Windows Phone 7 is Not as Unfriendly to Open Source as You Think

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 18, 2011

Although Microsoft gets its fair share of criticism for historical lack of support for open source software, the company has become much more friendly to open source in recent years, including appointing open source czars within its ranks and launching its Codeplex/OuterCurve effort. That's why practically everyone who cares about open source was amazed to see the news headlines popping up this week about Microsoft supposedly banning open source applications from its Windows Phone Marketplace. However, the news stories that have appeared don't tell the whole story. Windows Phone Marketplace does support some open source licenses, and Microsoft officials say they are listening to the open source community on this topic.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley--who tends to know all things Microsoft before anyone else does--was among the people wondering how Microsoft could spend so much time at the open source pulpit claiming it has a friendlier stance, and then ban open source applications from its own mobile marketplace. As she reports here, she asked "the Softies" directly about the issue, and got this response:

"The Windows Phone Marketplace supports several open source licenses, including BSD, MIT, Apache Software License 2.0, MS-PL and other similar permissive licenses. We revise our Application Provider Agreement from time to time based on customer and developer feedback, and we are exploring the possibility of modifying it to accommodate additional open source-based applications in upcoming revisions."

The really important takeaway there is that Microsot is apparently prepared to listen to those who care about open source regarding more permissive policies. Microsoft is well behind Apple and Android in the mobile OS race, in terms of market momentum, and would be foolish not to embrace open source apps in Windows Phone Marketplace. The biggest problem that Windows Phone 7 has right now is lukewarm support from the developer community. Supporting open source applications can only help Microsoft fight that tide.