Adrian Bridgwater
Nov 16, 2016

When will Microsoft run out of open source and open computing platform news announcements? We might attempt to answer to the question in one of two ways i.e. in either a downbeat or more upbeat fashion.

We might suggest a) not for a while, it’ll take ages to shrug of the firm’s restrictively closed and proprietary leg shackles of old, or b) not for a while, the firm is still expanding the scope of what it seeks to achieve in open computing and the breath of truly open platforms is immense.

Technology partnership announcements are endless, daily and arguably usually somewhat tiresome at best, so is Microsoft’s latest news enough to perk us up? The firm is joining the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member with the aim of working better with open source community developers. The firm has already worked on various Linux projects for a handful of years but confirms that it has never been a card carrying Foundation member, until now.

Of parallel interest here, the firm is welcoming Google to the independent .NET Foundation (a group Microsoft itself created) and says it is also working with Samsung to enable .NET developers to build apps for the more than 50 million Samsung devices that exist around worldwide.

To give you an idea of Microsoft’s Speed-To-Openness Rating (let’s call it MSFT S2O-R), the .NET software development framework was forged in 2002. Then in March 2014, the .NET Foundation was formed as an independent body to encourage open source development into and out of Microsoft. Now in 2016, we see Google welcomed to the fold.

The firms are not strangers to quite bitter retaliatory legal battles between themselves (Google blocked a Microsoft-developed YouTube style video playing application designed to run on the Windows Phone – and the pair have been locked in Android patent disagreements in the past), but the both companies this April 2016 agreed to end all regulatory battles and focus on healthy competition and cooperation.

It’s more upside then downside isn’t it? Microsoft is moving on, but things were a little sticky in the past. Can we forgive and forget at all levels?

Microsoft cloud and enterprise executive vice president Scott Guthrie insists that it’s all about Microsoft trying to strengthen the ecosystem by giving developers greater choice in the tools they use. Nice corporate platitude, but is there substance?

Visual Studio for Mac

Well we have just seen a preview of what has been product named ‘Visual Studio for Mac’. This is promised to enable developers to write macOS apps on Apple’s Mac operating system using Microsoft’s ‘latest version’ of its development environment.

"By way of clarification as Peter Bright points on out ArsTechnica, this is not quite Visual Studio for Mac in the purist sense… (but actually, it doesn’t matter that much). “Instead, this is the latest iteration of Xamarin Studio, the cross-platform C# development environment that Microsoft inherited when it bought Xamarin, developers of cross-platform .NET-based mobile development tool last year,” writes Bright.]

But is there no need to be too down on the upside here? Should we be positive?

Yes okay, this is not quite fully blown Windows Visual Studio for Windows, which remains a more expansive product, for now. But from a more upbeat view, Xamarin (prior to acquisition as we have detailed here on Forbes) with founder Miguel de Icaza had been working hard to align more closely with the .NET platform anyway. Plus, as Bright points out, elements of Xamarin that the Xamarin team had been building to try and provide the same functionality that Microsoft could offer can now be dropped anyway in favour of Microsoft ‘genuine parts’ such as compiler and build tools.

One could go downside and say this is not quite the full deal. One could equally say that no, this is a Xamarin open pedigree enriched Visual Studio for Mac product that has a higher degree of open DNA and some core Microsoft functions – and that this makes it an open hybrid progression, or at least a product that has the potential to grow possibly faster now.

More Linux, from Microsoft

The firm has also previewed the next version of the its own flagship SQL Server database with support for Linux, Linux based Docker containers and Windows based environments, and a preview of Azure App Service support for containers.

We want to help developers achieve more and capitalize on the industry’s shift toward cloud-first and mobile-first experiences using the tools and platforms of their choice,” said Guthrie. “By collaborating with the community to provide open, flexible and intelligent tools and cloud services, we’re helping every developer deliver unprecedented levels of innovation.”

Executive director at the Linux Foundation Jim Zemlin is upbeat enough and says that Microsoft has been a key contributor to many projects and he sees the company intensifying its involvement and commitment to open development.

Microsoft has also pointed us to Samsung releasing a preview of its Visual Studio Tools for Tizen. Developers can use them to build .NET apps for the Tizen operating system that runs on Samsung devices, including TVs, wearables mobile and many IoT devices around the world.

Microsoft’s road ahead, for developers

In total then, Microsoft clearly and very obviously (and by its own open admission) wants to be seen as the company that provide software creation tools for any developer for use on and deployment on any platform.

Microsoft’s strategy now rests on these five pillars:

  • Visual Studio family
  • SQL Server
  • Windows
  • Office
  • Azure


Given the chance, we might see the company add Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Microsoft Cognitive Services as a sixth pillar, but no — in fact that’s not quite how it works, because a machine learning injection element is to be found in all of those product groups.

Microsoft is working to provide the most complete platform for application innovation, spanning mobile and cloud,” claims the firm."

Our next generation of software has to provide applications that are extremely personal, intelligent (in everything from location awareness to service connectivity) and predictive with AI inside.

So is Microsoft doing everything right? No, how could it? There are plenty of ‘flaky’ elements here (as the downbeat angles suggest) as the company still gets its house in order to serve a new and more open cloud computing driven world of IT.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adrianbr...et-foundation/