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Microsoft, Corel to build FreeBSD .NET version

Microsoft has agreed to share the source code for its Java-like programming language C# and for its Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) with Corel Corp. The agreement calls for the two companies to jointly build a "shared-source" implementation of .NET on the FreeBSD operating platform.

BSD (originally: Berkeley Software Distribution) refers to a version of UNIX that was developed at the University of California at Berkeley. FreeBSD is an advanced BSD OS for the Intel compatible, Alpha, and PC-98 processor architectures. FreeBSD is the foundation for Apple's Mac OS X operating system and powers the Apache Web server and the Web sites of Sony Japan, UUNet, and Yahoo.

The CLI is a key subset of the .Net framework, providing an execution environment that manages running code and provides services that can make software development easier. The services include automatic memory management, cross-language integration, interoperability with existing code and systems, simplified deployment, and a finely grained security system.

Observers say Microsoft intends to make the reference implementations that result from its collaboration with the Ottawa-based Corel available free to academics, researchers and others building non-commercial deployments. The beta versions of the implementation of CLI, and the compilers for C# and ECMAscript are scheduled for release late this year for both Windows and FreeBSD. Microsoft invested $135 million in the Canadian company last October.

In a statement, Microsoft senior VP Craig Mundie said "This shared-source implementation of these standards demonstrates Microsoft's commitment to open standards in .Net and will provide a native Extensible Markup Language (XML) Web-services programming environment across operating systems."

Microsoft maintains that offering a shared-source version of C# and CLI is a demonstration of its commitment to open standards for its evolving .Net initiative. But others are skeptical. Not quite the no-strings-attached approach of true open-source development, the shared-source strategy is allowing Microsoft to flirt with open-source software development without giving up completely its proprietary methods.

Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, has told observers that the agreement could be seen as a means of causing friction in the open source movement. Analysts at Zona Research see the move as "both a politically and technically significant broadside by Microsoft in the forthcoming War Over Web Services...between Microsoft's .NET approach and Sun's Java-uber-alles approach." Microsoft, they wrote in a recent report, "...will never, ever need to make a single dollar off of C#, and in fact could even pay people to use C# if it had to."

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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