Microsoft May Be Catching On, Albeit Slowly

The world’s largest software company seems to be coming onboard the open source movement slowly. While they still need to get over their fear of the GPL before their software is really free-as-in-freedom, there is some encouraging news. The Windows Installer XML toolset (WIX) and Windows Template Library (WTL) have been released under the CPL (CPL full text here) and are hosted at Sourceforge. WIX:

WIX is used to manage Windows Installer MSI and MSM modules for packaging and deployment.


WTL is a set of C++ templates for Windows programming that uses ATL (no MFC) for fast, stable, Win32 applications. It was developed and used internally and Microsoft decided to free it’s development to the community.

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0 Responses to Microsoft May Be Catching On, Albeit Slowly

  1. concord says:

    Much better… thank you Chris. 🙂

  2. Linuxman says:

    Unfortunately everybody’s been going crazy with patents. Microsoft, Apple, Sun, IBM (Free Software’s big ally), HP, etc. I think a lot of it has to do with defensive patents. Microsoft would be demolished in the court or public opinion if they used patents aginst Open Source or Free Software projects. They all cross license their patents with eachother. Even Red Hat has gotten some lately. It’s a way of protecting themselves from lawsuits like the $520 million browser plug-in MS just lost to Eolas. This will cover their backside from opportunists who are granted a patent on very general ideas and try to shoot the moon by suing a big company. For all their patent portfolios, IBM, MS, Sun, Apple etc have done almost no litigation. Software companies actually opposed software patents as a disaster, it’s the bloodsucking lawyers that like them, they generate revenue for the legal community more than the software community.

    The other thing that makes this encouraging is that we’re seeing Microsoft release code to the community and allow modification. I think it’s important to encourage rather than discourage this kind of activity. There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure in businesses built around Microsoft products, so rather than decry all their efforts as acts of “the enemy” I think it’s important to invite them to join the community. It may take another 20 years, but when all is said and done Free Software is an unstoppable tide and like IBM, HP, and Sun (or at least one of Sun’s split personalities), Microsoft will come along eventually. They’re not stupid. When their biggest national and corporate customers are asking for source code and their loyal developers are calling for more community involvement in development, they should be able to see the writing on the wall. That’s why you can now get the source to the .NET CLI, Windows CE, MFS, WTL, WIX, Cassini Web Server, and now countries, parteners, and MVP developers can even see the Windows source code. This is not the trojan horse. This is a big giant toe testing the waters and I think it’s better to invite the giant to swim in the clear pond with the rest of the fish than to stab it in the toe.

    If you download the free-as-in-freedom and free-as-in-beer packages, in the feedback I encourage you to leave a comment such as I did, “Next time please include source code. That’s why GCC is my primary development tool.”

    This “Microsoft is evil” attitude turns business people away and detracts from the real message that software should be free-as-in-freedom. We are not Microsoft-haters. We are advocates of free software. As such, we need to encourage moves towards freedom.

    I think the WIX and WTL releases should be highly praised and future releases like this to the community should be encouraged.

    Their offer of free compilers and tools is also of value, as they can be used to create GPL’d programs and interoperate with Free Software platforms. In an ideal world there would be only Free Software, but on Earth, 90% of our customers/employers have an existing infrastruture that it would be cost prohibitive to rip out and replace with Free Software.

    Isn’t it serving my clients better if I encourage them to deploy GNU/Linux workstations and servers, but at the same time develop client apps that allow them to take advantage of their existing investments by interfacing via SOAP with VB.NET client apps. Of course, there’s the zealot approach where I could show up in white robes and demand spiritual purging/formatting of all non-free OSes with 100% free software like Debian GNU/Linux or HURD.

    Sorry for getting long winded, but I wanted to make 2 points here:

    1) Free Software is a journey. FSF, Debian, Redhat, Novell/SuSE, IBM, HP, are further along in that journey than Microsoft right now. We can either try and put up a roadblock or try and point the way. Packages that allow interoperability with Free Software should be embraced. Free Software doesn’t exist in a vacuum. This brings me to the second point.

    2) The GPL is to be desired, but the GNU System is useless without other software: Apache (Apache License), Sendmail/Postfix/Qmail (various licenses), Perl (Artistic License), X11 (X11/MIT License), Eclipse (CPL), Netbeans (SCL), PHP (PHP License), and the list goes on… Even on GNU/Linux, we use a lot of non-GPL’d software. Rather than being hypocrites and pretending we’re not using hybrid environments, let’s not shun anything that’s not GPL’d, but encourage and educate. That’s why projects like MySQL (GPL/MySQL License), Mozilla (MPL/GPL), QT (QTL/GPL) are dual licensed. Perhaps the next version of WTL or WIX will be CPL/GPL? More likely if those projects are embraced and the superiority of the community development model is demonstrated.

    And yes, I do like C#/VB.NET. It may not be free-as-in-freedom (yet), but connecting workstations that can’t be migrated via SOAP to GNU/Linux servers is in the interest of Free Software. Would you rather be forced to use VB6 and DCOM to connect Windows clients to Windows servers? Interoperable technologies are to be desired. And such applications can easily be ported to MONO or Portable.NET as those projects rapidly mature.

    A solution that works but doesn’t promote freedom is to be avoided, just as a solution that doesn’t work but promotes freedom is also to be avoided. As I said, Free Software is a journey, and I prefer a solution that works and promotes freedom, even in degress.