What Software Will Microsoft Open-Source Next?

 
 
By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-07-23
 
 
 
As Microsoft continues its experiment with open licensing, analysts and members of the community ask what technologies the companies will open source next and when.

Industry watchers have speculated on these questions since Microsoft released its Windows Installer XML (WiX) and Windows template-library components under the CPL (Common Public License)—a bona fide open-source license—earlier this year.

Microsoft opted to release WiX and the template library via the OSDN (Open Source Development Network) SourceForge repository. And the company is gearing up to do the same again, it seems, possibly by the time the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo kicks off the first week of August, according to a published report.

Read a Microsoft Blog on why the company went with the CPL and SourceForge.

When asked whether Microsoft will release more of its technologies on SourceForge at the upcoming trade show, a Microsoft spokesman said the company had "nothing official to announce at this time." But he added the Redmond software maker is continuing to talk to OSDN.

A spokeswoman representing OSDN also declined to comment, but did not deny that Microsoft is talking with OSDN about making more of its technologies available under an open-source license on SourceForge.

So whats likely to be next? Neither Microsoft nor OSDN would name specific products. But in June, Microsoft officials stated publicly that Microsoft had more technologies ready to distribute under some kind of open-source license—and not just development tools.

While no ones expecting Microsoft to make its Windows or Office crown jewels available via open source, industry observers said the company could opt to release pieces of its core products in this way.

The most likely candidates would be Microsoft technologies with "non-recoverable market share that are under great competitive pressure," said one developer who formerly worked at Microsoft, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Possible targets, according to the developer:

  • Microsofts Visual SourceSafe, its version-control product, which competes with the open-sourced CVS (Concurrent Versions System);
  • Elements of Microsofts Visual Studio tool suite, which competes with the open-sourced Eclipse tool set; and/or
  • Pieces of Microsofts Internet Information Server (IIS) Web server, which goes head-to-head with the Apache Web server.

    "At Microsoft, theres a total fixation on losing market share," the developer said. SourceSafe, Visual Studio and IIS are all in heated battles with their open-source competitors, he said. In the case of IIS, Microsoft already has fallen behind, in terms of market share, he pointed out.

    Sources close to Microsoft noted there has been talk about open sourcing parts of IIS, as this "would make sense" for the company and help address the competitive threat posed by Apache.

    Microsofts IIS was recently implicated in a widespread Internet browser attack that stole user passwords and financial data.

    Other rumors circulated that Microsoft might opt to open-source the CLR (Common Language Runtime) component of the .Net Framework. Microsoft officials have not denied these rumors, but have that the company currently makes the CLR available via its own Shared Source licensing program.

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