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OSDN, Microsoft to Collaborate Again

A popular resource site for open source developers is preparing for a major contribution from Microsoft , internetnews.com has learned.

SourceForge.net Director Pat McGovern said Microsoft is in discussions with OSDN (Open Source Development Network) and is planning on submitting an unidentified amount of software code. It would be Microsoft's third collaboration project with the subsidiary of VA Software . Previously, Microsoft donated parts of its Windows Installer Software and a C++ Template Library.

Representatives with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft were not available for comment, but sources close to the deal say that, like its other contributions, the new code will fall under an open source initiative license (OSI), and more than likely as a common public license (CPL). More details are expected during next month's Linux World show in San Francisco.

"We would have said something sooner, but the timing of this hadn't matured yet," McGovern said. "Ultimately, we provide 82,000 different projects, and Microsoft is just using our services."

The partnership is curious, if not downright unusual, considering the sketchy relationship that Microsoft has had with the open source community. Just last week, CEO Steve Ballmer blatantly mocked open source technology, Linux in particular, suggesting that, "The penguin will lose to Windows."

In other areas, however, there has been a noticeable thaw in Microsoft's approach to open source. The company extended an olive branch two years ago by appearing at a Linux World conference. Under a company-wide program, Microsoft launched its "Shared Source" initiative, where certain entities could access confidential code including portions of the Windows 2000/XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems. On Wednesday, Microsoft extended its existing Shared Source program to its group of dedicated volunteers, its Most Valuable Professionals.

"They are obviously doing this to take a deeper look at the developer community," Stacey Quandt, principal analyst of Quandt Analytics and former OSDN advisor, told internetnews.com. "They've exchanged rhetoric in the past, but the feeling is that this represents Microsoft's further attempts to embrace the open source community."

Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with research firm Redmonk, said that it would be next to impossible for Microsoft to manipulate the open source community via SourceForge.

"They would have a difficult time exerting any type of muscle or driving projects away from their original purpose. Developers would up and walk away. Besides, many of the pieces are under the GPL anyhow," O'Grady said. "Certainly OSDN is open-source friendly, but it does have its Windows advocates."

The Microsoft contribution also coincides with a massive revamp in the works for OSDN. The expected changes at the start of August should include a new corporate identity, a new logo, tag line and a new visual identity.

But don't expect OSDN to change its name to Microsoft-OSDN or "MOSDN" anytime soon. "There is no conspiracy theory," McGovern said.

The OSDN makeover will include more coverage on key IT-focused technologies via IT.Slashdot.org and the redesign of sites Linux.com, NewsForge, and ITManagersJournal.

OSDN, which also runs Web sites like SourceForge, Slashdot, freshmeat, and ThinkGeek, is reportedly forming an advisory board of industry experts to advise the group on its content. The change will also better highlight OSDL's executive team, including VA General Manager and President Patrick Ferrell and Vice President of Marketing Valerie Williams.