Microsoft open-sources SPOT

Microsoft open-sources SPOT

Microsoft's .NET Micro Framework - developed for small, Internet connected devices - is now Apache 2.0 licensed.

Microsoft has announced that the framework that grew from its Smart Personal Objects Technology project is to be made available under an open-source licence, completely free of charge.

The .NET Micro Framework is the result of Microsoft's efforts to create Internet-connected 'smart' devices - most famously its 'SPOT' range of smart watches, which connect to a US-wide data network in order to receive information such as weather updates. While the technology didn't take off quite as readily as the company had hoped - indeed, the data network powering SPOT is due to be turned off in 2012 - it still holds promise.

While Microsoft isn't willing to bankroll further development, it isn't allowing the project to die either: fulfilling a promise it made back in May to turn the technology over to the community and remembered by The Register, the company is licensing the .NET Micro Framework under the Apache 2.0 open-source licence - allowing third parties to utilise and further develop the technology as they see fit, free from licensing restrictions and royalties.

In a posting to the company's open-source Port 25 site, project manager Colin Miller warns that not everything will be made available: the TCP/IP stack is licensed from a third party and thus Microsoft have no rights to redistribute the source code, and the cryptographic libraries are used elsewhere - but, Miller assures developers, can be easily replaced with existing open-source libraries.

While the project might be handed to the community, Microsoft will continue to take an active role in its development: according to Miller, the company is looking to establish "a core technology team that is made up of both Microsoft and non-Microsoft contributors that continues the goals of producing a high quality product for very small devices."

Do you believe that Microsoft is doing the right thing by open-sourcing the SPOT project, or has the time for Internet-connected watches already passed? Is the developer in you excited by the possibilities opened up by the .NET Micro Framework? Share your thoughts over in the forums.


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War-Rasta 17th November 2009, 13:16 Quote
It's not too common to see MS open source anything so this is most welcome. These kind of gadgets seem interesting but at the moment I don't think the benefits you can get from them justify the costs. We have all that and more in our phones right now so I'm not willing to pay extra just so I can look at my watch to know if it's chilly outside when I can look at the phone in my pocket or just open up a window.
B3CK 17th November 2009, 14:32 Quote
With the network stopping at 2012, I can see MS using this as a test case of opening small bits of code to the public, and using it as a gauge to see how many dev's would take up the torch.
While I would like to applaud them for doing it, they are shooting themselves in the foot at the same time. No one will want to develop something that has the equivalent of a 2yr life span unless you can find a major financial backer to reinstate the network; or rebuild the package to work off of a highly restricted phone network or spotty wifi.
Shagbag 17th November 2009, 15:26 Quote
I can only see this being another MS failure to understand the open source community. Devs want to be paid for their code, which is reasonable. Under the GPL they're paid in code. Under the Apache license, there is a high probability they will not be paid anything. If I'm a C++ dev and I want to spend my spare time coding on other people's projects, then I'm more likely to go with a GPL'd project or start a new project myself under a restrictive license with a view to taking it proprietary in the future.
Saivert 17th November 2009, 22:12 Quote
they probably chose Apache license because it's not as hostile towards proprietary stuff as GPL is.
Shagbag 18th November 2009, 07:03 Quote
Originally Posted by Saivert
not as hostile towards proprietary stuff as GPL is.
Please provide support for this statement.
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