This open source foundation brought to you by ... Microsoft?!
That's correct - Microsoft has launched the CodePlex Foundation, with the aim of encouraging commercial software vendors to participate in open source software development, reports Ars Technica.
Ars wonders if the timing of this support for commercial investment in open source is entirely coincidental. After all, it comes hard on the heels of the news that the Open Invention Network is buying up 22 Linux-related Microsoft patents that had been sold to a consortium including HP and Cisco.
Not much evidence of that, though. Ars' Ryan Paul finds the founding documents evince a typically neutral open source foundation, designed to operate as a licensing clearinghouse.
A look at the CodePlex Foundation's documents indicates that it will function a lot like conventional open source foundations. Participants sign a contributor agreement through which they assign copyright to the organization. They also grant perpetual royalty-free patent licenses to all recipients of the code, including downstream redistributors. The language in the patent grant section is very similar to the language used in other open source foundation contributor agreements, such as the Apache Foundation's Individual Contributor License Agreement. This means that any code that is contributed through the foundation is free of the patent concerns that some critics have raised regarding adoption of Microsoft's technologies.
It's certainly a creation of Microsoft. The interim board consists of Redmond employees and Miguel de Icaza of the Mono project. The effort is led by Microsoft's Sam Ramji, an in-house open source evangelist who sees open source as broader than Linux. Ramji thinks Microsoft can support open source projects that support its products while competing with Linux.
"We wanted a foundation that addresses a full spectrum of software projects, and does so with the licensing and intellectual property needs of commercial software companies in mind."
Duckett sees failure here:
The About page states that companies will contribute code, not patents, and that is what I think will stop the existing open-source community from going anywhere near the CodePlex Foundation. I can't see any patent-encumbered CodePlex project being accepted into, or contributing code into, any large existing open-source project while still having the patent specter looming overhead--it's something that the open-source community has tried to avoid whenever possible.