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Microsoft introduces installers for open-source apps



David Worthington
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October 15, 2008 —  If you can’t beat them, join them, and make certain that people notice. Microsoft has introduced an installer that streamlines installations of free components from its Web application platform, and another to guide its customers in the installation of popular .NET and PHP open-source applications that are compatible with Windows.

Today, the software giant released a beta version of Web App Installer (Web AI). Web AI is a download manager that handles the acquisition and configuration of open-source applications that run in both cloud and hosted environments.

According to Lauren Cooney, group product manager for Web platform and standards at Microsoft, applications span four solution areas: content management, eCommerce, digital marketing, and personal and social websites. Some of the packaged applications are DotNetNuke, Graffiti, PHPBB and WordPress.

"We want developers to be able to more easily access community applications that run well on Windows and IIS [Internet Information Services]," she said in a telephone interview. The installer handles the work of configuring IIS and provides tutorials for some of those applications, she added.

Ironically, applications are licensed under whatever license comes with a particular application, but Microsoft’s installer is proprietary, she noted. She said that Microsoft intends to release quarterly updates, and it is formalizing the process for developers to submit their own applications for inclusion. Applications must be interoperable with Windows and IIS.

“Microsoft is using open source as a business opportunity—not unlike what other folks are doing,” said Forrester senior analyst Jeffrey Hammond. “I don’t think you’ll see them embrace it for religious reasons, but they see an increasingly opportunity to work with successful open-source products to build revenue opportunities for their software.”

Developers can use Microsoft tools and platforms to create open-source applications. Web Platform Installer (Web PI), is a download manager used to install Microsoft’s developer technologies for building Web applications. Web PI, which was released in early October, determines what components need to be installed together. It then installs products from the Microsoft website, such as .NET Framework 3.5, IIS, Silverlight, SQL Server Express and more, Cooney said.

The installers are the result of a think session Microsoft held three months ago to determine how it should serve Web developers and what is important to them, she said.

Microsoft will be promoting the installers at upcoming trade shows, including Professional Developers Conference and DevConnections, she said. She added that another objective is to obtain case studies of its customers using open-source solutions that run on Windows.

“It comes down to Microsoft being very pragmatic. An awful lot of developers are using frameworks to build Web applications, and many are building them around the LAMP [Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP] stack. That does not benefit it,” said Hammond. Microsoft is doing whatever it takes to make it easy to install and consume frameworks on the IIS stack, he added.




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