The tune has definitely changed in Redmond over the last few years. When Linux began to gain traction as a viable and even superior alternative to Unix and Windows NT, Microsoft’s stance was clear: Linux is inferior. As the open-source community thrived, alternatives to other Windows products began to sprout out everywhere. Like Linux as a network and/or web server, these alternatives seemed not only reasonable, but in many cases, far superior to the products coming from the software giant. Microsoft’s stance held firm for many years, citing various shortcomings and security concerns of the open-source alternatives and platforms. However, Microsoft could not keep the better products from prevailing in the market, and the last few years have seen Microsoft backpedal their stance in various arenas of the open source market by adopting, using, contributing, and even releasing open source software.
When I wrote an article along a similar vain last week regarding Microsoft’s push to be HTML5 friendly, the response was purely negative. Some of the remarks were "this is one of the worst posts ive seen[…] How much did you get paid for this post?" and "ASP is for noobz". Oh, Internet, you never fail to disappoint. But these comments do show where Microsoft’s standing is with, at least the vocal part of, the Internet. There’s a lot of work to be done for Microsoft to repair its image with the open source community. What’s the right approach for this damage control?
Microsoft has to start with better products. Another Microsoft Vista will not cut it. Their products need to have regular useful updates driven by the flow of the industry and requests of the community – not simply whatever some random executive or programmer in Redmond thinks would be cool or marketable. If the haters took time to actually re-evaluate what ASP.NET is now offering, they might see that it is actually a remarkably better product than its predecessors, focusing on various tools and options to make web programming easier.
But even if Microsoft released *gasp* superior products, Microsoft won’t get very far with the fickle open source community without amazing public relations and press. Redmond seems to be working towards this already, as Dee-Ann LeBlanc (and others) were surprised to see Microsoft at DrupalCon 2011. Microsoft is going to have to really get out there and engage people one-on-one to encourage that large percentage of programmers with tainted views of .NET and Microsoft to even consider the remote possibility of maybe trying out for just a few seconds their product.
Most of all, Microsoft will need patience. This journey won’t be over anytime soon, and certainly won’t happen in the small amount of time that Microsoft’s market share was taken away from them. It probably will take two or three times longer for Microsoft to gain back their lost users and programmers, and that’s only if they do deliver better products and execute great public relations.
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