Here's a Microsoft quote on Mozilla:
The efforts between Mozilla and Microsoft are a prime example of the cooperation that is necessary to ensure interoperability in today’s software ecosystem. While Microsoft competes with open-source products, it also recognizes that sometimes it must build bridges with its competitors, whether proprietary or open source, to assure the best outcome for its customers.
Here's another Microsoft quote on Mozilla:
The open-source development model has yet to demonstrate the ability to support profitable software businesses that can drive the coordinated research and testing necessary to sustain innovation. Many in the open-source software community have shifted to hybrid business models. They are making the same business decisions as any commercial software company in terms of what products and services to give away, what intellectual property to protect, how to generate revenue, and how to participate in the community.
This quote was captured by Stephen Shankland in an interview with Microsoft PR director Clint Patterson about the new work Mozilla is doing with Thunderbird, and whether Microsoft would help the Thunderbird devs get their MUA working with Exchange. Aside from the naïveté it demonstrates about Clint's understanding of open source software, communities, and software businesses, it creates a problem for all of us outside of Microsoft (and just a few inside). You see, we don't get to pick just one statement as the truth.
The larger problem is of course that culture comes from the top of any organization. The last quote we got from Steve Ballmer on the subject of open source software was of course back in July in the Financial Analyst Meeting:
Open source: open source has been the issue that surrounds us. Could a commercial model like Microsoft compete with open source? And we've worked very hard on making the value of a commercial company surpass what the open source community can deliver, because frankly, it's not a business model we can embrace. It's inconsistent with shareholder value. And we've done a very good job, as you'll hear; for the first time in a few years we took some share back from Linux on the server the last quarter. And I think we've really got the formula sorted through.
Not a model Microsoft can embrace. Inconsistent with shareholder value. This is probably the most polite he's been with respect to free and open source software even if he gets it wrong.
An interview with Ray Ozzie in April at MIX quickly dances away from discussions of open source to continue to beat the drum of services, the Web, and Windows. This wasn't long after Brad Smith continued to push the patent infringement message around Linux. Craig Mundie doesn't appear to have had a public opinion on free and open source software since the early Microsoft gaffs from 2000 through 2003.
So while the company leadership is no longer making rabid statements about free and open source software, neither do they have any commentary beyond IP infringement and bad for shareholder value. What else could Mr. Patterson say?
I think from this point forward, we need to help the Microsoft Open Source Software Lab. I would encourage every journalist that gets interview time with any of the Microsoft executive team to work in a few relevant questions about free and open source software communities and businesses. This will allow the proper tone to be set for all of us, and hopefully drive just a few of those execs back to the new Microsoft Open Source site to brush up on their messaging. And then maybe next year, Bill Hilf can be given a few minutes during the company meeting held every September to talk about that maturing positioning. Stranger things have happened.