Microsoft is turning the source code for its embedded .Net Micro Framework over to the community and slowly withdrawing from that business, company officials are confirming.
(Update on May 7: Microsoft disagrees with my characterization of this move as "withdrawing from the business." But I'm standing by what I said, while making it clear company officials didn't say they are withdrawing. To me, if you cut a bunch of a team and turn your source code over to external parties, you are not signaling that you're continuing to stand firmly behind a product.
A spokesperson sent me this additional statement today: "The team views the new business model as an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of the .NET Micro Framework technology. Microsoft's objective is to create a uniform programming model and tool chain that spans software development from very small devices to the most sophisticated servers.")
On the rumored list of teams most heavily impacted by second wave of Microsoft layoffs announced on May 5 was the .Net Micro Framework team -- as well as the related MSN Direct unit. Indeed, both groups were affected, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed on May 6.
The .Net Micro Framework is one of a number of embedded platforms Microsoft has licensed to third parties and made available to teams inside the company. Others include Windows CE and Windows XPe. The .Net Micro Framework was at the heart of the Microsoft SPOT watches, some newfangled coffee makers and other consumer devices. (MSN Direct, a wireless information service, provided real-time updates to those watches, and, more recently GPS systems and Windows Mobile devices.) The .Net Micro Framework was aimed primarily at very small, low-power devices that couldn't accommodate the .Net Compact Framework or another operating environment.
Here's what's happening with the .Net Micro Framework, post yesterday's layoff announcement, according to a company spokesperson:
"On the .NET Micro Framework, there will be changes to the business model.
1) Microsoft will eliminate the royalties from the distribution of the .NET Micro Framework product and make the porting kit available at no cost.
2) Microsoft also intends to give customers and the community access to the source code.
"They will continue to support existing customers according to any agreements that they have in place with them, and will honor their lifecycle support pledge at http://support.microsoft.com/?pr=lifecycle. Forums continue to be available at MSDN. After moving to the community model, new customers will be supported by the community.
"As part of this change in business model, some members of the team were impacted by yesterday's job eliminations. The existing group will move to the .NET Framework team.
"While the MSN Direct group was impacted by yesterday's job eliminations, they will continue to maintain the current MSN Direct service and invest in developing a low cost receiver for multiple devices. Customers will continue to receive support as it is available today."
An interesting side note, re: the .Net Micro Framework. Among the list of processors supported by that platform are the very low power ARM7 and ARM9. There have been questions lately as to when and whether -- and how -- Microsoft is planning to support the ARM processor family, given that ARM chips are showing up in some netbooks. Microsoft has declined to comment on its Windows ARM-support plans.