Microsoft and the open source community

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, while speaking today at the annual conference of the company Most Valuable Professional, has given some perspective about the relationship between Microsoft and open source, as reported by Todd Bishop. What I see as a dangerous problem, especially when you look at interoperability between applications and file formats (especially ODF and OOXML), is the fact that Microsoft ignores the open source community.

If we look at OpenOffice.org, the three markets where the open source office suite is competing most successfully with Microsoft Office are probably Germany, France and Italy, followed by other European markets like Spain and the Netherlands. In Italy, where I have the updated numbers, we are hitting today – maybe while I’m writing this post – one million downloads since January 1st, 2008 (over 350.000 since the announcement of OOo 2.4 in late March). Although we don’t have Microsoft figures for Office 2007, we estimate a maximum of 1.8 million licenses sold in 2008.

I already know the reply: “You can’t compare licenses with downloads…”. Of course, gentlemen, but do you really think that one million downloads in slightly over one hundred days (at an average of over 9,200 downloads per day) still equals to a few thousands users? Do you really think that a small bunch of people, just the same small bunch of people, can get all these downloads? Come on, we’ve other stuff to do. Please, be realistic. We’re eating your pie, quickly. We’re hungry.

I don’t know the figures for Germany and France, but I’m quite sure that they are even better than those for Italy. The results in these markets are mainly due to the daily activity of the local community, while Microsoft – with the exception of Italy, where Associazione PLIO is recognized and respected – apparently ignores the reality. I am sure, for instance, that Microsoft’s Document Interoperability Initiative would greatly benefit from the involvement of the open source community.

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