Microsoft explores opening up to developers

Seeking to be more transparent to developers, Microsoft is weighing plans to make available more early versions of its software and share more source code, company representatives said Monday.

Speaking to an audience of developers at the VSLive conference in San Francisco, Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, said he wants to work closely with external developers for the benefit of the end user.

"I really want to think about you as an extension to my product development organization so that together you and us, as a product group, can combine forces and help develop and deliver the right products for our customers," he said in a keynote address on Monday.

Somasegar wants to make available every software build that Microsoft compiles and involve developers in just about all decisions he makes regarding products that come out of the developer division, such as Visual Studio and the .Net Framework.

"Last year, with the release of community technology previews, we took a huge step forward in transparency, and that was only the first step," Somasegar said. "Every build that comes (out) of the main build lab, I want to be able share with you; every spec or specific document that I like, I want to be able to share with you; every feature decision that I make, I want to be able to get your input and involve you in the process."

Additionally, Microsoft is debating whether it should make the source code to Windows Forms available to developers. Windows Forms is part of Microsoft's .NET Framework, and developers use it to build client applications. The source code can help developers resolve problems when building applications.

Shawn Burke, a manager on the Windows Forms team, wrote in a posting on his Web log last week that he wanted to make the code available but there were issues to resolve. These issues include intellectual property rights and scrubbing the code of inappropriate comments. Also, not everybody at Microsoft backs the idea, he wrote.

Many developers commenting on Burke's Web log said they are eager to see the code. However, it is far from certain that the Windows Forms code will be made available, said Christopher Flores, a lead product manager in Microsoft's Developer Division, in an interview on Monday at VSLive.

"Shawn started a lively discussion. Certainly there are people inside of Microsoft discussing the pros and cons of doing this, but as far as I know, today, we have no plans to share the Windows Forms code," Flores said.

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