It's easy to demonize Microsoft — I think I've probably done it about six times today, and I haven't even eaten dinner yet. But MSFT, for all of its short-sightedness, bullying, and FUDmongering, is a hotbed of sharp, creative, skilled technologists who have as much integrity as anyone I've ever met in the industry.
And none moreso than David Stutz, who once handed me a bizcard that read "BSD Sympathizer." He was MSFT's guy on P2P (we shared a stage once, with Gene Kan, at Esther Dyson's PC Forum), and then went on to lend a critical helping hand to the Mono Free Software port of the .NET common-language runtime. The last time I saw Stutz, I jotted down the names of the CDs he'd appeared on (he was in the chorous on the Hellraiser soundtrack and played along on a fantastically swell disc of Shaker revival music).
The time before that time, he was on-stage with Craig Mundie at the O'Reilly Open Source conference, translating Craig's heavy-breathing condemnation of open source for an audience of slavering, blood-crazed geeks.
Now, David has left Microsoft. He's written a farewell note to his former employer that is by turns scathing and brilliant, and exposes the short-sightedness of MSFT's steadfast refusal to embrace Free Software. It's required reading from the end of an era.
Digging in against open source commoditization won't work – it would be like digging in against the Internet, which Microsoft tried for a while before getting wise. Any move towards cutting off alternatives by limiting interoperability or integration options would be fraught with danger, since it would enrage customers, accelerate the divergence of the open source platform, and have other undesirable results. Despite this, Microsoft is at risk of following this path, due to the corporate delusion that goes by many names: "better together," "unified platform," and "integrated software." There is false hope in Redmond that these outmoded approaches to software integration will attract and keep international markets, governments, academics, and most importantly, innovators, safely within the Microsoft sphere of influence. But they won't .
Exciting new networked applications are being written. Time is not standing still. Microsoft must survive and prosper by learning from the open source software movement and by borrowing from and improving its techniques. Open source software is as large and powerful a wave as the Internet was, and is rapidly accreting into a legitimate alternative to Windows. It can and should be harnessed. To avoid dire consequences, Microsoft should favor an approach that tolerates and embraces the diversity of the open source approach, especially when network-based integration is involved. There are many clever and motivated people out there, who have many different reasons to avoid buying directly into a Microsoft proprietary stack. Microsoft must employ diplomacy to woo these accounts; stubborn insistence will be both counterproductive and ineffective. Microsoft cannot prosper during the open source wave as an island, with a defenses built out of litigation and proprietary protocols.