Microsoft to Open Source the .NET Micro Framework

by Peter Galli on November 16, 2009 09:16am

I have great news to announce. Today, at the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference (PDC) here in Los Angeles, we announced not only the release of version 4.0 of  the.NET Micro Framework, but also that we are open sourcing the product and making it available under the Apache 2.0 license, which is already being used by the community within the embedded space.

The .NET Micro Framework,a development and execution environment for resource-constrained devices, was initially developed inside the Microsoft Startup Business Accelerator, but recently moved to the Developer Division so as to be more closely aligned with the overall direction of Microsoft development efforts.

The result of this is that the .NET Micro Framework has become a seamless development experience, bringing a single programming model and tool chain for the breadth of developer solutions, all the way from small intelligent devices, to servers and the cloud. There are also no more time-limited versions.

Including the source code for almost all of the product also ensures that developers now also get access to the Base Class Libraries that were implemented for .NET Micro Framework and the CLR code itself.

However, both the TCP/IP stack and Cryptography libraries are not included in the source code. Program Manager Colin Miller told me this was because the TCP/IP stack is third party software that Microsoft licenses from EBSNet, so we do not have the rights to distribute that source code. If someone needs to access the source code for the TCP/IP stack, they can contact EBSNet directly. 

As for the Cyptography libraries, they are not included in source code because they are used outside of the scope of the .NET Micro Framework.  Customers who need to have access to the code in the cryptography functions will find that these libraries can be replaced, Miller said.

I asked Miller what the future plans for the .Net Micro Framework were, and he made clear that Microsoft intends to remain actively involved in its ongoing development, working alongside the community. While the license will allow customers to take the code and make specialized versions to fit their needs, customers told us they wanted Microsoft to stay involved to avoid any possible fragmentation of the platform.

"As such, we are planning on establishing 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. This group will act as the gateway to community contributions while, at the same time, Microsoft Developers will continue add functionality and coordinate with the overall .NET team," he said.

Microsoft is also in the process of forming a community of interested and involved members to help shape the future direction of the product. There will be a core technology team that is composed of Microsoft and external partners, and people will be encouraged to propose projects, which will be vetted before they are accepted.

"The site will also support people building extensions that exist alongside the platform rather than being integrated into it, " Miller told me.