Answer from Microsoft

Once Bill Hilf, Microsoft’s Linux Lab Manager, was asked some questions by several people on slashdot. He answered here.
There were some nice information, and tried to draw a picture of a microsoft company which tries to be compatible to other systems but also tries to competete with them – a interesting, nice picture.

He ended his slashdot post with

If you’d like to contact me directly, I can be reached at billhilf at microsoft dot com.

I found that very interesting, and thought about writing an email. It is nice to draw the picture of the standards compatible Microsoft, but only as long as you do not talk about the Open Documtn Format or the fact that Microsoft tries to suppress OpenGL – that has nothing to do with competition but with the possibilities only a monopolistic company has.

So I wrote an email:


it has been some days ago when some answers of you were posted at slashdot. Some of them were very exciting, some of them were surprising, and it shows a nice view of MS at OOS.

But your answers were quite confusing in a way, because they are so far away from all that MS does in its normal time.

So I want to use the opportunity you gave here:

“If someone in the OSS community runs into a technical interoperability problem with Microsoft products, I want to know about it.”

Sure, I can imagine that after this post you got hundreds and maybe thousands of mails from slashdotters, and I would guess that the most mails were about this quote. So it is ok for me if you just post a standard answer to me – it would be enough.

What my question is:
According to your answers MS want a really interoperability with OSS, with other software products, and want to compete with them in a normal way through making the better software.

THat would be nice. But when I look at the real beahviour of MS, you are the only wone who ever tried something like that. The standard MS way seems to fight their comeptitors not through better software, but througth monopolism and kicking out with half illegal tricks.

For example:

a) MS do not want to use interoperable document standards – saying, that the odf is not good enough is a little bit absurd because they were possible to join the standards forming team.

b) MS does not want communication between MS – computers and other Operating System computers: why are there so many closed enhancements of smb? You can not talk about open standards and then close them because you have to secure the innovation of your company! Open Standards are innovative, sure, but they are there for interoperability. And it is the the way open standards are: you have to give away some innovations to others so that you can communicate with others on a high level!

c) MS tries to outlock other software solutions which are better than there own product. For example, in some MS blogs some IE developers admitted that firefox has much more advantages than the internet explorer at the moment. But the MS homepage is still constructed in a way that you can not use it without the internet explorer. Where are the documented standards for accessing the site?

d) and so on, and so on…

You said you can compete, and that competition is healthy. The second part is exactly what I see! Competition helps everyone – but MS never tried to competete, they ever tried to kick and block not through competitioning but through ways of monopolising, through political/economical ways and through making-systems-interoperable.

It would be very nice if you could show me the opposite – but for that you have to proove it, and that would be really hard…

Best Regards from Sweden,

Roland Wolters

I haven’t thought that he will have the time to answer, but he did two days ago. I must say that I am impressed that he really does that.

Thanks for the feedback Roland – I do appreciate it.

You bring up many issues that I hear (frequently). We do interoperate and have interoperated on many ‘levels’ for many years (ldap, http, ws*, nfs, etc.). We build our software to work great with our other software products – that’s our business model: to build great commercial software. So many people think that we purposefully ‘force out’ other technologies, but it is not mutually exclusive, we make our software work together and we also build on standards where it’s important for other software to work with ours.

Here’s a real example:
We have a product called Systems Management Server (SMS for short). SMS was built to manage Microsoft software (clients and servers). And it does that great. However, other people buying SMS wanted to use it to manage non-Microsoft systems (Linux, Unix or Macs). One of the protocols SMS implements is WBEM (Web based Enterprise management). It is based on openWBEM (an open standard: This allowed other, non-Microsoft companies to extend SMS so it could be used to manage Linux, Unix and Macs. A company called Vintela ( built software that runs on Linux/Unix/Macs that ‘talks’ WBEM to SMS and now you can manage all of these systems, including Windows, with SMS. As a matter of fact, I manage over 200 machines in my lab here in Redmond with this solution. And it all works *specifically* because we implemented an open standard in our product.

I hope that helps clarify some of the myths from the reality. Has Microsoft been perfect in standards for 30 years? No, neither has many if not most other software companies. But we are getting better, and moreover we have a lot of experience and success in doing this.

Thanks again,


The problem I recognized is that he is always talking about the server side. He avoids all things about desktop computers. His example is, among some others, one of the server world. He would never be able to write something about the desktop world, because there is no competition, there is just monopolism and surpressing other solutions. I think about answering again, although I am aware of the fact that he has not very much time and although I now that he wrotes what the company pays him for (because he is writing as a member of his company!).

But as a summarisation it is nice to see that even Microsoft feels the power of Linux and that the masses are able to press Microsoft into a position where they have to be a little bit more compatible – although they don’t want to be and tried to suppress this movement (I think the best example for this suppressing is the smb protocol with its proprietary enhancements).

I hope that Linux will do this again in the area of desktop computing. But for this there has to be a massive improvement on Linux software insatallation first 😦


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