September 17, 2010, 8:00 AM — You know that post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about why emerging markets might be the reason Microsoft has been acting all sugary and nice to open source lately?
Well, apparently Microsoft Latin America President Hernan Rincón either didn't get the memo, doesn't care about the memo, or I was wrong about Microsoft's open source play.
I am perfectly willing to admit that I was wrong in my supposition, particularly after Rincón told members of the Latin American press that "free programs require more work and investment from the government to keep them running and updated--which does not happen when companies take care of that for the government," according to a translated portion of a story originally published in the Folha de São Paulo.
Rincón was especially caustic about the whole notion of customers relying on free and open source software, telling reporters "When you do not can compete, you are declaring open. This masks incompetence."
Rincón's remarks do seem to put a dent in my idea that Microsoft's careful re-positioning within the BRIC (Brasil, Russia, India, and China) markets has caused it to ease off the FUD and anti-open source rhetoric. It paints the picture of a company that still has deep animosity towards free software. As well it should: free software poses a huge potential threat to Microsoft's markets.
We have already seen, for instance, how free software is about to steal away the platforms of the future, so Microsoft is very well aware of the threat to its bottom line.
I wonder, though, if my original theory about Microsoft's public position on open source was that far off the mark. The country Rincón was specifically chastising in his remarks, Brasil, is the big clue. Brasil has a long and friendly history with free software and has pledged to implement it across their government infrastructure. We've heard that before, and usually it's turned out to be a bluff to get a better deal from Microsoft and other proprietary vendors.
But Brasil isn't bluffing. The government and the tech community there love free and open source software, and are very happy to be implementing it. It's almost got rock star status there: I was told by more than a few people that when Linux Torvalds and Andrew Morton showed up to speak at LinuxCon Brazil recently, they were mobbed by adoring fans.
Faced with such a pro-FOSS attitude, Rincón probably feels like he has nothing left to lose. Repositioning Microsoft as open source friendly in the Brasilian market would be like spitting at a forest fire at this point. So, we see Microsoft reverting once more to type and launching the anti-FOSS missiles.
That Rincón conducted these interviews from the main Microsoft offices in Redmond is especially telling: this was no division head rebelling against corporate policy from a branch office. Making these kinds of statements within the belly of the Microsoft PR beast implies at least tacit approval of Rincón's remarks.
And really, is it any surprise? Even if my theory about Microsoft's present attitude towards open source is right, does anyone really think it will last one second past the point the execs in Redmond see an advantage in a more aggressive approach?
Based on Rincón's attitude, not a chance.