Acknowledging the relationship between Microsoft and the open source community has been contentious, a Microsoft official nonetheless emphasised the company's embrace of the open source paradigm, even if it was not necessarily for altruistic purposes.

The presentation by Microsoft's Stuart McKee, who holds the title of national technology officer for the United States, continued a pattern in recent years that has seen Microsoft publicly embracing the open source movement and even funding it. "[Microsoft feels] strongly that Microsoft's success has been based on the fact that we can run a lot of diverse technologies on the Microsoft platform including open source," McKee said. Microsoft has had a "contentious" relationship with open source proponents but "things are really changing," he said.

McKee, who focuses on governmental customers for Microsoft, offered his perspectives in a keynote speech at the OSBC (Open Source Business Conference).

Microsoft contributes to open source efforts, including sponsoring Linux, he said. Microsoft has contributed 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux kernel so Linux can run on Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualisation technology, noted Robert Duffner, Microsoft director of open source strategy, who also was present at OSBC.

"To be quite honest, it's not that we're altruistic, necessarily. Our key desire is to satisfy customers. We build software for a living, that's what we do," McKee said. "And we understand profoundly that a diverse ecosystem is absolutely critical to satisfying the needs of customers and increasingly, that ecosystem does include open source."

Among other examples of Microsoft's embrace of open source cited by McKee included the Microsoft.web site for the Microsoft web platform, which features 23 open source applications out of a total of 25 applications. Also, Apache software, the MySQL database, and PHP all run on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform, McKee said.

Microsoft in recent years has been endorsing open source via efforts such as sponsoring the Apache Foundation. The Microsoft-backed CodePlex Foundation, meanwhile, was set up last year as an effort to enable collaboration between open source communities and software companies.