OSBC2004: Jason Matusow on Shared Source at Microsoft


Jason Matusow, Microsoft's manager of its shared source initiative, is speaking on shared software (his term) and Microsoft. He breaks the topic into "community," "competition," "functionality," and "intellectual property." There's commercial and non-commercial software and open source software fits into both camps

Companies have business goals and when those goals can be met with open source projects, open source projects will be applied. He cites Eclipse as an example. IBM gave it away to reduce expenses and gain mind share for a Websphere development environment. He notes that and eclipse is a total blocking out of the Sun.

How can Microsoft learn from OSS? The strategic bet Microsoft has made has been around innovation in integrated solutions. This has served Microsoft well. There is a cost to modularity. Modularity leads to flexibility, but that drives integration cost to some other part of the equation. He disclaims the nefarious intent of commercial software companies to get "customer lock-in."

The benefit of source code transparency to a business is not necessarily technical for most businesses. Fewer than 5% of them ever look at the code. The benefit is one of trust.

He defines a spectrum of Microsoft's openness. Windows will be closed with only specific grants to certain organizations to see the code. ASP.NET, Windows CE, Visual Studio.net, .NET and others will have derivative rights. Microsoft research will provide works to the public domain. Eleven of fourteen Microsoft programs provide derivative rights. He gives several examples of Microsoft sharing source code with companies, individuals, and universities.

In the end, the talk is mostly what we've heard from Microsoft before: We're not evil. We're playing ball with people. We think open source has some value. But we're not going to eviscerate our business. One can hardly blame them for that.