Microsoft is releasing the source code of the .NET framework class libraries! An obligatory pause for the sound of thunder seems appropriate but then again it is not particularly ground breaking enough to warrant a Zeus like reaction. Don’t get me wrong, this is important and useful and of course itself but I am thinking along the lines of the announcement being about Microsoft open sourcing the .NET code base: which she is not doing, at least not at this point in time. Could this be some baby steps towards open sourcing the code? I don’t know but I can’t fully judge what future Microsoft moves with regard to open source could look like; for now, it is not prudent to dismiss the idea of Microsoft open sourcing itself platform.
A perfunctory comparison with Java can’t go unmentioned; it will serve well to remember that Java, for a long time did distribute source code along with its download and that of course wasn’t open source in the same manner in which it current is. Look at such a history from the Java camp, could Microsoft be facing some pressure to open source the .NET platform but allowing read only access to its code would at least quell some of the calls for a move to open source. Like I mentioned earlier, the fact that the source code is available along with the binary, makes it much easier to debug .NET code without resorting to tricks. However, it is not like they realized that such a use for the source code is pressing enough to prompt a source code release.
Of course services are increasingly becoming more important as time passes and this is an area into which Microsoft is moving, currently playing catch up to the likes of Google and Apple. However, Microsoft’s tools and platforms are still important to its foray into service driven business model. Of late there has been an increased assault on one of Microsoft’s crown jewels: Microsoft Office. Announcements from IBM, Google and Zoho makes for an interesting line of challengers. Adobe seems to be making a play for the hosted tools market. I am in way suggesting that Microsoft is not going to be here tomorrow but judging by the interest and perspective that these new announcements are taking, Microsoft needs to defend their turf or find themselves with a product that is increasingly tethered to the desktop/laptop in an increasingly mobile-device centric.
In the long, open sourcing the .NET framework class library would be a good move so that Microsoft can leverage the community, over and beyond testing products and providing feedback about changes and features that need to be considered. It would also mean that much of the focus of the company would be at providing its services. It just occurred to me that that is easier said than done: Microsoft is huge! Oh, and how many of the new start ups are building their wares on Microsoft .NET framework? Facebook runs open source on her infrastructure and so do many other start ups.