“Open source is an opportunity, not a challenge”

In conversation, Mandar Naik, director - platform strategy, Microsoft

samirsachdeva

Samir Sachdeva | July 23, 2012




Working for over 10 years in various technical and leadership roles with Microsoft India, Mandar Naik currently holds the position of director, platform strategy, with the company. In his this role, Naik has been working on the emerging open source ecosystem on Microsoft’s client, server and cloud platforms. In an exclusive interaction with Samir Sachdeva, Naik talks about Microsoft’s perspective on the coexistence and collaboration between open and closed source technologies.

Is open source a challenge or opportunity for Microsoft?
Obviously it is an opportunity. The changing mode is creating opportunities in abundance not only for Microsoft but the whole proprietary community by really forcing them to rethink what their product and priority should be. In short, it pushes towards innovation.

What is the level of Microsoft’s openness/commitment for open source?
There have been times when open source and Microsoft were viewed as competitors. But, now both the communities, open source and closed source, are not competing with each other. We may compete at the product level but at the technology and ideological levels there is no competition. There is, in fact, a need to merge somewhere.

What are the other initiatives?
We are working extensively towards development languages. We have invested heavily in the development of a line of applications so that Linux and Windows can go together. So we have gone to the extent of not only providing the input and opening to the technology, but we have actually contributed in developing the open source arena for a technology. Over the years we have tried to develop and extend our platforms so that open source technologies can use it. We are working very closely with these communities on the cloud platform.

Microsoft has announced a subsidiary called Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. What is its overall role and how will the Indian market be influenced by its presence?
The purpose of adding a subsidiary was to keep adhering to the proprietary side while being open in a sense to give the liberty of working across the platforms. As far as the influence on the market is concerned, it is going to create a lot of opportunities and see the combination of proprietary and open source technology as the new window.

Microsoft is making some of its intellectual properties broadly and freely available. What is the thought behind the same?
We are not an open source company, but a lot of people in the market need support. There are lots of intellectual properties which are needed to be opened up because there is a huge demand. This enhances competition too.

Some states like Kerala and West Bengal have endorsed open source in many of their initiatives. How do you react to such policy decisions?
We have always encouraged technology neutrality. We strongly believe, as a company, that our customer needs to have assurance. They very well know what they want and they are capable of getting it. So we always want to give them that liberty to use what they want. It’s not that we are on a battle and have developed a policy not to let people use what they want. So look at it from the perspective that the governments are actually taking policy level decisions on what technology they should use. And we are no one to interfere in that.

What is Microsoft’s road map for open source?
For us open source is not just a model. It is a way to be open. And that is not something which happens instantly. That is a transformation that you see today as a result of the culmination of many ideas conceived many years back. And once you transform as a company, there is no going back. As far as open source technology is concerned, we will continue to move together, continue to work together and continue to grow as far as I see.

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