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Microsoft keeps up presence at open-source events

Microsoft keeps up presence at open-source events

Determined to have its presence seen and its voice heard by its core customer constituencies amid the growing open-source chorus, Microsoft is coughing up cash and sponsoring targeted open-source conferences. The software maker is a platinum sponsor of the OSBC (Open-Source Business Conference), which comes to a close today in San Francisco. Jason Matusow, director of the Shared Source program at Microsoft Corp., also will give a talk this afternoon examining the effects of commercialisation on open-source software and discussing strategies for adopting source-code licensing in a commercial software organization. Microsoft, which has rented booth space at the annual LinuxWorld shows on both the East and West Coasts for the past few years, decided not to have a booth presence at this year's LinuxWorld show in Boston. That decision was made because most of the core customers Microsoft wanted to target—corporate IT professionals—simply did not attend the show, Martin Taylor, Linux platform strategist at Microsoft, told eWEEK earlier this year. "So, there seems to be little to be gained by showing up again," Taylor said from Redmond. "We just do not know how having a booth would help us get our message out at this point in time. We have pretty much said what we have to say for the moment." Microsoft also has attended and sponsored the annual O'Reilly Open-Source Conference for the past two years and is expected to do so again this year. In an interview Monday ahead of the OSBC, Matusow agreed with Taylor's assessment, telling eWEEK that Microsoft is supporting shows where it is most likely to get its voice and message heard by core customers. Asked about the company's ongoing participation at open-source conferences in spite of its proprietary software model, Matusow said Microsoft still has lessons to learn from the open-source process and community. But he added that the company will continue to aggressively compete with the Linux operating-system vendors as well as with the database and tools vendors. Matusow said Microsoft's Shared Source model has worked well for it and that there are no plans to change that approach. "There are some 1.5 million developers involved in our 20-odd Shared Source programs, and that is just the start. "We are targeting other markets like academia, and we feel that our strategy toward shared source over the past four years was the right one and has worked well for us," he said. Microsoft has learned a number of lessons through its Shared Source program over the past four years, Matusow said, including that source-code access can be very beneficial or entirely irrelevant, depending on customers' needs. "But what we found in general was that offering access to our source code to end users results in greater trust as a result of the increased transparency involved," he said. Microsoft also has learned that reference mechanisms hold great value and that providing code for review can be a powerful tool. Being flexible around licensing is also important, as one license does not fit all, Matusow said. The majority of enterprises, OEMs, system integrators, global governments and Microsoft MVPs (Most Valued Professionals) do not want access to Windows source code, Matusow said. He cited the fact that of the 6,700 eligible to view Windows source code, only 450 organizations with a total of about 1,000 engineers are doing so. This breaks down to roughly 50 enterprise customers, most with several engineers looking at the code; about 200 MVPs; 40 governments; and 60 system integrators and OEMs. Matusow said it has been interesting to look at the number of downloads of open code versus the number of active contributors to the company's WiX (Windows Installer XML) project, a tool set that builds Windows installation packages from XML source code. This project was very helpful to Microsoft as it was a collaborative environment, he said. But while there have been some 120,000 downloads of the code since it was released last April, only about 30 people were actively contributing to the project, he added. With regard to the Windows Template Library, a library for developing Windows applications and user interface components, there have been about 30,000 code downloads. Meanwhile, there have been 13,000 downloads for its FlexWiki experimental collaboration tool based on WikiWiki, which is a tool for collaborating on common Web pages. There was also only a small group of contributors to both of these projects, he said. All three of the projects are licensed under the OSI (Open Source Initiative)-approved CPL (Common Public License). By contrast, there have been more than 250,000 downloads of the CE.Net and CE 5.0 source code, which gave access to most of the core operating system under the Shared Source premium distribution license and to which the developer owned the copyright to the derivative licenses, Matusow said. Microsoft also released the IronPython 0.6 source code under the CPL last year. But this month it released IronPython 0.7.1—the early, pre-alpha release of the new implementation of the Python programming language running on .Net—as a free download. It is now licensed under the Shared Source License for IronPython and not under the Common Public License Version 1.0 under which IronPython 0.6 was licensed. Matusow said the inclusion of the source code under the new license was done to encourage the development of extensions and add-ons to the language. "It is a BSD-style redistribution license that allows code modification and redistribution without the requirement to give those modifications back. We have used this license before on Microsoft's GotDotNet workspaces site [Microsoft's alternative to SourceForge, the open-source software development Web site]," he said. Asked why Microsoft has used so many different licenses, Matusow said that while the company is not resistant to using open-source licenses, and has done so with the CPL, the software remains its intellectual property and must be licensed the way Microsoft feels is best. UKFast is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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