At OSCON this past week I was encouraged by the response to this piece. Quite a few people stopped me to talk about it, and overall the conversations were excellent.
I’d like to address some of the points brought up in the comments to this article.
The companies I mention have all reinvested significant portions of their revenues into ongoing software R&D. In 2000, there were approximately 150,000 software companies in the U.S. alone. If you were to aggregate the R&D investment and resulting technologies coming from commercial software companies over the past 15 years, you would find the bulk of software innovation has come from commercially funded sources.
In general, "groundbreaking" innovations are few and far between compared to the incremental innovations. That does not discount the quality or importance of the smaller pieces of work. All of the commercial vendors I mentioned have produced significant innovations in software, be they databases, kernel designs, graphics engines, protocols, directory services, applications, etc.
Learning from open source:
Not surprisingly, Craig and I have had similar comments regarding Microsoft learning from the open source community. In Craig’s NYU and OSCON ’01 speeches he said we are learning from open source and then listed several proposed efforts. At OSCON ’02 I said that we are learning from open source and here are the programs that we have delivered over the past year. Promises kept.
Microsoft is now sharing the source code to Windows 2000, XP and .NET Server – all versions, all service packs, all betas. This is the single largest (and, arguably, most valuable) quantity of source code ever shared by a commercial entity. As noted in the article, it is not open source, it is shared source. We are also sharing 45% of the Windows CE.NET OS and the Rotor implementation (C#/CLI) under a non-commercial derivative license (modification and redistribution allowed). More than 90,000 developers have pulled down the CE code and more than 35,000 have pulled the Rotor code.
We are looking now to expand the shared source programs into the application space and at the possibility of releasing code under a full commercial derivative license. It’s going to be a busy year and we welcome your comments and feedback along the way.