Many people were surprised to ses Microsoft named as one of the sponsors of the recent Open Source Software BarCamp in UCD. Some people reacted negatively saying things like "how can Microsoft pretend to be a friend of open source software?", but I was personally very pleased to find Microsoft finally getting behind a movement whose time has come.
As well as providing financial support, Microsoft also sent over Garrett Serack who flew all the way from Redmond to Dublin for the event which was the furthest anyone traveled. He spoke about the Common Opensource Application Publishing Platform (CoApp) which is a project to build a package management system for Windows which would provide many of the benefits that we would associate with for example the Synaptic Package manager on Ubuntu.
His presentation style was really interesting - instead of using a traditional set of slides it seems like he wrote on a whiteboard and then took pictures. I was also impressed with the way he was so open about the limitations of Windows as a platform on which to host open source applications. Unfortunately, we ran into slight technical problems when we recorded Garratt's presentation and so we are missing the end part. This means that we only have recorded the part where he admits the flaws, but are missing the part where he explains how they plan to fix it (this was not deliberate I promise). You can see the partial recording from the OSSBARCAMP channel on Vimeo below.
Bringing Real Package Management to Windows with the CoApp Project, by Garrett Serack of Microsoft from Brian O'Donovan on Vimeo.
To be fair to Microsoft, I will point you to another presentation from Garrett about CoApp where he gets to complete the pitch. It certainly seems like an ambitious project. They will consider they have success when they get the PHP and Apache web server packages available through the system. This is more challenging than it sounds because both of these projects require a large number of dependencies. I am not certain when they expect to reach this milestone,but I hope it won't be too far into the future.
CoApp Presentation from Garrett Serack on Vimeo.
Garrett's presence at the conference prompted an article in the Irish Times which shows that Microsoft getting involved in open source projects serves as a validation for many people that open source has finally entered mainstream business. I wish Microsoft every success with this project. If it succeeds it will help spread the adoption of open source software even further.