Microsoft Shared Source Initiative Encourages Academic Innovation

REDMOND, Wash., March 27, 2002 — David Stutz believes Microsoft is providing the academic community with a software “erector set” similar to that of the popular computer language, developed in the 1970s, called C.

“With C# and the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) standards, we have produced a new standard that will be as important going forward as the C language was 30 years ago,” says Stutz, Microsoft’s group program manager for the Shared Source CLI. “It’s something that’s not just (Microsoft) Windows-specific. We think it will be extremely popular for developers.”

Microsoft, however, has gone beyond simple standardization of a programming language. The company has released more than 1 million lines of core .NET source code for academic research purposes under a shared source license, a licensing framework that provides researchers, partners, customers and outside developers with the chance to work directly with Microsoft source code. The Shared Source CLI is an implementation of the CLI for the FreeBSD flavor of the UNIX operating system, as well as Microsoft Windows XP.

Stutz says the C# and CLI standards are key technologies underlying the multilanguage Microsoft .NET Framework, the company’s platform for the development and deployment of XML Web services. C#, which is pronounced “C-sharp” and is derived from C and C++, provides the world’s first component-oriented language for C and C++ developers. The CLI, a subset of the .NET Framework, includes libraries and components that make it easier to build, deploy and run XML Web services.

Microsoft and a dozen other industry leaders submitted the CLI specification along with the C# programming language to ECMA (the organization was founded as the European Computer Manufacturers Association and is now known solely by its acronym), an international standards organization, in October 2000; ECMA ratified the specifications December 2001. The release of the source code to the Shared Source CLI implementation demonstrates Microsofts commitment to academia, research, standards and the Shared Source Initiative.

Health of Industry Ecosystem a Microsoft Priority

Jason Matusow, Microsoft’s Shared Source product manager, says Microsoft recognizes the critical role that academia is playing in the “software ecosystem, and is therefore making significant investments in it.”

Matusow says Microsoft’s approach comes, not surprisingly, from its position as a commercial software company. It believes that all organizations and individuals who study, develop and work with software interact within an ongoing cycle of sustained innovation known as the “software ecosystem.” The success of the information economy is due, in large part, to this essential cycle, in which the governmental, academic and commercial sectors have collaborated to advance technology.

As a commercial enterprise participating in the software ecosystem, Microsoft believes in sharing its source code without sacrificing its intellectual property rights, according to Matusow. The Shared Source Initiative supports an array of licenses and programs that make source code more broadly available to customers, partners, developers, researchers and other interested individuals.

The Shared Source CLI implementation also represents the evolution of Microsoft’s standards strategy for .NET, Stutz says, marking the company’s commitment to both the contribution and implementation phases of the standards process. As more organizations and industries make the transition to XML Web services, the Shared Source CLI implementation will make it easier for developers to experiment with programming languages, create inter-operable XML Web services and create implementations of the ECMA standards.

“Academia is the launch pad for the next generation of developers,” Stutz says. “More importantly, academia has a history of delivering breakthrough innovations thanks to pure research. With the Shared Source CLI, Microsoft’s hope is the next great innovation will be based on .NET technology.”

Matusow says additional Microsoft contributions to the academic community include Windows source licensing, which allows academic access to Windows source code and also allows non-commercial modification for academic and research purposes. Windows CE also has a Shared Source license, which gives all users, including academic users and enthusiasts, even greater access and the ability to modify and redistribute Windows CE source code for noncommercial use. The Windows CE Shared Source Academic Curriculum Program recently expanded these rights to enable academic institutions to include Windows CE source code in textbooks and courseware.

“Our goal is to provide the next generation of developers with the best development tools and a multilanguage framework for rapidly building XML Web services,” Stutz says. “Microsoft is constantly deepening its partnership with academia, and is committed to highlighting its increasingly central role in helping us deliver on our shared vision for the future of technology.”

Academia Delights in Shared Source Concept

The reasons for standardization are many, and they include spreading a new technology, vetting such a technology in an international community and facilitating migration of the next version of technology, says ECMA Secretary General Jan van den Beld.

“Typically, some of these reasons for standardization are emphasized and promoted by source sharing,” van den Beld says. “I believe that one could argue that a standard is intended as something that becomes public, and that source sharing is even taking this goal somewhat further by also making source public.”

Members of the academic community are particularly interested in source-sharing because they are critical, sophisticated users of technology, according to van den Beld. They are also a natural source for distributing and teaching a new technology — without being suspect for having strong commercial reasons, van den Beld says.

Says Microsoft’s Stutz, “By allowing people in the academic community to freely access these tools, they will be able to make changes that can push the technology forward and allow innovation to happen. Essentially, we’re willing to invest the amount of what we’ve put into developing this code, in the community as a whole. We believe very strongly that academia gets technology it can use, a so-called ‘erector set’ upon which next-generation developers can create great things.”

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