Microsoft, a company that isn't known for working tightly with the open source world, has announced the Microsoft Web Installer. This beta application is aimed at helping Web site administrators install and configure widely-used Web Applications onto a Windows-powered server.
Surprisingly, Microsoft is aiding administrators with installing popular open source software packages -- including WordPress, Drupal, DotNetNuke, phpBB and Graffiti CMS.
What Microsoft Web Application Installer Does
The Microsoft Web Platform, as it's called, is meant to make installing complex Web applications quick and easy. The program will check your target server for necessary pre-requisite software packages, download necessary components, and install and configure the applications on your server.
Oddly enough, the supported applications utilize MySQL and PHP, which are competing products of Microsoft's SQL Server database engine and ASP.NET Web programming model.
Similar Options Exist
There are other install packages that try to take some of the pain out of installing and configuring open source software packages. For example, BitNami is a project that bundles many open source packages into a one-click setup file. Popular Web applications can be installed with BitNami -- including, WordPress, phpBB, Drupal and MediaWiki, among others.
However, Microsoft offering a similar product in the Microsoft Web Application Installer is a drastic step, because it represents the software powerhouse acknowledging the open source world. While there's a debate about open source not being a business model, there's no doubt that this is quite a step that Microsoft has taken by offering WordPress and Drupal support.
What This Step Means
In recent memory, Microsoft has not embraced open source software. With this Web Application Installer, the software behemoth has made a customer service move by allowing site administrators to easily install widely-used open source systems, despite the fact that these packages directly compete with Microsoft's own offerings. We applaud Microsoft for making this move, as the new Web Application Installer will make installation and deployment a fluid process.
In recent years, Microsoft seems to have taken a new look at open source software and platforms. With the newest version of Silverlight, the company has actually released a product that is cross-platform. This is a great development for developers, because they will have more options when building applications that can run across multiple platforms.
However, with everything Microsoft does, open source advocates and enthusiasts will keep a watchful eye to see if there are any hidden motives behind the Redmond-based software giant's new look at open source as a market.