Sun buys Open Source, Microsoft and Google hire it.

This is just a flippant thought so don't read to much into it but I found it amusing enough that I thought I'd share. Last week there was much discussion about Sun buying MySQL. While everyone was discussing what this meant for Sun and MySQL and the "Open Source Business Model", I was trying to figure out why this deal felt unusual yet familiar to me.

Then it struck me. What I found interesting was that most of these discussions were about about Sun acquiring the company MySQL. Sun was “buying the M in LAMP”. Then I remembered that Sun had done this before. Sun bought StarOffice years ago that ultimately became the foundation for OpenOffice.org.

Microsoft, on the other hand, tends to hire people with Open Source backgrounds rather than buy “OSS” companies. I was trying to come up with a list of recent “Open Source hires” when this interview with Sam Ramji showed up that listed some of the most recent people to join the “Evil Empire” (I can say that, I actually dressed up like a Stormtrooper to represent the company in public <smile/>). I’d also might add Phil Haack, Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery to the list.

Google, like Microsoft, seems to hire Open Source people more than buy entire companies. I’m thinking of people like Chris DiBona, Sean Egan and Guido van Rossum. But it isn’t like I really track Google’s or Sun’s or Microsoft’s, for that matter, hiring and acquisition practices closely. So maybe I’m just making this all up.

Note, I’m not suggesting that “buying in bulk” is better or worse than “hand picking individuals” to build up a company’s Open Source collection. However, I do wonder how those different approaches might affect a company’s culture. I know that inside Microsoft it feels like Open Source acceptance is growing like slow winter thaw.