Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

Summary: Microsoft officials say they are considering modifying the Windows Phone Application Provider Agreement to add more open-source licenses "in upcoming revisions."

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As headlines rolled by over the past couple of days claiming Microsoft was banning free and open-source applications from its Windows Phone Marketplace, I sat back and waited.

I was waiting to see what Microsoft officials would say, if anything, about the terms and conditions detailed in its Application Provider Agreement for the phone Marketplace. According to that document, brought to light this week by a Red Hat evangelist, apps licensed under the GNU GPLv 3, GNU Affero General Public License version 3, the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3, and "any equivalents to the foregoing" are banned from the Windows Phone Marketplace. (Apple also has banned GPL'd software from its own App Store.)

How could Microsoft officials -- at least some of whom are attempting to court the open-source development community -- reconcile this ban with Redmond's supposedly more open-source-friendly stance?

At the very end of the day on February 17, I finally got an answer from the Softies. A spokesperson noted that some open-source-licensed apps are allowed in the Windows Phone Marketplace today. And there may be hope that the pool of supported licenses will grow -- if there's enough developer and customer push-back.

From the spokesperson:

“The Windows Phone Marketplace supports several open source licenses, including BSD, MIT, Apache Software License 2.0, MS-PL and other similar permissive licenses. We revise our Application Provider Agreement from time to time based on customer and developer feedback, and we are exploring the possibility of modifying it to accommodate additional open source-based applications in upcoming revisions.”

So there you have it. If you want Microsoft to include more open-source-licensed apps on Windows Phone, now's the time to make it known....I've asked Microsoft execs where and how developers should make sure their feedback on this issue is seen. If/when I get an answer, I'll add it here.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Mobility, Open Source, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

    I bet they will still keep the GPL code banned for legal reasons. Also they don't want to be the distributor of source code for those projects. The funny part about this is that no one cared until the Red Hat guy showed up and mentioned it. The policy was in place since September.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Microsoft wants to lock you into its Windows Phone 7 Walled-Garden

      This is not for legal reasons. This is Microsoft locking you into its restricted Walled-Garden phone platform.

      It is madness that Microsoft bans free open-source GPL software from its Windows Phones.

      Who would be crazy enough to buy a Windows Phone with this kind of restriction? Who wants to be restricted?

      This is in contrast to Android, which is itself open-source software. Android has the Firefox web browser, which is open-source, and would be banned on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.
      Vbitrate
      • I agree

        I will refuse to buy a phone on the basis of not being able to download Firefox. *eyeroll*
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        @zndac
        There are other browsers on the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace (not Firefox though), so it's not about lock-in into MS otherwise they would be blocking those too.
        It's obviously about some of the requirements the GPL license has, otherwise they wouldn't allow ANY open source software.
        In any case, this IS NOT AN ISSUE, it never was until that blog post came out. Indie developers for the millions have been using other open source libraries in the XBOX and Windows Phone 7 marketplace without issues for years. Let's not make it a Microsoft wants to kill open source crusade.
        raul.vejar@...
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        @zndac "It is madness that Microsoft bans free open-source GPL software from its Windows Phones"

        GPL is only one OS licence. There are Apache and BSD, that are allowed in the Marketplace. How is this Microsoft banning free open-source? Apache and BSD licences are far superior in terms of actual open-sourcing value - they are non-strict, they demand practically nothing, and they are short.
        OxBAADFOOD
      • Better than a weed field trying to take over.

        @zndac<br><br>Actually it is the GPLv3 they are banning for good reason. According to the GPLv3 you cannot distribute patented code with it or copyright code or closed source that you don't plan to open up. It then becomes licensed under GPLv3. This opens up a serious can of worms. Since the code is under a different copyright scheme to begin with, the developer will be sued. Microsoft is not going to indemnify irresponsible developers so GPLv3 which is mandatory opening up of code including all code associated with it, will be banned. At least GPLv2 doesn't make opening up of code associated with it in the distro mandatory.<br><br>Kudos for MS for making this policy.
        osreinstall
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        @zndac

        All GPL software that could end up in Wp7 is by definition Mono based, because Wp7 is .NET only and doesn't allow native code whatsoever. So this is all non-issue for true FOSS software. Mono apps are encumbered anyways.
        gnufreex
      • Who wants to be restricted? Seriously...

        @zndac
        I seriously doubt most people buying and using phones even have the vaguest clue about what GPL v3 is - let alone give a flying fig about it. They probably think it's some sort of GPS or something.

        The ultimate proof of the falacy of your statement is in the pudding - exactly how many [b]MILLIONS[/b] of iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads have sold in the past 4 years...? If anything, iOS is just as, if not [b]more[/b] restrictive than the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem.
        Wolfie2K3
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        @zndac Who would be crazy enough to buy a windows phone? Me, that's who. And I like it too. Seriously, from a user perspective, it does not matter the least bit what license the app they are using is under.
        black_bart
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

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        Karston1234
    • No Java for you.....

      @Loverock Davidson

      Since Sun released Java as GPL in 2007, Microsoft has just banned Java from their phones!

      Very smart move Microsoft!
      linux for me
    • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

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  • Remember when Apple allowed VLC onto their App Store

    They had to remove it fast because of whining, iirc.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • Exactly. This restriction against anti-free opensource licenses hasnt hurt

      apples appstore any. Dont expect it to hurt anyone elses either...
      Johnny Vegas
      • I was referring more to the fact that....

        There seems to be something wrong with putting GPL licensed products in. It isn't worth the drama.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

      @goff256
      Thing is, in a copylefted project, there are numerous copyright owners, from a technical POV. Unless you file copyright papers for large contributions [ see for example http://www.gnu.org/software/libc/ ], you're not allowed to make them for FSF projects.

      Literally, any contributor would have the rights to sue on GPL basis.

      It's then propagated as 'free and open-source'. Sorry, but if I have to file papers and am strictly restrained on what I can do with the software, then I'm not seeing why this is 'the' freedom. Also, compare BSD licenses and the GPL by their lenght only. The GPL is multiple pages long with complicated and sometimes vaguely formulated restrictions; BSD licenses are typically printable on a quarter page. Apache 2.0 is a little longer due to having clearly regulated trademark terms and a patent grant, but not much. Ms-PL is also darn short. Only the GPL has to describe all kinds of possible freedom taking scenarios where what the heck could happen.
      ChrisTX4
      • So, really

        GPL is not a good license?
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        @ChrisTX4 Most of the real IT world has known the GPL was trouble for a very long time. The OSS crowd acts so SHOCKED by this requirement. Oh yea, I bet you're shocked! Why are people trying to re-litigate the GPL question? Very few in the IT world really care, and certainly very few in the Microsoft developer ecosystem. Nobody cares except the OSS religious zealots who would never write an app for WP7 anyway, so this whole discussion is pointless.
        Tiggster
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        @Tiggster I agree, also most .NET open-source software is Ms-PL or Apache licensed.
        Only is it amusing how the 'openness' of Android is so much endorsed by the exact same zealots even ignoring that anything that relates to Google in Android - so real core parts - are closed-source. Got the Android Market code anywhere around? Though so.

        I mean, look at iOS, it's totally dying because GNU Go and VLC aren't available.

        @goff256 Indeed, I would say that. When a 'free' license doesn't allow me linking over half of the OSI-approved licenses because they're not free enough or whatever, then that's really just retarded.
        ChrisTX4
      • RE: Microsoft mulls changing Windows Phone Marketplace terms to add more open-source licenses

        Tiggster,
        Discussion is pointless yet you speak. Your sound biased when Open Source development is talked about.
        Choice is the best thing going these days.
        choyongpil