Microsoft executive lauds open source

Microsoft executive lauds open source

Microsoft is not viewed as an open source proponent, but a key executive said the company recognised its benefit and was becoming more open itself.

Director of business development, intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, David Kaefer, said open source had bolstered innovation in a distributed fashion.

He called the open source software movement a very powerful force in the industry.

"I think one of the exciting things about the open source software movement is it actually brought together a very distributed group of developers," he said, speaking at Business of Innovation,a Valley Speakers Series event held at Microsoft's Silicon Valley offices.

Microsoft did have a stake in open source, Kaefer said.

"Certainly, it's not as big a bet as a company like IBM would be making in open source," he said.

Microsoft had partnered with the open source community, linking up with companies such as JBoss, SugarCRM and XenSource, he said. And it was leveraging open source in its Open XML Translator project, which would enable its Office suite to support the OpenDocument Format standard.

Emphasising Microsoft's intention to be more open, Kaefer said, the company was doing more to open up its protocols and license formats, such as its Office format. The company's Shared Source program, for its part, allows access to its code.

"Ironically, when you go all the way back to where Microsoft started the company, it was a company that actually was built on this open innovation philosophy of publishing our application programming interfaces for things like DOS and Windows," Kaefer said. "Now over time, I think other companies leapfrogged us in the ability to be open in a variety of different ways beyond just the API set."

Microsoft itself is bolstering its efforts in IP licensing.

The company is trying to understand how it can create technologies and find homes for some of those outside the company, according to Kaefer. The company is also exploring inbound IP acquisitions.

It recently announced it had licensed 3D technology, codenamed TouchLight, to Eon Reality.

Microsoft's willingness to experiment with business models, while already having a successful business model of its own, was applauded by event speaker Henry Chesbrough, executive director of the Centre for Open Innovation in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

"They are actively experimenting with, in very careful ways, a variety of different things," he said.

The event featured a variety of discussions on how companies can leverage intellectual property and on the changing landscape of technology development.

The US had lost its technological hegemony, Chesbrough said.

Companies needed to leverage overseas talent not because of low labor costs, but to tap brain power, he said.

"If you're working at an organisation or a company and you're not doing that, my suggestion to you is that's an error," he said.

Touting the concept of open innovation, Chesbrough said companies could license technology to another company or bring in external technologies to target a new marketplace.

With open innovation, companies use a theoretical funnel that lets technologies flow in and out, he said.

Chesbrough cited business models that could be used to benefit from IP, such as an orphan recovery program, in which technology not fitting with a big company's business model can be used elsewhere. Acquiring IP from failed startups also was a possibility, as were sale-leaseback programs for IP.

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