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Microsoft sets up open-source foundation

The CodePlex Foundation, backed by $1 million from Redmond, aims to bridge the gap between the open-source and commercial worlds.

Microsoft has created the nonprofit CodePlex Foundation to target increased communication between open-source communities and software companies.

Citing an under-representation of commercial software companies and their employees in open source, the CodePlex Foundation aims to work with particular projects to bridge the gap between the open-source and commercial worlds.

The Redmond giant has contributed $1 million to the foundation and has filled out its board and advisory panel with many Microsoft staffers, including Sam Ramji, who is leaving Microsoft as its open-source point man but is also becoming CodePlex Foundation's interim president.

Unlike other open-source foundations, such as the Mozilla Foundation and GNOME Foundation, the foundation said on its Web site that it intends to address the full spectrum of software projects.

This is an unexpected and interesting move from Redmond. Don't think that this is completely like other open-source foundations that you may be used to, though.

Take this line from the Codeplex Foundation FAQ: "We wanted a foundation that addresses a full spectrum of software projects, and does so with the licensing and intellectual property needs of commercial software companies in mind."

Add to this that the About page states that companies will contribute code, not patents, and that is what I think will stop the existing open-source community from going anywhere near the CodePlex Foundation.

I can't see any patent-encumbered CodePlex project being accepted into, or contributing code into, any large existing open-source project while still having the patent specter looming overhead--it's something that the open-source community has tried to avoid whenever possible.

But this is probably not that audience that the foundation is aiming for--it's more likely to target purely Microsoft companies/developers and attempt to get them to open up a little. Allowing these companies to keep their patents will make it easier for them to engage in the Microsoft ecosystem but not in the wider open source world.

Chris Duckett of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.