Marketing Microsoft's Open Source Partner Program

Through our Open Source marketing consultancy, Stephe and I are currently in contact with Microsoft evaluating how we might help them with marketing their NXT partner program geared towards Open Source ISVs.

Very recently, Microsoft’s OSS partner program has been heavily criticized by Mary Jo Foley and Matt Asay (in reply, Stephe provides background information). Furthermore, the credo of InitMarketing is: “If you are Open Source, we will help you succeed”. Our corporate mission is to foster the success of Open Source in general.

Our first major concern was: Would an engagement with Microsoft foster the success of Open Source as far as their partner program is concerned? Could InitMarketing live up to its claim?

While Microsoft’s flagship products are not open source software, if InitMarketing helps open source ISVs to optimize their interoperability with Windows through the Microsoft partner program, then this will benefit Open Source vendors, opening up access to new customers and a higher distribution of their OSS products. From that standpoint, I believe InitMarketing can live up to its claim.

Our second major concern was that we might sacrifice InitMarketing’s yet young and innocent reputation as a trustful actor in the Open Source domain. To tackle this problem, we proposed to Microsoft’s Open Source Software Lab and ISV team to make our work highly transparent to the Open Source community.

Microsoft supports us working in this transparent manner.

The benefits of open communication around the NXT program are clear for everyone involved:

  • InitMarketing can establish itself as a neutral facilitator.
  • The Microsoft ISV team can understand better the concerns of the open source community in general and ISVs in particular and gets valuable feedback which helps to improve the NXT program.
  • By having InitMarketing communicate in the Open Source style (= transparently), it raises trust in the NXT program in the broader context of Microsoft messaging.

We feel very comfortable entering this sort of working relationship with Microsoft. We still value your feedback: Would you do Open Source marketing for Microsoft?, asks Stephe – please let him know your comments.

5 thoughts on “Marketing Microsoft's Open Source Partner Program

  1. The problem with Microsoft is that – despite their Open Source efforts – as a whole they still actively work against the entire Free Software/Open Source/Electronic Frontier community. They have been brandishing patents, seeking to redefine the meaning of Open Source to fit their ends and actively working to sabotage open standards efforts.

    Supporting them is a tricky thing – while there is a good chance that some part of Microsoft is engaging with you in a genuine fashion, this will still be just a small part of a much larger organization with top-down strategic decision making.

    Microsoft’s current Open Source activities represent a way for them to confuse individuals, organizations and legislators about their true intentions and activities. They will spend your reputation and then discard you.

    I know that Microsoft would provide a prestigious and well-paying gig, but it would be unfortunate to see your first big client be a company that represents the blue pill of proprietary business status quo.


  2. Obviously you should be wary of Microsoft’s agenda and, if you partner with them, constantly examine that you’re not being used or compromising your values or harming your own brand.

    But there’s also huge potential gain for OSS here, even if they don’t intend it. Microsoft has strong reach into corporate IT, much of it still reluctant to adopt OSS. For one, it will be harder for Microsoft to spread FUD on the Open Source model when they support an initiative like this.

    Often it’s developers who push OSS from bottom up – being able to do it incrementally, installing OSS products that interoperate with MS ones, will make it significantly easier for them. Later on, once OSS benefits are proven, the path is clear for more further, deeper changes. Embrace, extend and extinguish works both ways.


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