Microsoft Intros Business Portal Lite Shared-Source Project

At the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in Newton, Mass., Microsoft said Portal Lite is a thin-client solution that offers time and expense reporting, approvals, Web project analysis, and communicator alert capabilities from Microsoft Internet Explorer and other Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari. Until Microsoft renamed its business applications line to Dynamics in September, the software was known as Microsoft Business Solutions-Solomon.

Microsoft will assign one full-time employee to oversee the development of technology, Jason Matusow, director of shared source at the Redmond, Wash., company, said at the conference. "We have 600 commercial partners involved in this space and need to solve this problem for a while," he said.

As part of the Portal Lite effort, Microsoft said it will release Active Page source code, Portal Lite C# source code and Portal Lite installable executables.

The solution, built using Active Server Pages and .Net technologies, works with Microsoft Business Solutions–Solomon 6.0 SP1, part of the Microsoft Dynamics SL code, according to Microsoft.

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Over the past year, Microsoft also has launched other code under its shared-source program, including the Visual Studio 2005 Starter Kit, Source Tools for Bluetooth and IronPython, a Python implementation on the .Net Framework. Since 2000, Microsoft has released more than 80 technologies under its shared-source program.

Matusow said the gap between proprietary and open-source software is closing as commercial companies build unique features atop open-source code and hold it close to the vest. Microsoft recently announced three shared-source licenses designed to be more flexible and stimulate the growth of more community development around its software.

For example, the Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL)--the least restrictive of the company's source-code licenses--allows users to view, modify and redistribute the source code for commercial or noncommercial purposes. The Microsoft Commercial License (Ms-CL), also known as a reciprocal source-code license, allows for commercial and noncommercial modification and redistribution of licensed software but carries specific requirements--a per-file reciprocal term--if users combine Ms-CL code with their own code. And the Microsoft Reference-only license lets users view, but not modify or redistribute, source code to learn more about the inner workings of a Microsoft technology.

Though the Microsoft Reference-only license has been offered to customers, systems integrator partners and academic institutions for years, the two newer licenses are designed to cultivate development communities around Microsoft products as open-source projects such as Linux, Apache, Mozilla and JBoss flourish and grow.

"Microsoft still has plenty of room to grow in this space," Matusow said.