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Microsoft throws $1m open-source party

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More stumbling blocks

The whole board, meanwhile, will also be replaced during the next 100 days.

All eyes will be on who will succeed Ramji, de Icaza, and the others, and their backgrounds and affiliations

The subject of who is in control is as important as the Foundation's's supposed goals. The group's stated aim is to work with open source projects. The board will pick projects, but on what basis is unclear.

The fact that projects have to be "picked" by anybody will be rejected by independents in the community.

Backs will likely be further put up by some of the claims on the site: that many existing foundations target particular projects. For example, Mozilla might be best known by most people for Firefox, but - as you can see - it stewards plenty more projects.

Other potential stumbling blocks are the license question and the fact the Foundation will accept code donations - to what end is not clear given that the group says it does not wish to compete with existing open-source industry foundations but work with them.

Ramji said Thursday that the Foundation would be license-agnostic, but there is a contradiction: the group will default to BSD yet it will also support any license, he said. The circumstances under how the default is made are not clear. Further, this Microsoft-funded body wants those donating code to do so using a royalty-free license, something opponents will throw back at Microsoft, which is selective in the licenses it picks for its own code.

Grass-roots developers and projects are one thing that could inhibit the Foundation's growth and it's ability to become a force by hitting some kind of critical mass.

A bigger problem is attracting the power brokers that could give it some clout and help drive best practices - companies like IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat that have the money, history, staff and influence to make a real difference in open source and Linux. Like the WS-I and Eclipse, this latest organization is notable for who's not on board: IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat. It would be hard for any Linux or open source foundation to achieve credibly or reach success without their blessing.

Furthermore, these organizations know this and are unlikely to bless an open source effort coming from Microsoft, as they will have ceded the leadership role to Microsoft. Ramji Thursday said the group hoped to attract funding and membership from "other parts of the industry" to gain credibility and dilute the influence of Microsoft.

Time to hold back

Therein lies the catch-22, though: those who matter know this, and are doing very well driving open source and Linux ecosystems around their own stacks. They have no need to join a Microsoft effort, an effort that will take longer to succeed or reach a critical mass without them.

The CodePlex Foundation hits a number of memes in open source: the need for improved best practices and co-ordination within and between projects, and the ability for open source to run well on Windows and Windows to work well with open source code.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has a notoriously rocky relationship with open source. Sections of the organization have tried to repair the damage, but Microsoft has only ever engaged tactically with open source and never joined an independent or accepted open source organizations.

Microsoft needs to join other peoples' parties first before it can convince those who really matter to attend its own. ®

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