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Video Microsoft's Olivier Bloch Explains Microsoft Open Source (Video) 101

Most of us don't think of Microsoft when our thoughts turn to open source. This is probably because the company's main products, Windows and Office, are so far from open that just thinking about them probably violates their user agreement.. But wait! says Olivier Bloch, Senior Technical Evangelist at Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc., we have lots and lots of open source around here. Look at this. And this and this and even this. Lots of open source. Better yet, Olivier works for Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc., not directly for the big bad parent company. Watch the video or read the transcript, and maybe you'll figure out where Microsoft is going with their happy talk about open source. (Alternate Video Link)

Timothy Lord: So Olivier, a lot of people certainly do not associate Microsoft with open source very much, particularly at OSCON, and you’re an open source evangelist.

Olivier Bloch: I’m...

Tim: How does that work?

Olivier: I work for Microsoft Open Technologies, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Microsoft, working and bridging the Microsoft world and non-Microsoft world, working with open source communities and open standards. So it’s all about finding the right standards, making open source software run on Windows, run on the Microsoft Azure Cloud. And it’s also about making sure that when there is IP, there’s something that Microsoft could be open source, that we work on that and open source these technologies.

Tim: What are some examples of things from Microsoft that have been open sourced?

Olivier: A great example actually is WinJS. WinJS is JavaScript Library for Windows, that’s been designed for Windows apps to be developed with JavaScript. It provides graphical UI controls. It also provides data binding and other functionalities, that are proper to Windows in the beginning, but it happens to be that this technology can be used today because it’s open source on browsers for websites that can also be combined with Apache Cordova to make cross platform mobile applications using WinJS. That’s one of the examples of the big technology that is part of the core of the Windows app platform that’s been open sourced, so that it could go across platforms and help developer who use the exact same code and their own skills across the various existing platforms out there and we’re learning a lot and the objective is to actually accept contributions in that project and at the end of day these contributions will make it into the next version of Windows because that’s the same project that goes internally and externally, that’s the idea of that open sourcing of WinJS.

Tim: How do you keep things like licenses, open source licenses often they play certain restrictions on what you can redistribute, how do you reconcile things like closed source and open source and one eventual software package?

Olivier: Yeah. I think there’s from that perspective not being a lawyer, my perspective as a developer regarding that. The licenses are you know stating what the conditions are for using the code or whatever and so each time we look into them and say we can, we can’t or we want to know what, so it depends, so each time actually I don’t think there is a “a” license for open source, that’s my personal perspective. Each of them have their you know own perspective and own goals. At Microsoft Open Technologies being a wholly-owned subsidiary, we have that flexibility of being able to look into more things and interact with open source community. That doesn’t mean that Microsoft product groups cannot do the same thing, they can and actually they’re doing that. They are really looking into, hey, should we contribute to that open source project, will that help developers know developing for Windows. And if that’s the case, they go through the legal process of looking into the licenses. If that works for that specific group, for that specific project, then they go for it and you know that’s pretty about looking into licenses what they say and what they can and cannot do with that.

Tim: Do you find there’s a whole new culture that it takes within Microsoft to integrate open source?

Olivier: I think overall the culture is definitely evolving and following what the actual real reward is about and openness is one of the reality of the business today and it’s not just about using open source actually. I like what I like is the fact that we’re moving towards a place where we are also as Microsoft and as Microsoft Open Technologies looking into what are the right ways to open source that IP, that technology, to make sure that developers can build the apps they want to build and we’re still not in a position where we deliver the right tools, the right technologies to have great apps at the end of the day and if that’s about open sourcing some technologies like WinJS, let’s do it. That’s what’s the best for developers. Well, let’s go through that and let’s do it. Is that a radical change at Microsoft, I think it’s a progressive change, it’s happening, it’s like you know that’s what the industry is about today, so.

Tim: How about licenses, are they licenses that you favor, if you’re encouraging someone within Microsoft to perhaps to work on an open source project, otherwise you would encourage as the ones that most bridge the gap between the current and the potential?

Olivier: As I mentioned earlier, I think there is no one license that actually could fit all needs and as a matter of fact that we each time look into what is the right choice, because that specific communities using a specific license are just like, okay, why ask them to change that work for us, let’s contribute using that license. When it comes to open sourcing Microsoft code, we have different examples of different licenses used. The Apache v2 one seems to be one that is actually one working really well for us but there are other examples where we were leasing under different licenses and whether they are the Microsoft PL1 or the MIT or whatever, I think it’s all about really working with the community and it’s not about changing people’s habits, it’s about really finding what really works and what you see adequate and a license in that particular case for this particular community.

Tim: One last question, how pervasive is open source development now within the Microsoft culture?

Olivier: As of today I can’t say because it’s something that is like going on right now and what I realize, what I see that as the Microsoft Open Technology, as being part of the Microsoft Open Technology group, we are standing for excellence when it comes to open sourcing, when it comes to using open source and so of course when it comes to engaging with the communities and we are getting a lot of asks internally from various product groups, various developer teams, they’re asking us, okay guys, so how do we do that, what’s going on, what do we need to be careful about, what can we do, what can’t we do, so it has been something where there has been a process for long time at Microsoft to do open source and to utilize open source. I think it’s getting simpler, it’s getting also clearer because we are in the culture of developing in general and our developers they are coming from various domains, various areas and they are coming with their experiences, their desire to use things they have been using somewhere else. And so, yeah the culture is shifting and I see that’s in that contact from the product teams into MS Open Tech asking us about our consultancy related to open source.

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Microsoft's Olivier Bloch Explains Microsoft Open Source (Video)

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