Microsoft is continuing to earn its open source stripes. The company’s latest Windows Azure updates added support for several open source tools. The open source love isn’t stopping with Azure though: Microsoft is also allowing open source applications in the Windows Store, which is being launched for Windows 8.

An Open App Store

Microsoft, like many other large software vendors, does not have the best reputation for playing nice with open source. But over the last few years Microsoft has been not so quietly turning over a new leaf. The company is working on its own Hadoop distribution. It created an open source project hosting site. Earlier in the year, it launched WebMatrix and the first official version of Orchard, and if you look closely, you will see the Seattle giant's name beside Apache and others in support of open initiatives.

The company is now applying its open source stance to its next generation of products. The developer agreement for the Windows Store allows applications released under an open source license to be distributed in the Windows Store. Even more surprising, the agreement says that the open source license supersedes the Microsoft Standard Application License terms -- specifically the restriction on application sharing. After quickly checking the calendar to confirm the month is December, not April, smiles spread on the faces of many open source advocates.

What This Means

Although the move is commendable, nobody really believes Microsoft is on its way to becoming the Mother Theresa of the software industry. Microsoft is differentiating itself from Apple, which restricts open source applications from its applications stores, and maybe doing a little making up for its egregious behavior towards Android hardware manufacturers. Embracing open source also extends Microsoft’s reach to an entirely new population of developers. Ultimately, it’s just another step towards Microsoft becoming dominant not just on the desktop, but across all devices.

Google has a wide reach, but Android is schizophrenic. There are wide variances in the look, feel and functionality offered by various Android releases. Apple has a similar look and feel on many devices, but the application store concept has not permeated the desktop at the same level as mobile devices. Microsoft has undoubtedly noticed these weaknesses and is stepping forward to offer an alternative.

Windows 8 will unify the application experience across the desktop, game consoles and mobile. It will look the same, function the same and come with a new population of open source developers to deliver new software solutions. Well played Microsoft, well played.