In the past, Microsoft’s relationship with the open-source community had been on murky waters, but another recent announcement by the company shows that it is dedicated to changing that perception. In 2018, Microsoft released more than 60,000 patents into the Open Invention Network, a group that is designed to protect Linux from any possible patent lawsuits. Now, the source code to Windows Calculator is also making its way into the hands of interested individuals.
On GitHub, Microsoft made the complete code of its Windows Calculator program available to the community. While the decision may at first seem only beneficial to developers who wish to utilize the code with their work, Microsoft hopes to see new features or ideas emerge from the move as developers create and experiment with it. The Windows Calculator isn’t the only Microsoft program to find its way into the open-source community either — also in 2018, the company made their Windows 3.0 File Manager code available. Additionally, as developers play with Microsoft’s Windows Calculator code, they may discover bugs or other design flaws that can then be reported to the company and fixed.
However, the overall importance and change in Microsoft’s actions is the real news that catches our eyes, not the Calculator application in particular. Bill Gates’ famous open letter to the homebrew club in Menlo Park, California, had set the stage for the company’s position on distributed software. But time — more than 40 years — has shown that even Microsoft can see the benefit in distributing its software and code to the tech community at large. Of course, this instance was long ago, and the company has indeed set its stride over the past few years.
When Microsoft chose to work with the Open Invention Network in 2018, it not only provided the organization with a collection of patents to protect Linux software, but it helped re-establish its willingness to work with the open-source community. As the company’s failed past experiments, such as Windows Phone, will quickly show, maintaining a strong relationship with developers is instrumental in a platform’s success. Starvation of a platform is not only from a lack of users but also from a lack of developers interested in contributing to the future.
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