Open Source? Microsoft's split personality

I’m not sure that Bill Hilf’s declarations about Microsoft’s Open Source strategy give a complete picture of the corporate strategy in the near future to compete in a sector that radically changed since Windows came to light in the ’90s. I think that Microsoft is being disrupted and will have to split and go on two different paths. One will continue developing its flagship products (Windows and Office) the usual way. This path is the one that Ballmer and Mundie follow, I’d call it ‘Classic Microsoft’. We all know Classic Microsoft and I agree with Shaun Connoly’s (JBoss/RedHat employee) and Savio Rodrigues regarding its Open Source Strategy:

Microsoft has no plans on flipping any of its flagship products to open source. Period. […]
Microsoft will aggressively fight/compete with products (open source or closed source) that pose a threat to its core products.

It makes perfect business sense. The main problem with this path is that it can’t last forever as it’s being disrupted. A symptom is that Microsoft’s revenues grow slower than competing products: Microsoft growth is stable around 7%-8%, while Google sports two-digits growth and Apple almost goes off scale. Plus there are many signals of decreasing licensing costs under pressure from FLOSS (see Gartner’s report, for example).

Microsoft’s other path is far more exciting and it revolves around a main transition set to happen on July 2008. Microsoft Chief Software Architect (Bill Gates) has quit and has already appointed the successor, the visionary Ray Ozzie. Where is he and what is he doing down there? I couldn’t find many public sign of his activities after his last post on his blog. I heard rumors from Seattle that he is working silently with his group, waiting for gates to open and run free (bad pun 🙂 ). Fortune reports that “Ozzie’s assignment is to Webify everything” at Microsoft.

My guess is that Ozzie will lead Microsoft on the second path, the Disrupting Microsoft. On this path only speculations apply, but I bet that Disrupting Microsoft will be different: with a different strategy and a different approach to open source and the web revolutions than the one we are used to from Classic Microsoft. The Disrupting Microsoft will have to slowly take over Windows and Office, when they will be too tired (or expired) to sustain Microsoft’s hunger for revenues.

Realizing that Microsoft is being disrupted, Microsoft itself is creating its own subsidiary that will follow the disruption to eventually cannibalize Classic Microsoft (something Adobe should consider doing too). Bets are accepted, Ozzie will emerge from the salt mines next summer and we’ll see.