Microsoft’s recent announcement that much of .Net will become open source and that it will support both Linux and Mac OS X is fantastic news. Along with the additional, full-featured, no-cost versions of its developer tools the company is introducing (though they remain proprietary), this represents a large, positive step in Microsoft’s open source journey.
Simon’s spoken and written a number of times about the seven stages of a corporation’s journey into open source and used Microsoft as an illustration of his ideas. This new development puts the company very clearly at the fifth stage of Simon’s scale, which is impressive, but begs the questions “what’s next?”, “how does Microsoft’s open source journey continue to develop from here?”
The answer lies in a holistic view, in which respect for open source extends to every business unit of this famously divided company. While those business units that don’t yet respect open source continue to use tactics such as patent attacks on Linux community members and covert political moves to undermine the Open Document Format, further progress will be slow in coming. Microsoft’s gradual acceptance of the inevitability of open source however, seems to be in full swing. For more detail, check out Simon’s InfoWorld article.
The Microsoft news is coming thick and fast. A few days ago we discussed Office for iPad, Microsoft’s confession of unethical behaviour and its release of MS-DOS code under a prohibitive license. This weeks news seems even bigger: open source for .Net and $0 pricing for mobile Windows. There’s cause to be excited, yet as ever caution is required.
The excitement comes from the .Net news. The formation of the .Net Foundation and the hosting of 24 projects within it should liberate developers to innovate in a way that seemed impossible under previous leadership. This move has seemed an obvious one for the open source community for a long time, as it offers a new lease of life for .Net through contributor innovation and should help create a rich, monetisable market.
The caution relates to the news that Windows for mobile will be free of charge. Whilst unarguably a big move, it’s not open source — the license terms still restrict how you can use the software. This is important, as whilst a “first hit is free” approach to getting people using mobile Windows might bring some results, the key to sustained innovation and therefore sustained increase in the user base comes from removing the need to ask for permission before you can innovate.
Read Simon’s full analysis in the InfoWorld article.