Microsoft will submit its Shared Source licenses to the Open Source Initiative for review and approval as open-source licenses.
Bill Hilf, general manager of platform strategy at Microsoft, used his keynote address at the annual OReilly Open Source Conference in Portland, Ore. on July 26 to discuss Microsofts evolving open-source strategy.
As part of that, he highlighted a new Microsoft Web site designed to provide additional transparency into the companys position on open source, and announced the companys intent to submit its Shared Source licenses to the OSI for approval.
"Microsoft and the OSI are currently in active discussion on this and additional details will be made available in the coming weeks," Hilf said.
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to give any additional specifics and, when asked what had changed to make this the right time for Microsoft to seek open-source approval for its licenses, the spokesperson would only say that "things continue to evolve when it comes to open source at Microsoft."
"Perhaps Microsoft is trying to mend some burned bridges after it claimed that 235 of its patents were being violated by Linux and open-source software and then said it was not bound by GPLv3 in any way," one open-source developer told eWEEK.
This marks a significant change for the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker, which has refused until now to submit any of its licenses to the OSI for approval.
Last year, the Microsoft Community License, one of its Shared Source licenses, was submitted to OSI for official approval as an open-source license. However, it wasnt Microsoft who submitted it, but rather John Cowan, a programmer and blogger in New York.
In his submission e-mail, Cowan wrote that "Microsoft is adding new licenses to its Shared Source Initiative, which I believe qualify as open-source licenses. The second of these is a simple permissive license called the Microsoft Community License (MS-CL) ...."
The e-mail went on to state: "I believe that this license should be approved by OSI even though it is basically similar to more widely used weak-reciprocal licenses, because it is better to encourage Microsoft in particular to release under an OSI-approved license than not—I think it very unlikely that they will go back and adopt some existing license."
Hilf told eWEEK at that time that while the company did not have a problem with one of its licenses being OSI approved, the challenge was that the OSI had previously positioned itself as anti-Microsoft.
"We would like to see the OSI meet us halfway on this to indicate they have moved on from their earlier bias before we are willing to submit our license for approval," Hilf said at that time, which was consistent with its earlier position when the OSI board met with Jason Matusow, then director of Microsofts Shared Source program, in October 2005 to discuss the matter.
At that time, Matusow said the OSI had "taken positions that have made it more difficult for us to work with them ... Whats needed is a neutral environment that is comfortable for all participants in order to build consensus. They have made changes to their board and are looking at building a workable definition of open for open-source licenses and what it means to wrestle with the issues that come with that."