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2008: Decision Year for RIAs - October 20-22, 2008 San Jose


Microsoft Thought Leader Offers Up "Sage Advice" to Redmond: "Invent Something!"
Microsoft Thought Leader Offers Up "Sage Advice" to Redmond: "Invent Something!"

-But ".NET is in no danger" he adds-

(February 18, 2003) - David Stutz has left Microsoft's Shared Source CLI (Common Language Infrastructure) team! Stutz's departure was planned some time ago and came as no surprise to anyone at Microsoft. Before he left - in line with a company tradition that shows the Redmond, Washington-based company to be much more tolerant of freethinking than is commonly known - he wrote an open farewell letter to his colleagues. The idea of such open letters when anyone like Stutz leaves, sources close to the company explain, is to give them a chance to write about "what they think works and what doesn't." His particular letter, in what Stutz terms a "sanitized version" titled Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software is currently publicly available online. In it, he suggests in the very first paragraph somewhat controversially that the whole Internet wave is "a phenomenon that Microsoft co-opted without ever really internalizing into product wisdom." "Time is not standing still." Stutz argues, towards the end of the letter. "Microsoft must survive and prosper by learning from the open source software movement and by borrowing from and improving its techniques." The Shared Source CLI or SSCLI - also known as "Rotor" - is Microsoft's implementation of .NET for non-Windows platforms. This implementation embraces MacOS and FreeBSD, but holds Linux at a distance. "Linux is certainly a threat to Microsoft's less-than-perfect server software right now," writes Stutz, adding: "and to its desktop in the not-too-distant future." The Stutz view is that Microsoft simple cannot compete against the growing tide of Open Source software using its current approaches and techniques, which amounts to considering itself "as an island, with defenses built out of litigation and proprietary protocols." Instead of merely copying the original work done by Open Source initiatives, Stutz suggests, Microsoft should "stop looking over [its] shoulder and invent something!" .NET Developer's Journal talked exclusively to Rhys Weatherly, founder of DotGNU, a completely Open Source initiative to build a multi-platform implementation of .NET's Common Language Infrastructure. "From my point of view," Weatherly comments, "Rotor was always a tough sell from the start, both internally and externally." "Internally," he explains, "Rotor would be taking exposure away from the commercial CLI team, and that would no doubt be a source of inter-group friction. Externally, the license was wrong. The non-commercial use license meant that no one who could really hack on it could use it. And so it wasn't possible to build a real community around the code." Weatherly has an idea about what may lie behind all of this. "Microsoft is currently in a transition phase," he observes. "Some of the people up there do 'get it', but management prevents them from fully exploring the Free Software / Open Source space, in the name of protecting the Windows/Office business. So you get compromises like Shared Source, which destroy any benefit that the company would otherwise get." "I'm saddened to see David go," Weatherly concludes, "because I think Rotor did have a (small) chance of changing attitudes up there. But it looks like the bureaucracy ate him." As for Stutz himself, he remains characteristically unfazed by the debate raging around his letter. "I do think that the issues are very important, and I'm glad to see folks writing about and discussing them," he tells .NET DJ, before returning to his winemaking and singing, his twin passions beyond software development. ".NET is in no danger," he points out. "There are many, many good people working on it. Also, my departure was not hostile; it's customary for old-timers at Microsoft, when they leave, to offer up 'sage advice.' I can assure you that anyone that I've worked with over the years would not be surprised by what I wrote, and most would take no offense. My own departure had been planned for some time, and management was fully apprised." The immediate impact that Stutz's departure will have on the future development of the Shared Sourced CLI isn't yet clear, although it was aimed at teaching and learning,. Ironically, a book on this topic that he recently co-authored with Ted Neward and Geoff Shilling called Shared Source CLI Essentials is scheduled to be published by O'Reilly & Associates in just a few weeks.

About Jeremy Geelan
Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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