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MS preps new Shared Source challenge to OSS?

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Microsoft seems to be planning an expanded, and perhaps more sophisticated, crack at open source models, following on from general and widescale disinterest in its Shared Source Initiative. According to a Computerwire report, Microsoft "is preparing to shift its stance by releasing code to the open source community".

Which is clearly not the story, not exactly. Microsoft would as soon let the EU dictate what it could and could not put in an operating system as it would release software under the GPL*, but it is most certainly interested in trying to steal the thunder and some of the clothes of the open source model. So, when Microsoft platform business development manager Stephen Walli tells Computerwire that the company intends to release "non-core" code, and that "There's a lot that's just infrastructure. Why wouldn't we sponsor a community? We are getting to deeply engage with the customer", there's something brewing.

The key word here is "community". Microsoft sees this as being one of the key advantages of the open source model, and would dearly like to get itself some of the commitment, enthusiasm and development momentum associated with it. So it makes sense for the company to give away some infrastructure code that it doesn't regard as crown jewels material, but that is of interest to people involved in, say, Windows-Unix interoperability, and to put some support resource behind it. Building on the success of Services for Unix might be a logical way to do it, given that this has a certain amount of mindshare already.

And one might speculate that, given that even a win scenario for Microsoft in the matter of of the EU will probably result in a deal of opening up on the interface front, it'd be a smart move for the company to mount some kind of preemptive strike before it finds itself in front of the firing squad.

The most likely difference between what the company is likely to do and what it's been doing for years already (hello, Mainsoft) is that it will be pitching smaller segments of code under the Shared Source Initiative, and trying to make that Initiative a more widespread, more community-focused, beast.

To some extent of course the move will be a marketing gag/trap. As in so many other cases, the spinmeisters will do their level best to make what will in essence be a fairly small move look like a massive challenge to open source. And as in at least some other cases, this will be a pity because there will likely be some small nugget of usefulness to the deal. So yes, it's probably still best viewed as a trap, but on the other hand the cheese might be starting to get more tempting.

Computerwire requires registration, in which case you can see the original stroy here, or failing that, in Google cache, here. ®

* Note for the barrack-room lawyers out there - yes, we know there are instances where it does this already, but it does so for fairly arcane historical and contractual reasons, rather than as a conscious matter of strategy, OK?

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