Microsoft Posts Tool as Open Source
Anyone who thought Microsoft's recent settlement with longtime nemesis Sun Microsystems seemed surreal was in for another shocker Monday, when the software giant made some of its source code freely available on the Internet.
Microsoft released the code on SourceForge.net, a Web site that provides free hosting for open source software development projects. The Microsoft tool set, called WiX, for Windows Installer XML, is intended for building Windows installation packages from XML source code.
Open License, Too
WiX is being offered under the Common Public License, an open source license originally authored by IBM, says Jason Matusow, Microsoft's manager of shared source initiatives. The license, one of many approved by the Open Source Initiative and listed on its opensource.org Web site, allows developers to modify the code and use it in commercial products, he says.
"It's the first time we have posted a project under an open source license, meaning one that is approved by the Opensource.org folks," Matusow says.
The move doesn't reflect an about-face on open source, he contends. Microsoft for years released source code under various "shared source" licenses, all of which Microsoft wrote, he says. Those earlier releases run the gamut from "reference-only" licenses that only let users look at the code to ones that allow customers to modify and even release code commercially. Sometimes it releases code under a particular customer contract.
The company will continue to release code under various licenses, Matusow says. Microsoft might release code under the Common Public License again, but it has no plans to use the GNU General Public License, under which Linux is distributed. Microsoft has frequently criticized GPL.
"We feel that the GPL presents certain challenges as a commercial software business," Matusow adds.
Microsoft decided CPL was the best license for WiX, he says. The company chose to put the code on SourceForge because the site is widely used: More than 25 percent of the projects on SourceForge are Windows projects, he notes.
This type of tool, a small piece of code with only a command-line interface, is used by a broad range of developers and is available as free software from other entities already. The tool creates a database that installer software can use to understand where best to place parts an application on a Windows PC, Matusow says.
Microsoft believes WiX is better than the free tools and decided to offer it to developers, he says. It was developed at Microsoft and is already being used by several groups in the company, he adds. WiX runs on Windows NT and Windows 2000.
"Someone can build a business on top of this code if they wish, and that is completely allowed by the license," Matusow says.