Why Microsoft should "Really" Open-Source some things….


Hi everyone,

    This is not a call for opening up the source for Windows or Office (as that will never happen).  But, it is a call for Microsoft to truly open the source for some of their products.  The one specific product that I can think of is the .NET Framework. 

    Now, some will say that you can view the source code for .NET, however you cannot use it for GPL or other “Open” licensed projects (read MONO or WINE on Linux).  I’m calling for Microsoft to collaborate (or at least allow them to incorporate the source-code) with those two projects. 

     What are the benefits for Microsoft to allow them to freely use the code?  First, it will allow Microsoft to sell products to Linux users without having to open their source-code up.  Secondly, it will encourage developers to create applications that work with the frameworks (which means it can easily be used on Windows or Linux), and third, it will have the potential for fixing flaws and vulnerabilities in the framework.

    I’ll tackle the first benefit now.  There are a few Linux users who would want to use Office, or other Microsoft products (or have requirements where they have to use these products), but can’t.  Microsoft will not port their products over to Linux, because they could be forced to open their source-code up.  The whole “It’s a competing OS” doesn’t fly, because they port to MAC OS.

      Projects like Mono and Wine allow Linux users to install Native Windows Applications, without having to port them over first.  It provides a virtual Windows environment, without having to install Windows.  This means that Microsoft could sell their products to Linux users, without having to open the source.  Plus, people who may be considering the switch wouldn’t have to drop all Microsoft products (only Windows).  How is this a benefit to Microsoft?  Well, let’s see….  Microsoft can lose $200.00 for Windows, plus another $150.00 for Works or Word, plus $59.00 for Money.  Or, by allowing projects like WINE and MONO to seamlessly integrate .NET, they’ll only lose the $200.00 for Windows.  So, that’s $459.00 vs $200.00…

    The second benefit is almost as beneficial.  By encouraging developers to create applications for the .NET Framework, Microsoft is opening up the potential for more people to use Windows (because they will have some better applications that work with it), and encouraging developers to eventually purchase their programming suites (Visual Studio) and SQL Servers.  Right now, if an industry wants to switch to Linux, they’re developing their applications to work with Oracle or MySQL.  Being able to run SQL Server through WINE or MONO, will encourage those industries to develop for SQL Server (and consequently purchase it).  Eventually, they’ll want more abilities in their .NET Development than the open-source suites (like Eclipse) can provide.  So, they’ll start looking at the Visual Studio lines.  And, being able to run VS on Linux (through WINE or MONO) will be a plus.

     This also goes back to the loss of revenue from my earlier benefit.  If the industry goes to Linux, then Microsoft loses the Windows sales, plus the SQL sales.  However, if they’re able to develop for SQL, then those sales won’t disappear.

     The third reason is because more people will look for the vulnerabilities and bugs.  Now, I’m not going for the “Linux (or Open Source) is more secure…..” tag here.  But, look at it like this.  If you develop a program on .NET, and a bug in the framework makes it mess up, what do you do?  If the framework was open, you could say “Ahhh.  It’s not my coding, it’s the framework.”  And you could submit a report to Microsoft with 1) The issue, 2) the point in the framework that it lies and 3) a potential fix (that you’ll have tested thoroughly before submitting).

    Plus the WINE and MONO developers will go through the framework with a fine-toothed comb.  They’ll fix any bugs and vulnerabilities that they spot (you would hope).  And hopefully, since they’re collaborating WITH Microsoft on this, they’ll pass the fixes on up the chain.  If so (and if Microsoft will be willing to accept the fixes and use them), it will make a stronger, more secure, and less buggy framework for EVERYONE to use.

    So, let me know how you feel about this.  If there are other reasons why Microsoft should open the source up (completely–not in the current state), or if you have reasons why they shouldn’t, please comment.  And if you’re a Microsoft employee, please give your opinion about this as well.

Have a great day everyone.

Patrick.

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