Report: Mitch Kapor Pronounces Microsoft's Battle With Open Source "Over"

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 22, 2009

Mitch Kapor--founder of Lotus and designer of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet--is one of the true pioneers of the software industry. People forget how mighty Lotus once was, with a market capitalization that towered over Microsoft's, and over 80 percent market share in spreadsheets. In a discussion with the Guardian U.K., Kapor pronounces Microsoft's war against open source over. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's over, but it's not the war it once was by any means.

Of course, when looking back on Microsoft's stance toward open source, its unfriendly position toward Linux, and current CEO Steve Ballmer's pronouncement that open source is "a cancer" come to mind. As we noted in this post,  where he put down the Android platform and then suggested that Microsoft may consider an open source core for its browser, Ballmer is still prone to mercurial statements about open source. Can he really be ignoring Android when it is threatening to eat Windows Mobile's lunch? Can he be ignoring Firefox?

"The battle is over," Kapor tells the Guardian U.K. Notably, though, he doesn't point to examples like Firefox when discussing the success of open source, but prefers to single out more invisible open source components:

"I tell people that the history of Mozilla and Firefox is so one of a kind that it should not be used – ever – as an example of what's possible. The accomplishment of open source is that it is the back end of the web, the invisible part, the part that you don't see as a user. All of the servers, pretty much, they run Linux as the operating system; they run Apache as the basic web server on top of which everything else is built. The main languages out of which web applications are built – whether it's Perl or Python or PHP or any of the other languages – those are all open source languages."

He's right, of course. And beyond the web and its less visible open source infrastructure, open source components are slated to make their way into the vast majority of commercial software offerings. That process is already under way, and as it continues, Microsoft, too, will be in the open source business.