CodePlex: Microsoft's last chance at opening up

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CodePlex: Microsoft's last chance at opening up

Open source community sceptical over vendor's open source aims.

Australian open source proponents aren't convinced of Microsoft's attempt to understand the open source market, via a US$1 million cash injection into its CodePlex Foundation.

David Elson managing director of Sydney-based Linux store Babel Com said CodePlex has been operating for three years. The collaborative tool allowed multiple developers in different locations to share development across a project, he said.

"Injecting funds into CodePlex doesn't actually assist the open source community," said Elson. "The open source community already [has] a similar collaboration tool, known as "SourceForge" which has been operating for some time before CodePlex came into existence."

He claimed CodePlex has a relatively poor reputation with both developers and users.

"[There's] comments on the forums such as "most of the projects on CodePlex are barren wastelands with no new code drops, forum threads, or bug entries" and complaints that the bug tracker rarely sees bugs in a project addressed unless a user can find a Microsoft staffer who's a member of the project," said Elson.

He believed Microsoft's injection of funds into CodePlex was an attempt to bring more developers into the vendor's community, and encourage development on collaborative projects using ASP.NET and other technologies. 

"I'm not sure that this sort of funding is going to be nearly enough," Elson said.  "[Microsoft] just doesn't have the history of encouraging collaborative open source development the way the community does and I'm not convinced that they see it as in their best business interests to do so." 

Con Zymaris, CEO of long-running Linux firm Cybersource said the open source community welcomed all genuine attempts at interoperability with other sectors of the IT industry.

He believed that as a major industry player, Microsoft - "through industry rather than its own" - can benefit all the community.

"All open source software is also commercial software," said Zymaris. "Microsoft should not imply that it has formulated some new method of marrying open source software with commercial interests."

Zymaris claimed the software vendor has finally acknowledged what the "geeks have known" for decades.

However it placed Microsoft in the "unenviable position" of being last to the "technology party".

"The open source community will watch Microsoft's future moves in the open source space with its proverbial eagle-eye," he said. "We want to ensure, [it] isn't using this new strategy as yet another mechanism to attack the industry."

However Lee Curtis, former IT consultant and open source supporter said it was too easy to be cynical over Microsoft's open source efforts.

He said the software giant had a long way to go to prove its "sincerity and value" to the market because it has repeatedly damaged itself in trying to discredit open source software with "immature and ill-conceived fear mongering".

"This move [CodePlex] is another nail in that [fear mongering] coffin," said Lee. "It makes it very difficult for them to return to the days of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Instead, they must compete on their merits."

Lee believed Microsoft "no longer had a monopoly - real or virtual" because technology like cloud computing, mobile platforms, netbooks and the web meant vendors and customers could pick and choose between a proprietary or open platform.

 "The latest crops of developers have cut their teeth on open web standards and open source," he said. "If Microsoft can't win over these new developers then it will not enter the next decade as a leader but as a legacy platform [whose] relevance is archaic and historic." 

Lee claimed embracing open source was the vendor's "last big chance to stay relevant" and only "time will tell if they are too late to the party".

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