.

-jef