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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