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Microsoft Launches Windows/Linux Site

Microsoft late last week did something longtime industry watchers thought they'd never see: The company announced it has set up a Web site specifically aimed at improving communications with Linux and the rest of the open source world.

Dubbed Port 25 (http://port25.technet.com) -- a reference to the Internet port that typically carries e-mail communications traffic -- Microsoft's site is an attempt to generate discussions between the open source community and Microsoft. It is sponsored by the Microsoft Open Source Software Lab, a two-year old effort within the company directed towards improving interoperability among the two competitors' systems.

"Our goal with Port 25 is to have a community discussion with people working on OSS (open source softare) and Microsoft software," Bill Hilf, general manager of platform strategy said in his blog on the site earlier this week.

"The work our team does in the OSS research lab is heavily oriented around trying to understand and help real customer interoperability," his blog post continued. Hilf joined Microsoft in 2004 after working at IBM on Linux technical strategy for its emerging and competitive markets organization.

The labs themselves house "more than 300 servers...running more than 15 versions of Unix and 50 Linux distributions," according to a post on the Port 25 site.

Despite Hilf's pedigree, however, some analysts are skeptical that, even if it has good intentions, it may not play out that way with customers and developers.

"If Microsoft's voice is the loudest on Port 25, the site should be viewed as being most about marketing...but if Port 25 generates lots of outside-Microsoft-generated content -- and some of it dealing with real problems of mixed environments or getting Microsoft software to play nice with the other apps -- then Port 25 could be called a community," JupiterResearch senior analyst Joe Wilcox commented on his blog.

The announcement of Port25 was nearly drowned out by a cacophony of other small but important Microsoft announcements last week surrounding the company's virtualization efforts. (See "Microsoft Makes Virtual Server Free, Releases Linux Plug-ins," April 4, 2006.)

Hilf debuted Port 25 during his keynote at last week's Linux World conference in Boston, another first for Microsoft.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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