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Over the years, Microsoft's taken a lot of flack for attempting to undermine open source.

Despite giving away code snippets and working with vendors like Zend and MySQL, what really sticks in the mind are attempts to shore up its market share by spooking people on IP and by playing hardball.

Microsoft's position contrasts with, say, IBM whose generous code donations and work in servers has earned it the status of benefactor to Linux and open source.

This year, though, will see IBM release the fruits of a project using a pseudo open source development method that has garnered criticism and could generate further ill will in 2008.

Project Zero, the giant's fledgling Web 2.0 development environment, will become a commercial product later this year.

According to Project Zero head Jerry Cuomo the technology will be built in to WebSphere as part of IBM's plans to gee up Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) projects.

Project Zero - named for its "Zero complexity. Zero overhead. Zero obstacles" - slipped out quietly last summer as an "incubator project" under a "community driven commercial development". Despite its talk of "community" the focus of Project Zero is definitely "commercial", and the project is no open source work. As IBM admits here, Project Zero is a commercial product.

In other words, this can be viewed as bringing the feedback typical of an open source project without any of the obligations to give the resulting technology back to the community.

That left a nasty taste in the mouth last summer.

IBM, of course, contributes significantly to many open source projects. But in this case it clearly sees an important commercial opportunity in the space where SOA meets Web 2.0. The growing interest from large enterprises in Web 2.0 applications - coupled with SOA as a means of implementing them - must be an irresistible combination to IBM's business planners.

Project Zero, itself, brings together whole bag of fashionable development technologies from the Representational State Transfer (REST) approach for network services to the Eclipse IDE and dynamic scripting runtime environments for PHP, Groovy and, more recently, Ruby.

Project Zero development is now well advanced. The team hit Milestone 3 of version 1.0 just before the Christmas break and IBM has included the technology in its central developerWorks site.®

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