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Free Windows Forms Code?

A Microsoft manager's call to freely show part of the code to the next-generation .NET software is being met with jeers and cheers.

In his blog last week, Shawn Burke, a development manager on Microsoft's Windows Forms team, suggested that Microsoft release parts of the Windows Forms code and product database to help developers debug their Rich Media applications. The release would not be a traditional open source project subject to a GPL, but would be widely available.

"There are a set of issues here, and let me tell you that not everyone here is a big fan of it," Burke said in his blog. "But I think I can do it (other teams are trying as well)."

The software is a wrapper that fits around the core of Microsoft Windows (Win32) code, and is part of this summer's release of .NET Framework 2.0. Windows Forms and the .NET Framework.

Burke said Microsoft execs concerned about losing intellectual property rights and licensing revenue initially resisted his idea.

"There are two major issues," Burke wrote in his blog. "One is Intellectual Property, but I'm comfortable with what's in Windows Forms. And let's be honest here, there have been tools around for a few years that basically are exposing this anyway."

Microsoft has not officially endorsed the code release suggestion, but according to Burke, could get the green light if the commentary section of the code could be cleaned up to exclude unprofessional remarks.

Chris Flores, lead product manager for the developer and platform evangelism division at Microsoft, told internetnews.com that Burke is one of many bloggers who is free to express an opinion, but he does not set company policy.

"We already release the source code within our Microsoft Shared Source program and for our MVPs [Most Valuable Professional]," Flores said.

This is why Burke has asked for help from MVPs to help make the code "customer ready."

"I mentioned the MVPs specifically because some of them have already seen source and whatever is in there," Burke said. "I've been trying to think of ways to leverage the community in general and specifically MVPs so that we can have a more symbiotic relationship. In this case, since there is already an agreement in place for them to view the code, they're seeing it warts and all already."

Eric Andrae, director of strategic relationships at software development tools maker Infragistics and a former Microsoft employee, said the release of Windows Forms code would be a very valuable thing for developers.

"It basically helps them debug their applications by following along with Microsoft's code," Andrae told internetnews.com. "It's not a Herculean effort, and it's not likely to delay .NET. What it may signal is that Burke's team is either on schedule or ahead of schedule with their part of the 2.0 release and that they have the time to come up for air and look around."

Whether or not Microsoft makes the Windows Forms code available to developers, the company has been focused on showing more transparency in its processes.

During their keynotes at the VSLive! 2005 developer show in San Francisco this week, Microsoft executives "Soma" Somasegar and Eric Rudder highlighted upcoming developments in its Longhorn subsystem Avalon and its unified programming model for building service-oriented applications called Indigo.

Both developer tools are expected to have a preview available in March 2005 along with the delivery of Microsoft's WinFX.