Microsoft Becomes An Open Source Partner...Kinda

Dennis Faas's picture

Industry analysts are scratching their heads after Microsoft recently decided to join a project measuring how people are using open source software. The Open Source Census is run by OpenLogic, a company that aims to help organisations obtain, use and control open source software -- programs where the underlying code is open to everyone to see and to share ideas on improving it.

The project launched in April and has so far taken details from more than 200,000 places where open source software is being used. It's got several industry backers, but Microsoft has become by far the biggest. It's also the most striking as Microsoft is notoriously protective of its own coding, and open source software (which is usually distributed without charge) could take business away.

Given this background, there are already conspiracy theories floating about. One suggestion is that Microsoft isn't particularly interested in helping the open source sector, but is after commercially useful data.

Anyone who takes part in the survey can see overall figures for how many people are using each different piece of software. The survey can be completed anonymously, but anyone revealing their identity gets a more complete report comparing use within their own organisation, industry sector, and the world. (Source:

However, companies that sign up as official backers of the scheme get a complete copy of all the data that's been gathered, allowing Microsoft better insight into their potential rivals.

There's no word yet on what Microsoft paid to become a partner. Organisers say each makes some type of contribution, though some give free technical or legal assistance rather than cash. (Source:

Cynics speculate that Microsoft is using its support for the survey as a commercial move in order to access valuable market research. But it's tough to protest too much given the irony of an open source survey where the underlying data is only available to commercial partners.

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