Microsoft is continuing to earn its open source stripes. Thecompany’s latest Windows Azure updates added supportfor several open source tools. The open source love isn’t stopping withAzure 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 nothave thebest reputation for playing nice with open source. But over the last few years Microsoft has been not so quietly turning over a newleaf. Thecompany is working on its own Hadoop distribution. Itcreated an opensource project hosting site.Earlier in the year, it launchedWebMatrixand the first official version of Orchard, and if you lookclosely, youwill see the Seattle giant's name beside Apache and others insupportof open initiatives.

The company is now applying its open source stance to itsnextgeneration of products. The developer agreement for the Windows Storeallowsapplications released under an open source license to bedistributed in theWindows Store. Even more surprising, the agreementsays that the open sourcelicense supersedes the Microsoft StandardApplication License terms -- specifically the restriction on applicationsharing. After quickly checking thecalendar to confirm the month isDecember, not April, smiles spread on thefaces of many open sourceadvocates.

What This Means

Although the move is commendable, nobody really believesMicrosoftis on its way to becoming the Mother Theresa of the software industry. Microsoft is differentiating itself from Apple, which restricts opensourceapplications from its applications stores, and maybe doing alittle making upfor its egregious behavior towards Android hardwaremanufacturers. Embracingopen source also extends Microsoft’s reach toan entirely new population ofdevelopers. Ultimately, it’s just anotherstep towards Microsoft becomingdominant not just on the desktop, butacross all devices.

Learning Opportunities

Google has a wide reach, but Android is schizophrenic. Thereare widevariances in the look, feel and functionality offered by various Android releases. Apple has a similar look and feel on many devices, buttheapplication store concept has not permeated the desktop at thesame level asmobile devices. Microsoft has undoubtedly noticed theseweaknesses and isstepping forward to offer an alternative.

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