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Opening Windows

Since its very inception, Microsoft has held that cash for code is king. But the company is slowly, grudgingly, and cautiously treading into Open Source. Here’s a look at the “Gates Public License.”

For three decades, the executive leadership at Microsoft Corporation has maintained a firm consensus on how to encourage innovative software development: you pay for it. User feedback, while helpful, is simply no match for the mighty dollar. Cash for code is king.

“Who can afford to do professional work for nothing?” asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates rhetorically in a 1976 missive framing Microsoft’s worldview. Titled, “An Open Letter to Hobbyists” (see the sidebar of the same name to read the original letter in its entirety), the essay was, in essence, a cease and desist letter aimed at Altair aficionados who, according to Gates, were guilty of purloining Microsoft source code without paying for it. “Most directly, the thing you do is theft,” wrote Gates.

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