Over the years, Microsoft has had some pretty harsh words (and actions) for the open-source community in general and for Linux in particular. And with news this week that the company reportedly wants open-source software users to pay royalties on 235 alleged patent violations, the relationship is obviously changing. We take a look at five ways Microsoft is embracing open source or Linux and five ways it is doing to battle against those same forces.

Microsoft loves open source

1. Silverlight runtime and scripting language opened up from the start

Last week at its Mix07 conference (which mimics a ‘conversational’ style familiar at open-source confabs), Microsoft said its new IronRuby dynamic language and the Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR) will be offered under Microsoft's BSD-style Permissive License, which lets users modify and distribute the code. The intent is to add cross-platform support for dynamic language programming in .Net (DLR works in conjunction with .Net's CLR) and to encourage developers to implement other language on top of the DLR. Last year, Microsoft made its IronPython available under the Permissive License.

2. Deals with open-source vendors

Integration-style deals with SugarCRM and JBOSS show that Microsoft understands non-Windows components must be able to attach reliably to Windows server software. The company works with vendors to make that happen. Also "co-opetition" agreements with the likes of XenSource and MySQL, an open-source database, show that Microsoft understands the pressure is coming from all sides. A similar deal with Novell on Linux had its good points, but one aspect landed it on the Top Five Battles list.

3. Port 25

In August 2006, Microsoft launched Port 25, a website that provides a look inside Microsoft's Open Source Lab, which is under the direction of Bill Hilf, who once helped lead Linux strategy development for IBM. The blog-style site digs under the research lab's testing, analysis and interoperability work.

4. Codeplex

Codeplex, the year-old open-source project-hosting website started by Microsoft, lets users share open-source development projects. The big news is that portions of Visual FoxPro will be posted as open source on Codeplex. A new version of the website is released every three weeks adding additional features and updates. As of early March, there were 1,029 projects on the site.

5. Identity

Led by Kim Cameron, Microsoft's identity architect, Microsoft has fostered a community discussion with identity that has involved open-source movers and shakers such as Doc Searls, independent developers and those with a fascination for the technology. In September 2006, Microsoft announced its Open Specification Promise, which gives developers access, without need for licences or fear of legal action, to 35 web services protocols Microsoft has developed, including many Microsoft uses in its own identity technology.

See next page to find out why Microsoft hates open source