On Candid Camera, with Microsoft’s Windows Phone

What do you make if it when Microsoft says it “loves open source” ? You realize you are on ‘Candid Camera’ !!

We love open source; We have worked with open source for a long time now” says Jean Paoli of Microsoft in a recent interview with Network World.

The mistake of equating all open source technology with Linux was “really very early on“, Paoli says. “That was really a long time ago“, he says. Further, he adds – “We understand our mistake“.

You realize one mistake and you dive head long into yet another by banning apps involving any open source licensing from its Windows Phone Marketplace.  Section 5.e of the Microsoft Application Provider Agreement reads as – The Application must not include software, documentation, or other materials that, in whole or in part, are governed by or subject to an Excluded License, or that would otherwise cause the Application to be subject to the terms of an Excluded License.

‘Excluded License’ incorporates the GPLv3, LGPLv3, Affero GPLv3 license and equivalents, or pretty much “any license that requires redistribution at no charge,” as open source evangelist Jan Wildeboer pointed out in February.

This clause will hamper Microsoft’s reputation with the free and open source developers. This ban means Windows phone platform will lose out on great apps like VLC, just like Apple did, with its parsimonious control over its Apps Store.

Apple and Microsoft do not have means to make source code for applications directly available. They also have a DRM lock which prevents the binary being passed onto another user, on all applications. Developers work around this handicap by making the software available under a dual license, GPL and proprietary.

Microsoft has not been an instant hit in the mobile arena, and hence has partnered with Nokia to achieve greater success. This might raise the product’s marketability, but the quality will be tested by its users, and that possibility seems grim now. Excluding open source applications cannot be seen as a smart move for Microsoft, especially when launching a new product.

Rather than being fastidious about what to include or not, it should focus on inclusivity and adjustment, so as to compete with the enormous success of the Android.  Interoperability among many technologies, which often involves integration with open source software, is what customers are demanding.

Microsoft has a “shared responsibility”, and not one single Head, of overseeing open source initiatives, which is a major reason for the setbacks. In an era when Microsoft is no longer the world’s most important tech company – that title, calculated by stock performance, is now held by Apple; Steve Ballmer can’t afford to ignore a market force as large as the one posed by open source.

Cross Posted from VT’s Tech Blog.

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Deeptaman Mukherjee

Deeptaman Mukherjee is one of those rare names in the Indian blogosphere, who pursues blogging as his hobby. In the 4 years of his blogging experience, he has worked with some of India's top blogs. He presently blogs at My Portable World and Tech Buzz Online. For any engagements or just to say a Hi, do get in touch with him at Twitter & Facebook. Know more about him, here.

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