RealTime IT News

Microsoft to Release More Code to Academia

Bill Gates didn't sound quite like himself speaking Monday at the third annual Microsoft Research Faculty Summit in Redmond. While his usual adoration for technology and innovation was present, so was an unusual praise for open source.

Despite Microsoft's long-standing and much-publicized stance against sharing code, Gates touted the Shared Source Initiative, which makes source code accessible to some of the company's customers, partners, researchers, governments and academicians.

Through this initiative, Microsoft is increasing its outreach to the academic and research community via expanded source access, the ability to modify and distribute code for research purposes, and the ability to incorporate shared source code into courseware without a fee.

Yesterday's touting of the Shared Source Initiative sets the stage for the expected announcement of an initiative to release some of Microsoft's compiler code later this week.

The Seattle Times, quoting Microsoft research director, Rick Rashid, is reporting that the new initiative, which has been codenamed Phoenix, will make Microsoft compiler code available to universities for their work and experimentation.

A compiler takes source code and translates it into the binary code that a computer can read. Because of the proprietary and complicated nature of these programs, it is a surprise to many that Microsoft is making this piece of the puzzle available.

While Microsoft is keeping tight lipped about the project until its release, which is expected to come sometime later in the week, the company is also highlighting its other academic efforts at the conference.

To date there are more than 100 universities with Microsoft source access and there have been more than 125,000 downloads of Windows CE .NET and Windows CE 3.0 shared source code, with over 20 percent of these downloads by professors, researchers and students.

"Collaboration between industry and academia is crucial to deliver on our shared vision for the future of technology and education," Gates said at the event yesterday. "Microsoft remains committed to deepening its relationship with academia, because only by working together can we create the next generation of computing technology."

The acceleration of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative comes as the company is feeling the double burn of universities increasingly employing open source infrastructures and producing graduates more versed in languages such as Sun's Java.

Microsoft will invest $75 million to support research and education worldwide through its Research University Relations department in hopes of remedying the situation.

The annual faculty summit provides a forum for the exchange of information and ideas, with academics presenting their latest research projects and findings and viewing presentations and demonstrations from Microsoft that highlight the company's current research and products in development.