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Microsoft Gets a New Open Source Chief 131

mjasay writes "Microsoft just promoted Sam Ramji to run its growing Linux and open source operations. The former head of Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab, Ramji has a long history with open source, having built out large-scale open-source based applications while at Ofoto, and continuing to run applications like World of Warcraft and Office 2003 on WINE. Microsoft has been putting increasingly open-source savvy people in this role, starting with Jason Matusow and most recently employing Bill Hilf in the role. Ramji has made friends with many in the open-source business and development communities, but will his promotion spell any sort of an about-face for Microsoft in its patent policies? It's unlikely, but at least it demonstrates a step in the right direction."
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Microsoft Gets a New Open Source Chief

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  • go sam! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:16PM (#23016750)
    Man, I loved his work with the Spiderman movies. I didn't know he was an open source advocate to.
    • Now, maybe he could team up with Mat Dillon we'd have another blockbuster. That guy was awesome in "Crash".

      But seriously folks, he plays World of Warcraft (through WINE!!)!!? Say no more, where do I lay my pitchfork down?
      • by kubrick ( 27291 )
        Now, maybe he could team up with Matt Dillon we'd have another blockbuster. That guy was awesome in "Crash".

        No thanks, it would slow down development of DragonFlyBSD too much.
      • I thought that would be a reason to pick up the pitchfork... real geeks play Eve.
        • Elitist Geeks play EVE, and now Elitist Geeks play EVE in any Linux Distro with ease and properly even supported.
        • I thought that would be a reason to pick up the pitchfork... real geeks play Eve.

          Geeks play Urban Dead [urbandead.com], graargh. Real geeks play D&D through IRC. Libertarian nutjob geeks play Eve Online. Communist geeks don't play due to being unable to afford a computer. And geeks with troll blood - undoubtedly the result of the afromentioned IRC sessions getting out of hand - play with themselves while posting to Slashdot.

          And a real geek doesn't pick up a pitchwork, he builds a Transformer to wield it for him.

    • Re:go sam! (Score:4, Funny)

      by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:48PM (#23017208)
      Wait, I thought he was the one that carried Frodo up the mountain; I'm so confused.
    • Wonder if he'll get Aasif Mandvi to play the Open Source Chef.
    • by ewrong ( 1053160 )
      I'm just trying to work out if this is "the best worst job ever" or "the worst best job ever".
    • ...wasn't he Frodo's faithful companion in the Indian version of LOTR?
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:17PM (#23016768) Homepage
    Good to see Ratatouille got a job after the restaurant gig failed.

  • by masdog ( 794316 ) <masdog@g m a i l.com> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:18PM (#23016780)
    Microsoft won't change their patent policy, regardless of who is at the helm of their open source division. That policy is set at the top and won't change until Ballmer and Gates are gone for good.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      That policy is set at the top and won't change until Ballmer and Gates are gone for good.
      This just in: The Free Software Foundation has retained the consulting services of Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano [wikipedia.org], who will perform undisclosed services for an undisclosed fee.

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      That policy is set at the top and won't change until Ballmer and Gates are gone for good.

      And why would it change then? It works. (For Microsoft.)

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
        It wont change until Ballmer is gone becuase that is all that he is capable of, taking over some elses work, Gates. Ballmer has turned windows into a failure via Vista and Office via banner tool bars (I still haven't seen it in operation, so I can't really comment on how gone or bad that idea is, now that in itself is something to consider a year after it has been out).

        So the current executive team, the driving force behind the direction of M$ lacks the skills necessary to, well, change direction. To succ

        • had to throw the M$ in..

          You realize that will get you labeled as a Twitter sock puppet..
          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
            yYou really are confused, it is the yes men corporate flunkies who are the sock puppets, you know the bend over butt monkeys and face it already M$> is nearly a decade old, and I have no idea who twitter is, seeing as you are so focussed with them, perhaps you can inform me about twitter as well as why M$ is so obsessed by twitter.

            Is the 'Twitter' some past foe of the billy goat. Is the 'Twitter' an ex-M$ employee. Is the 'Twitter' a google employee. Perhaps with the billy goat's latest angst against

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by billcopc ( 196330 )
      Yup. It seems every few months we hear about Microsoft snapping up some second-rate OSS poster child. They pay them to sit around doing nothing, Microsoft gets to throw the name around, and eventually the OSS guy leaves and writes about his boredom on Blogspot.

      Daniel Robbins did it, then they made ESR laugh with us, and now this Sam dude. Why don't they just dress Ballmer in a BSD devil costume and call it a day ?

      • You're confused - I'm not an OSS poster child, I'm a software engineer who has always worked at commercial software companies and IT organizations. I make no pretensions about being an open source hero. I work directly with the developers writing some of the leading open source software projects to help with documentation and technical support. See: Samba, Firefox, PHP, Apache. I also believe in heterogeneous systems; no large IT environment has a single OS or a single anything else. So I advocate and
    • by ajs ( 35943 )
      I think Linus said it best in the Open Voices podcast (part 2 of the Linus Torvalds interview): Microsoft is a giant company with many competing motivations. Some of that company is willing and ready to embrace open source and treat the community with respect. Part of the company is not. When you hear from the part that wants to treat us well, you tend to wonder, "has something changed?" It probably has not. It's just that you're hearing from a different head.

      Paraphrase mine.

  • Not Patents (Score:2, Interesting)

    Patents, although worrisome will go away in the long run, the main points that MS should get is support Linux , some technologies such as Office would be decent Linux apps that people would pay for if either it was a native Linux version or was seamlessly integrated in WINE. MS needs to stop turning a blind eye to Linux if they ever hope to gain respect and marketshare. Competition improves quality and if MS would port over some of its applications (as badly coded as much of them are) the OSS developers w
    • Re:Not Patents (Score:5, Interesting)

      by masdog ( 794316 ) <masdog@g m a i l.com> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:28PM (#23016938)

      Microsoft doesn't need respect and marketshare. In the desktop space, they still lead. Supporting Linux would only help diminish that lead in Microsoft's key markets.

      Microsoft's competition against Linux is mainly in the server space. Linux as a server OS is especially attractive for web-applications, middle-ware, and databases. Corporations like Linux because a single good Linux admin and no licensing fees is a cost savings over a couple of Windows Admins(especially for business critical apps). It is also where the threat of patent litigation will cause legal departments to block new implementations of Linux.

      • unfortunately that's a problem too - Microsoft still leads in the server space too (though not by nearly as nuch as the desktop). Now I see Linux making big inroads to this market, but MS makes a ton of money off their server offerings - not just all the Windows Server flavours, but also all the server-based frameworks and 'servers'. Ever seen the cost of crappy old Biztalk server? even crappier Sharepoint? (especially as you also need Office Pro to get Infopath that makes it halfway worthwhile). Applicatio
        • by masdog ( 794316 )

          unfortunately that's a problem too - Microsoft still leads in the server space too (though not by nearly as much as the desktop).

          True, but Microsoft has used their lead in the desktop space to gain a lead in the server OS space. Its also one of the few spaces where they seem to listen to their customers and actually try to mimic Linux and Unix in an effort to improve their product. Just look at what was included by default in Server 2008 - an actual command shell, the option to install without a GUI, and a much more modular IIS that supports scripting more easily.

          Ever seen the cost of crappy old Biztalk server? even crappier Sharepoint? (especially as you also need Office Pro to get Infopath that makes it halfway worthwhile). Application Server? Exchange! It'd make your wallet cry to just look at the numbers that businesses regularly pay!.

          Well, when you're a business, that cost isn't always an issue.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bert64 ( 520050 )
            You cant install 2008 without a GUI...
            The graphical layer is still running, the only difference is that it executes cmd.exe (in a window) instead of explorer.exe when you log in. It's not like the pure textmode of a unix system, and it still doesn't support serial consoles and boot without a video card installed like any serious server os.
      • "Microsoft doesn't need respect and marketshare. In the desktop space, they still lead. "

        But for how long is the question. Operating systems are a commodity with a marginal cost of USD 0.05 (cost of a blank CD). What you can still sell is fit and finish (see Apple) and applications, at least the specialized ones.

        And Office still fits in the specialized application category due to all those add-ins. For instance we use OSIsoft's Datalink to get data from the plant historian to Excel. Datalink is Excel only,
        • Now MS is making the same mistake, leaving their products off of Linux, giving the competition a safe haven to gather strength.

          That is quite the large point. If Linux/UNIX users are ignored and what you provide is seen as essential then the Linux/UNIX community will do for themselves what you aren't doing for them. What makes this troublesome is that well polished UNIX apps have a tendency to be ported to Windows and then become popular. So there you are enjoying the hell out of monopoly rents for you

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
      And MS would have to improve their applications and reduce prices to retain market share...
      This is far more costly than having customers locked in to your products and having to buy them regardless of how badly coded and non-innovative they are.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I've thought about this for some time and I can't find the catch, so I'll bounce it off of you guys. Microsoft is pissing off their user base and risking corporate and government conversions to competitors due to them continually trying to create vendor lock-in. Here's an idea that sounds like the absolute worst thing (from MS's point of view), but I'm starting to think it is the most profitable thing that MS could do, and would guarantee MS's future prosperity in a way that nothing else could:

      Make MS p
  • I wonder if this is the beginning of MS splitting into two different wings to meet different needs. The heavily patented and closed software, which might be appropriate for some clients; and a new open source branch to sell products to clients that will be better by open software.
    • No, it's just another FOSS guy turning into a shill. No doubt within the next few months we'll get to ask this particular whore some questions, which he will allegedly answer, we will all realize that once again someone has prostituted themselves by selling out to Redmond, and in another year or two someone else will be put in the same position, and some folks will go "mayb this means that..." and it will all start again.
  • Sam Ramji is an acronym for

    "I am Sam jr"

    There you have it. Microsoft is pure evil !

    We need to get out while we still can !
  • Know thy enemy. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bluemetal ( 1269852 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:22PM (#23016836) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't hurt Microsoft to be well versed in the ways of their rivals, even if they do not practice thier techniques themselves.
  • ... to see a stealth MS-funded Linux distro. One that crashes and shits out, just to show people how much better Windows is a-la them sponsoring all those Linux "news" sites and putting up anti-Linux/pro-Windows banners [schlesinger.us].
  • This is exactly the reason why RedHat wants Microsoft to get a vasectomy [slashdot.org].
  • Wait Microsoft... developing open sour... *Head explodes*
    • Get a grip (Score:3, Insightful)

      Microsoft... blowing hot air?

      Nothing new.

      Honestly, I don't care whether they're lying or whether they're just incapable of delivering on their promises. Either way, there's no reason to suddenly trust that Microsoft really means it this time.

  • Ramji (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:26PM (#23016896)
    When I saw the video of his Heise conference talk I thought, he looks like a trade fair presenter without any clue of the underlying technology. I can be wrong. But at least he is no person that appears to have the required independence and integrity required for the job. Why don't they take Miguel who is almost assimilated. At least he is an open mind and has an independent record of achievements outside Microsoft. I believe that Office on Wine is a pretty inspiring idea of cross-plattform. In the 90th Microsoft wanted Win32 everywhere but then it went on the anti-Linux ideology road and promoted unreasonable patent policies in nations abroad. When you see how Jason Matusow promoted OOXML you can clearly see that these persons do care less about technologist-friendly business pratices. Developers, developers, developers, was Ballmers slogan. I start to understand why. The company forgot to take the opinion of its developer community serious and inspire them.
    • Ramji is a complete MSFT tool. I heard him speak at OSBC 2007 - for some reason they let him be on the panel - and at one point the response he made when asked about MSFT and patents vis a vis open-source was such a MSFT-shill line that he actually caused the entire room (composed of engineers and lawyers) to laugh out loud. It was not a chuckle; his line was so obviously MSFT-speak and was so cynical (wonder where my notes are ... I'll see if I can dig them up). He didn't even crack a smile.

      I wouldn't t
      • It's like making Darth Vader part of the committee that's responsible for security on Alderaan.


        Meesa think Darth Vada make mooie-mooie good security chief!
      • by gtall ( 79522 )
        I think the line you are looking for is that you wouldn't trust him further than you can spit a rat (Zaphod Beeblebrox).

        Gerry
      • Yeah, the OSBC conference in May was pretty tough. With the journalist-heavy audience I had to stick with the most careful language possible, because any misstatement could be interpreted as legally binding to the company. Those environments are the least conducive to practical and constructive discussions of the issues.
  • So, does anyone remember the whole Deutsch Physiks thing, and how that cost the Germans valuable people in the tech side of the arms race during world warII. I imagine this is sort of like losing Edward Teller would have been.

    Heads up Sam, it's a trap. Let's just say they don't have our people's best interests at heart.
  • by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @04:31PM (#23016980) Homepage

    "Microsoft Gets a New Open Source Chief"

    Is it Miguel de Icaza?!! Is it??!

    (reads summary)

    Awwwwww... disappointment... :)

    • I thought it said "Open Source Chef" and wondered what a South Park character was doing at Microsoft.
  • Microsoft always tries to keep an eye on what the open-source world is doing. Perhaps to steal ideas, perhaps to embrace, extend and extinguish new emerging standards and technology.

    Maybe they actually intend to work on interoperability. However, I think it is too early to guess, let alone really know what they intend to do here.
  • I thought we were calling these positions Czars. I get so sick of these kinds of announcements. Since when did a single person (who was not a Shareholder) ever truly alter a corporate culture
  • I don't know, I'm hoping you do. Is there any way that Windows and Linux are able to provide mutual benefits to each other? Or are they exclusive? Because the only thing that will make Microsoft truly support open-source is the very real fact that they need to make money off of it. Anything less would open them up to liability when the shareholders sue. Pesky shareholders.
    • If Microsoft split into two independent companies where one makes an OS and the other makes applications, then yes, they could have mutual benefits. In fact if this were the case, Windows would be much better and their Apps much more innovative. OS revenue wouldn't be subsidizing Zunes and Xboxes, it would go directly into improving the OS. For the Apps company, it would be in their best interest to support more operating systems. Just because it runs on Linux, doesn't even mean it has to be open source
  • I find it utterly incredible the extent to which Microsoft has embraced OSS. Back almost ten years ago, when I started college, Linux was just beginning to make major in-roads to MS market share. MS pooh-poohed, ridiculed and generally played down Linux. Now they have an OPEN SOURCE CHIEF! Gandhi's quote about ignoring, laughing and then winning is becoming more relevant re: MS & Linux as the days go by.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Linux does not equal open source. Linux is a major part of OSS, but one does not equal the other. It is entirely posssible for Microsoft to be interested in open source without even looking at Linux.
  • by lancejjj ( 924211 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @05:03PM (#23017408) Homepage
    GM has a VP for Quality. Exxon has a VP for Environmental Protection. Why shouldn't Microsoft have a VP of Open Source technologies?
    • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @06:24PM (#23018314) Homepage
      ...it seems to me that any major commercial software company would be insane not to follow open source closely.

      When most people start talking about open source, they quickly turn into armchair intellectual property lawyers and the discussion veers toward talk of business models, patents, copyrights, licenses, and so on. It's easy to forget that the primary product of the open source movement is a lot of really interesting code.

      What's more, while this code may be copyrighted and licensed, it's generally patent-unencumbered. This means that Microsoft is free to take pretty much any interesting and novel idea that might come out of open source and rip it off -- rewrite the basic algorithm in C# and slap it into a commercial, closed-source product.

      The best case the open source community could come up with is to say that Microsoft's code was a derivative work of their own, copyrighted code -- but that would require A.) money, for B.) lawyers, who C.) gain access to Microsoft's code in discovery, and D.) luck out, in that Microsoft failed so miserably to write code that didn't resemble the open source original that they left an obvious smoking gun.

      What are the chances? It's not like there aren't any good programmers at Microsoft.

      In other words, in an age where most corporations are trimming R&D to enhance their bottom lines, Microsoft (and every other software company) has an amazing R&D resource in the work of the open source community. And hell, if anything really amazing comes along, it wouldn't be too difficult to wave a bunch of money under the developer's nose and get their efforts working for you, full-time.

      What's not to like?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by setagllib ( 753300 )
        They do this regularly to enhance the .NET platform. IronPython and RubyCLR have had some of their developers hired. Sun is doing similar things for the Java platform. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will pervert the projects they talent-tap into using other licenses.

        Even Microsoft knows that the open source space has a lot of code, ideas and talent they can legally use, but it seems only the developer-oriented teams (.NET, etc) "get it", and even they are largely bound by the corporate culture of a
  • Some poor person got a job trying to help evil corporation understand FOSS. Geez, with those qualifications, most of us could have that job, but I think I speak for most FOSS folk that a job offer from evil corporation would be not only a no, but a hell bit my shiny metal ass.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They are talking about SCO, aren't they?
  • I will remain skeptical of Microsoft until the day it GPLs its source code for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, and adopts ODF as a standard. Until then, Microsoft will be the same Microsoft that just last month engaged in cheating and fraud to get its MOOXML specification accepted as a standard.

    This is not to say that I hate Microsoft or wish their stock ill. But it does mean that Microsoft's business model is based on leverage its monopoly on the consumer desktop operating system and its office productivity suite application. Relentless, merciless competition is deeply embedded into Microsoft's business structure, much more so than other proprietary software vendors. Because Microsoft's business structure depends on maintaining its monopoly status, they will not tolerate any competition at all in that space, and they will resort to both legal and illegal (anti-trust) means of achieving their goals.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      until the day it GPLs its source code for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, and adopts ODF as a standard.

      So what you're saying is that if it's not open source, it's not good?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        @CannonballHead:

        You wrote: So what you're saying is that if it's not open source, it's not good?

        No, what I am saying is that Microsoft will continue its predatory practices until its two main profit centers, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, are GPL'd.

        I know that not everyone likes Free Open Source Software for all purposes. As it so happens, I am an attorney who runs his law office on Free Open Source Software only (except for Adobe Flash, the only non-Free package in my office). But Fr
    • by jd ( 1658 )
      Microsoft has launched a new bio-warfare division and is attempting to gene-splice the cancer mutagens from Linux with Minesweeper DNA in an effort to cause brain tumours in open source advocates.
  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @05:53PM (#23018004)
    Bullshit. This is simply their attempt to own open source. They want to embrace, extend, extinguish.

    Their model has nothing to do with the decade old definition of open source.
  • So where exactly can I download the source code for this "chief"?
  • MS has the biggest Mac lab outside of Cupertino, and you can bet it has the biggest Linux lab outside of Novell/IBM/Redhat. How else does MS copy and steal the best ideas?
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Electric_Kool-Aid_Acid_Test [wikipedia.org] It's never going to be good news from Redmond. Open Source from MS will always be free kool-aid.
  • he was primarily responsible for the arrangement of seating devices on the decks of a certain White Star oceanliner.
  • 1. Hire people who would otherwise be a considerable asset to your competitor(s)
    If they like working for you, great - promote them! But if their heart is not in it then you can't trust them, so:
    2. Give them busy work until they realize you are wasting their time
    3. Make them sign a contract to not work for any of your competitors for X years after they leave
    4. Profit!

    Keep your tinfoil hat on and you'll see it too! It's an evil plot I tell you!

    Seriously though, I'd like to know what kind of terms an MS employ
  • It seems to me that Microsoft fears loosing ground in the emerging economies which are opting for Linux for price reasons. MS also wants to keep a lighter OS to dominate the growing UMPC/MID market.

    The answer is simple, just GPL (or at least 'free as in beer' license) Windows XP. It will be price competitive with Linux for emerging countries and will be a great OS for those lower powered UMPCs.

    MS originally planned to end retail and OEM sales of XP this year anyway so they weren't planning on making any m
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
      Only they don't...
      They know their products are garbage, and always have. They rely on lock-in, users ignorance of alternatives and lack of choice in the marketplace because this is much cheaper than paying people to improve their products.
      • by kz45 ( 175825 )
        "Only they don't...
        They know their products are garbage, and always have. They rely on lock-in, users ignorance of alternatives and lack of choice in the marketplace because this is much cheaper than paying people to improve their products."

        If Microsoft products are garbage, why is it installed on 99% of the world's computers? Hell, illegal versions of windows are installed more often in other countries than linux. That has to tell you something, and it's NOT because of a monopoly (if it was, I wouldn't s
        • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
          Applications for linux are more than capable of satisfying the needs of the vast majority of business desktops, and they can do so at much lower cost, not including the cheaper hardware which can be used to run it.
          The bottom line is very important to businesses, they don't care about games or development suites, and only care about drivers so far as the hardware they have or intend to get. They just want something that does the job as cheaply as possible.
          What stops linux is not a lack of software or drivers
  • With the news of Windows 7 breaking binary compatibility with previous versions of the OS, talks of greater modularization and MS's obvious moves in the OSS space... I keep *dreaming* that Windows 7 will actually just be a desktop environment sitting on top of GNU/Linux kernel.

    Call me crazy but I would find a strange source of glee if I could choose "Windows 7" as my session from GDM.

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