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Will Microsoft stay involved?

There's also the following interesting reply to the self-posed question: “Will Microsoft Stay Involved?”

Let's deal with this question directly. It is not unheard of for corporations to open source technology while they walk away from it. This is not the case with .NET Gadgeteer. Just as we continue to make investments in the underlying .NET Micro Framework platform, we are planning continued support and investment in .NET Gadgeteer. In fact, we plan to be very proactive in helping partners get their products to market in the shortest time possible. In addition, we are extending the web site to support .NET Gadgeteer and to assist our partners in promoting their products to the user community. We plan to do what we can to develop an active ecosystem for .NET Gadgeteer where a number of companies are making compatible kits and modules for a variety of markets.

I think this shows a growing awareness on the part of Microsoft about what openness really means. It implies continuing engagement with the community that forms around a project, and nurturing a broader ecosystem. It indicates that at least some at Microsoft are beginning to understand and explore these deeper aspects of openness.

Microsoft probably felt happy with taking this approach because, for all its evident virtues – not least that of being fun – .NET Gadgeteer is a minor project. As such, it does not represent a massively visible U-turn on the company's part. So the question is: what should be Microsoft's next step towards the nirvana of openness?

Again, I think hardware is the key. But for its next open project, Microsoft must pick something rather more substantial – like Kinect.

This has a number of advantages. As hardware, it is not seen as one of Microsoft's core products, even though, ironically, it could well turn out to be one of its most important for the future. It's used by a sector that doesn't really care about licensing issues, and so won't take much notice if Microsoft starts shifting towards openness. And finally, there is already a flourishing OpenKinect project that Microsoft can work with:

OpenKinect is an open community of people interested in making use of the amazing Xbox Kinect hardware with our PCs and other devices. We are working on free, open source libraries that will enable the Kinect to be used with Windows, Linux, and Mac.

The OpenKinect community consists of over 2000 members contributing their time and code to the Project. Our members have joined this Project with the mission of creating the best possible suite of applications for the Kinect. OpenKinect is a true "open source" community!

Our primary focus is currently the libfreenect software. Code contributed to OpenKinect where possible is made available under an Apache20 or optional GPL2 license.

Although it might seem a forlorn hope that Microsoft would start working with this group officially, the history of the project suggests an evolving attitude that might well make that possible.

Next: Kinecting with community

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