Microsoft Makes More Open-Source Overtures

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-08-30 Print this article Print

Microsoft is reaching out further to the open-source community with offers of joint development and testing, but some wonder about the company's sincerity.

Still feeling the pressure from Linux and other open-source software competitors, Microsoft Corp. is reaching out further to the open-source community with offers of joint development and testing. But its not yet clear if anyone is ready to listen.

In addition to forming new initiatives to deal with Linux growth, including an upfront and official dialogue with members of the open-source community, Microsoft may also be considering releasing new sections of code as open source.

Officials at the Redmond, Wash., company acknowledged last week an internal initiative called Mission Critical Microsoft that is based on Microsofts Datacenter program and that aims to extend the reach of that program to a wider range of solutions, with an ultimate goal of encouraging customers to choose Windows over Linux.

Click here for more on Mission Critical Microsoft. To help open the lines of communication with the open-source community, Microsoft has turned to blogs. Josh Ledgard, a program manager on Microsofts Visual Studio community team, wrote on his blog last week that he is working to enable more collaboration of the open-source type with the developer community and Microsoft.

"It should be easy for teams here at Microsoft to develop extensions to their platforms and potentially pieces of the platforms with customers in an open/transparent fashion," Ledgard wrote. "What better way ... to form real connections with developers than working with them collaboratively on real technical challenges?"

But observers wonder about the sincerity of such statements. Open-source developers such as Robert Proffitt, of Cambridge, Mass., are skeptical that Microsoft and the open-source community could ever collaborate. As evidence, Proffitt referenced a software project he recently completed that used the open-source MySQL database. "The project would never have happened if the customer had to obtain a SQL license from Microsoft or Oracle [Corp.]," Proffitt said.

Still, in his posting, Microsofts Ledgard raised the possibility of establishing joint cooperation on Visual Studio, saying there are several extensions to Visual Studio that the team does not have the time to get to.

Ledgard also floated the possibility of an arrangement in which Microsoft developers could work with community members to build features on top of the Visual Studio platform, and those missing features could eventually be included in the product as an additional install step.

Another developer said Microsoft appears to want the community to help improve Visual Studio for free but would keep those improvements and sell them in the next version of the product. "Im not sure that is a standard definition of open-source development," the developer said.

Ledgards posting added to the speculation that Microsoft was looking to open-source elements of the Visual Studio tool suite as well as Visual SourceSafe.

Sources close to Microsoft last week said other code likely to be open-sourced by Microsoft are pieces of the IIS (Internet Information Services) Web server.

But Microsoft spokesperson Mark Martin would say only that while the company is always considering its options, it does not have anything new coming out at the moment and "definitely not around IIS."

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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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