Should Microsoft Financially Support Open Source Projects?

A series of posts and questions on the CMS blogs are asking whether Microsoft should help finance the costs of open source projects. I have no opinion to give that would add value to this topic. However, I'm happy to give the rundown so far of the posts that speak the loudest regarding Microsoft and open source projects.

The thread of blog posts seems to originate with a post at Dave's Tech Shop. In that post, Dave talks about the need for Microsoft to better support open source projects. Dave's reasoning:

In my company's commercial application we depend upon DotNetNuke, Nant, log4net, NUnit and other open source tools. Those open source projects help support us. (In fact, without DNN, we would probably be out of business because our developments costs would be too high.) In turn, my company helps support Microsoft (because we purchase licenses and MSDN subscriptions). Yet Microsoft does not complete the circle by financially supporting any of those open source projects. NDoc stands out as an example.

In response to Dave's post, Phil Haack, another .Net user and Subtext founder writes:

Ultimately I think Microsoft is not a charity and should do what’s best for Microsoft. Ultimately, I think it is in its best interest to look at this seriously and consider helping projects (like NDoc) out.

As for me, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m going around looking for a handout. It’s not why I started this project nor why I devote my time to it. It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to spend my time and hone my skills, not to mention that the doormen at all the hot clubs in Los Angeles are Subtext users and let me cut to the front of the line (ok, maybe not).

Finally Joe Brinkman of DotNetNuke responds in a well written post by stating:

In his 2004 article, "Seven open source business strategies for competitive advantage", John Koenig maps out business strategies that have been successful in the open source world. In the discussion on The Patronage Strategy, John lays out the reasons he believes most companies become patrons of open source efforts. It is not for some altruistic reason, but because it makes business sense. Each corporate patron needs to determine if it is in their best interest, and then act accordingly. Sometimes, that will be in the form of technical assistance, in other cases it will be through direct financial support.

Ultimately, though, I think that finding a patron falls on the shoulders of the open source project's management team. Just like a company seeking investors, an open source project seeking patron needs to develop a strategy for getting the support it requires to succeed.

We'll add additional excerpts from posts on this subject if warranted. Stay tuned. We now return to normal programming...