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.
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."