RealTime IT News

Microsoft Popular with Some in Open Source Crowd

Like a scene straight out of Sally Fields' 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, Microsoft is awed with the response it is getting to its contributions to the open source community.

"You like me, you really like me."

The proof lies within the latest download numbers from SourceForge.net, a repository of open source code and applications. The subsidiary of VA Software released a statement Thursday saying that Microsoft's two (and only) contributions are in the top five percent of the more than 80,000 active projects at the site.

"We're not surprised to see this level of interest in the Microsoft projects," Patrick McGovern, director at SourceForge.net said. "More than a quarter of the projects on SourceForge.net are Windows-related, and anything that makes developing for that platform easier is very attractive to our users. We're pleased that Microsoft has been testing the Open Source waters with an Open Source license on our site, and, judging by user response for the first three months, we look forward to hosting even more projects from Microsoft as they reach out to the Open Source community."

Microsoft's two projects -- the Windows installer XML (WiX) and Windows C++ Template Library (WTL) -- were released under the company's "Shared Source Initiative," a program that gives access to the Windows source code to certain customers, partners, developers and academics. Last week, Microsoft extended the existing program to its group of dedicated volunteers, its Most Valuable Professionals.

"We chose to host the Shared Source WiX and WTL projects on SourceForge.net because it is home to a strong community of Windows developers and has a great tradition of collaborative development," Jason Matusow, director of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative said in a statement. "Through the WiX and WTL offerings, we are applying lessons learned over the past three years on the Shared Source Initiative and engaging more closely with the developer community."

In the few months since their release, both contributions have been a big hit with open source developers. WiX, which builds installation packages for Windows products was posted on SourceForge.net in April, and has received nearly 100,000 downloads in the first 100 days of its posting.

The WTL, a five-year-old program that lets developers create graphic interfaces for Windows programs, is also in its third month of posting, and has received 19,000 downloads. Both projects are available now under the Common Public License.

"I think the download numbers, while not mind-boggling, certainly indicate the depth of interest from the developer community in working with Microsoft oriented projects," Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with research firm Redmonk, told internetnews.com. "Microsoft and open source may not be all that comfortable in the same sentence yet, as some of Bill Gates' recent remarks abroad indicate, but I think these shared source projects are a good indication that each party has something to contribute to the other."

So what's next for Microsoft? As previously reported, the company is expected to announce its third contribution to SourceForge.net and the OSTG (Open Source Technology Group -- formerly OSDN or Open Source Developer Network).

Sources close to Microsoft suggest the code will come from a Microsoft project that serves a segment with diminished market share that the company feels less inclined to compete in.

According to published reports, possible Microsoft projects being considered for the next open source license include parts of the company's Internet Information Server (IIS) Web server, which competes with the open-source Apache Web server; pieces of Microsoft's Visual Studio tool suite, which competes with Sun Microsystems' NetBeans project and IBM's sponsored Eclipse developer's tool box; and Microsoft's Visual SourceSafe, a version-control product that which competes with the open-sourced Concurrent Versions System (CVS).