Since the announcement of Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia there have been numerous assessments of what this says with regard to Microsoft’s future business model. Are they becoming another Apple clone? Much less attention has been paid however to the remains of Nokia.
You see, Microsoft didn’t acquire everything. They’ve got the traditional mobile phones, the smart devices and all related services. That’s all the important bits right? Not quite, Nokia has been left with a mapping data business, a technology business providing phone companies with infrastructure, and (significantly) a considerable portfolio of patents.
Having sold on their physical devices, Nokia is now free to ruthlessly pursue anybody they feel is “infringing” those patents without worrying about counter attacks against their own technologies. Licensing the patents to Microsoft but keeping the patents themselves in hand, Nokia is left as a potentially very unpleasant patent troll, presumably seeking to harass Microsoft’s rivals. For the full story, see Simon’s InfoWorld article.
News of Steve Ballmer’s departure has already created a lot of speculation, but what might it mean for Microsoft’s open source commitments?
Simon’s seven step process model for understanding the shift towards full adoption of open source in large corporations is a useful tool for understanding Microsoft’s open source profile. He explains the model and gives some observations about Microsoft’s current position within that model in his current InfoWorld article (where an insider comment suggests his evaluation that Microsoft is stuck at stage 3 is spot on)..
Progressing to the 4th step, (“A new C-level exec is able to defend actions by the open source office and to counter strategies elsewhere in the corporation that threaten to destroy the reputational credit the open source office creates.”) might seem unlikely, but perhaps now is the time. There are several factors which could contribute to this, ranging from the legacy of the Microsoft’s Codeplex forge to the spate of executive leavings over the last few years.
Perhaps it’s still wishful thinking, but there’s never been a better time for Microsoft to commit more solidly to open source. For more detailed discussion check out the InfoWorld Article.