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Microsoft releases source code to open source community

May 03, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoftOpen Source

* Microsoft posts Windows Installer XML to SourceForge

About a month ago, Microsoft posted some of its source code to SourceForge. SourceForge is a, if not the, major distribution point for open source software. Microsoft’s code was put there under the terms of the Common Public License, which allows modification, addition, redistribution – in short, it allows most of the rights and privileges that we associate with open source software.

What’s going on? Are the barbarians at the gate of the empire? Has Bill Gates abdicated, run off to a South Seas island and left Redmond in the hands of Richard Stallman ( and Eric Raymond ( Will Microsoft Senior Vice President Craig Mundie’s head be displayed on a pike?

Hardly, although the repartee on Slashdot, a hotbed of open source advocates, made it sound as if the Bastille had fallen (the French Revolution), the Redcoats were at Bunker Hill (the American Revolution), and William & Mary had acceded to the throne (the Glorious Revolution).

In reality, the Redmondites were eating pastiles, watching Benny Hill and wondering how the William & Mary lacrosse team was doing (quite well, see

What Microsoft released is called “WIX,” the Windows Installer XML, a developer tool that would be useful to open source developers who wish to port their applications to a Windows platform. It’s a very good move on Microsoft’s part because it gives Windows users the opportunity to use open source software as easily as native Windows software. This is especially useful for Windows networks since there’s a big library of open source server applications.

Note that this simply will make the open source apps easier to install. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary.

This does, though, add some validation to those who think the open source movement is becoming a bigger part of mainstream computing. Larger midsize and big enterprises have been using open source applications for some time, but they could afford the costs of running heterogeneous networks with Windows, Linux/Unix and other servers and hosts each requiring specialized care and handling from well-trained managers and administrators. Small and midsize businesses simply can’t afford the support necessary, so they’ve chosen homogeneous Windows networks. Now these sites, what some consider the very backbone of Windows networking, can employ open source services that install as easily as their Windows-native packages.

There’s also the lingering thought that Microsoft might be “testing the water” of open source before releasing other code into the wild. Stranger things have happened.