Recently, Microsoft initiated a new foundation called CodePlex which will allow for individuals and businesses to connect and collaborate on open source projects. This new foundation has been founded by Microsoft, yet is its own non-profit entity, with Microsoft as it’s core contributor. While I see this as the next move from Microsoft coming into the open source arena, I wonder about the projects that will be hosted.
Apparently, the leadership consists of an interim board, which will one day be replaced by a more permanent board. Several of the board members are familiar names:
- Steve Ramji, Microsoft
- Miguel de Icaza, Novell
About half the board members are from Microsoft with the others coming from around the Linux and Open Source community. While the main Codeplex project is open to any project, the foundation will decide what to take on itself, with a few suggestions already coming from Microsoft.
The initial question in my mind is what if the project that is being suggested has nothing to do with Microsoft technology? I imagine being a collaborative effort, the technologies will probably surround interoperability between systems, which is certainly not a bad thing as long as the code is publicly available. However, when bringing open source and proprietary technologies together, someone is bound to mention patents. What happens if a patent is trespassed, and it is someone working within CodePlex Foundation? This sort of scenario could form a rather interesting PR issue for Microsoft if it ever encountered it.
Currently, there is only one sponsor of the foundation, Microsoft. I imagine that Novell would join sometime in the future. As far as the other corporations are concerned, it will be interesting to see if IBM would join the effort.
As far as I can tell, the actual CodePlex collaborative site, which is owned by Microsoft, works like Launchpad and Sourceforge and is used to host open source projects — which brings me to my big question: What’s the point?
“…we expect the Codeplex Foundation to be complimentary to, and not competitive with, other open source foundations.”
The foundation is apparently supposed to be different from other foundations, of which several are listed as examples. The complaint is that the other foundations only cover a particular piece of software or system, rather than the broad spectrum that the CodePlex Foundation is intended to cover. That is very true, and it is nice to see Microsoft pulling together some open source collaboration. What might be interesting in the future is how patents are handled within the project. Will patent encumberences cause unrest between members? Will Microsoft or the pro-Microsoft board only allow members of corporations who have signed patent agreements? Either way, it is nice to see Microsoft opening themselves up to the open source world.