Microsoft follows in the vein of Adobe, whose Air and Edge cross-platform development tools have seen rapid growth

Microsoft has announced that it will be open sourcing most of its software development libraries and will be releasing .NET libraries and tools for Linux and OS X.  This bold move brings one of the world's most used development environments to new homes, although success is far from guaranteed.

If you program for Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) ubiquitous Windows operating system, you're intimately familiar with the .NET Framework of software development libraries and the companion integrated development environment (IDE) tool, Visual Studio.  While the past decade and a half have been a turbulent time for Microsoft with the advent of the mobile market and Microsoft's struggles to gain relevance in it, this time has also been a golden age for .NET.  

Microsoft .NET

Back in 1990s, developers had to deal with finicky third-party tools.  When .NET and Visual Studio -- originally in-house tools at Microsoft -- were released to developers in beta form around 2000, there was much hope.  Initially the tools had their ups and downs, at times appearing as unpolished as third party IDEs or worse.  But with time Visual Studio improved and its usage grew.  A study by Reuters suggests that by 2007 .NET was the sole or primary development target for nearly two-thirds of enterprise targets (61%).

But the struggles in mobility have dampened Microsoft's success.  Many enterprises are today as much or more focused on mobile-minded IDEs like Eclipse for Java or XCode, Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) OX and iOS IDE.  And some like Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE) have put forth popular tools amongst developers looking to capitalize on the lack of cross-platform portability, releasing tools that allow developers to quickly port a single app to multiple mobile and traditional platforms.
Microsoft Visual Studio

Microsoft now will look to join the latter group.  The crux of the effort will begin with a process to open source the server-side .NET Core stack.  This includes the base Framework Class Libraries (FCL) and Common Language Runtime (CLR).  Microsoft did not mention what license(s) the project will operate under, but it's clear this project is the culmination of a gradual effort that's been building for some time to open source bits -- or even all -- of the .NET code.

Along with the open-sourcing its key development stack, it's also adding cross platform support for OS X and Linux.  The open-sourcing should be complete in time for the release of Visual Studio 2015, .NET 2015, and Visual Studio Online, which will also add cross-platform support.

Microsoft Loves Linux
Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella is a fan of Linux and wants to see Microsoft tools on every platform. [Image Source: ScottGu's Blog]

Microsoft announced these coming changes alongside the release of the developer-targeted Visual Studio 2015 Preview and .NET 2015 Preview at a software industry event.

The announcement was met with positive reaction from some business leaders.  Groupon Inc.'s (GRPN) chief technology officer, Brian McCallister, praised the program, stating:

A strong, open source, cross-platform CLR opens significant new options for building large server-based systems.  This significantly expands the choices developers have when finding the right tool to solve their problem. I’m very excited to have access to the quality virtual machine and tooling of the CLR without having to completely rework our production infrastructure in order to run it!

The move will almost surely be praised among Windows developers.  But the really interesting question will be whether developers who program primarily for mobile platforms like Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android Linux, desktop Linux, iOS, or OS X will react to the news.  It remains to be seen whether those categories of developers would be interested in using Microsoft's mature development libraries and tools to target their system of choice.

Visual Studio

Cynicism from Apple and Linux users is understandable.  But given the success Adobe Air -- whom late Apple CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs passionately loathed -- has seen on Apple's iOS (and the success of Adobe's cross-platform HTML5 "Edge" development tools), some might be surprised at the level of success and interest Microsoft may experience.

Source: Microsoft [press release]

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