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April 5, 2004

Microsoft releases code to open source community

Microsoft Corp has donated internal Windows code to the open source community for modification and re-distribution by developers without charging a license fee.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft yesterday released the Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolkit under IBM Corp’s Common Public License (CPL) to what is believed the industry’s largest open source development community, SourceForge.

WiX is a command-line tool for installation of Windows applications from XML packages, used inside Microsoft’s own business software and games units to deploy applications.

Microsoft’s decision to release code is a first. Until now, Microsoft released its Windows source code for view-only purposes to customers under its Shared Source Initiative or it allowed organizations to work with code using modified licenses, such as the ASP.NET Starter Kit that was licensed under a BSD derivative by Microsoft.

The Shared Source Initiative and use of modified licenses represent a gradual softening in Microsoft’s politically doctrinaire hostility against open source. In 2001, Microsoft claimed open source and the GPL were dangerous to the continued viability of the commercial software industry.

However, Stephen Walli, a business development manager for Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative recently hinted to ComputerWire of Microsoft’s release yesterday, explaining open source would help Microsoft better engage with customers and saying software is more than selling the license and the box.

Jason Matusow, manager of Microsoft’s Shared Source Initiative, said yesterday releasing WiX to a non-Microsoft controlled organization under CPL would encourage new development projects.

[People] will either build better applications that run on Windows or there will be improvements to the tool itself, Matusow said.

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He noted 27% of SourceForge projects are for Windows, meaning release of WiX can help improve installation of applications in a large number of cases. SourceForge hosts tens of thousands of projects, and is owned by media and news information service Open Source Development Network Inc.

CPL provides royalty-free access to code, which developers can reproduce and distribute as a derivative work without limitation, according to Matusow. He said Microsoft chose CPL instead of GPL, for example – which Microsoft historically railed against – because it understands the commercial nature of IP [Intellectual Property].

Matusow would not be drawn on whether Microsoft plans further code releases.

This article is based on material originally published by ComputerWire

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