False alarm: Microsoft says is not open sourcing the Kinect software development kit

On the heels of a credible report that Microsoft was planning to open source the coming Kinect SDK, Microsoft officials are denying that's the case.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

When Joshua Blake tweeted to me on April 18 that Microsoft was planning to open source the coming Kinect software development kit (SDK), I sat up and took notice.

Blake is the OpenKinect Community founder, a Microsoft Surface Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and Technical Director of the InfoStrat Advanced Technology Group.

Blake blogged about his encounter at the Microsoft Mix '11 conference last week with Kristin Tolle, Director of the Microsoft Research Natural User Interface team. During a Q&A after a session on Day 3 at Mix, Blake reported that Tolle said (twice) that Microsoft planned to open-source the Kinect SDK -- the non-commercial version of which is due out in beta form "this spring."

It wasn't clear whether Tolle meant all of the Kinect SDK, or just parts of it. There also was no word as to which open-source license Microsoft might use.

However, it turns out Microsoft isn't open-sourcing the Kinect SDK, after all -- at least according to what Microsoft officials told me this afternoon. There was no explanation for Tolle's reported comments. I received this statement from a spokesperson for the Kinect SDK team:

"Kinect for Windows SDK will not be made available as open source.  We are not releasing any source of the SDK, the SDK is in binary. The intent is to allow use of the SDK only to facilitate non-commercial experimentation with the Kinect functionality."

In an exchange between us on Twitter, Blake speculated as to how Microsoft might distinguish between open source and binary.

In spite of Tolle's reported remarks, I'm seriously doubtful, after receiving the answer from the Microsoft spokesperson I quoted above, that Microsoft intends to make any components of the SDK available as open source.

However, if history is any indication, you can never say never with the Kinect. After initially hinting Microsoft planned to prosecute those hacking the Kinect sensor to work with other platforms and devices -- Microsoft execs changed their tune, welcoming those who wanted to experiment with the Kinect platform. Earlier this year, Microsoft execs said they planned to deliver not one, but two Kinect SDKs for Windows: One for hobbyists/academics/noncommercial usage, and another for commercial use.

It's also worth noting that Microsoft has been turning many of its open-source projects and technologies to the Outercurve Foundation in the past year-plus, rather than keeping them in-house.

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