Oct 9 2007
Open source software is appearing in more and more places. It was started by people rebelling against closed source, commercial software, but its being used frequently today by commercial software developers as a marketing tool.
Free As In Free Software
Why would a software company give away its products? If a product couldn’t be sold, giving it away would be great link bait. People would download it, talk about it, blog about it, and hopefully use it. This is a great way to get free publicity for a product and scoring points with the open source community.
The .NET Framework is a product which Microsoft already gives away. It wouldn’t make sense to sell it since they want people to install the framework and run .NET applications. Its competitor, the Java Runtime Environment has always been free and today enjoys an overwhelming market share on a widespread array of devices.
An Open Source Framework
I read on ScottGu’s Blog that Microsoft will be releasing the source for the .NET Framework libraries. This has received much praise from many of Microsoft’s critics, but its really a clever marketing tactic. There’s nothing wrong with this, though. Microsoft can’t make money selling the .NET Framework. It has always been a free download and releasing the source will be of great benefit to software developers who want a deeper understanding of how the framework functions.
In one of the .NET server applications I use, when Microsoft released .NET 2.0, various functions in the web app no longer worked properly. Both the software developer and Microsoft blamed each other for the bugs. Now, with the source for .NET becoming available, a developer can examine the framework source code to pin point the cause of bugs.
.NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008
The source code will be released with .NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008. This may be an incentive to upgrade to the latest programming tools since the source code will likely be incompatible with earlier compilers. Software developers tend to be slow in upgrading their programming tools since it means making their old programs work with the new compilers.
The .NET 3.5 libraries source code can be downloaded as a standalone install, but really, do you think anyone will be using it and debugging code without Visual Studio 2008? Not likely. This will definitely help the sales of Microsoft’s latest programming tools. Perhaps that’s why the framework is going open source.