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Microsoft and Blender – an open-source initiative?

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Sometime on May 13th, 2008, Blendernation published an article on Microsoft emails Blender About File Format Support.

It’s time to give my oh-so-awesome comments on this subject. For those that don’t know, Blender is an open-source application used for 3D graphic work (modeling, animation, games, etc). Time to clear up some biased comments here: I use Blender for all my 3D work. I love Blender and therefore I want the best for it. However, a big part of the argument is that Microsoft is a huge commercial monopoly and Blender is a rapidly growing open-source (yes, that means free, and free beer too) application. I use Linux. I like Linux. However, this doesn’t mean that I do not like Microsoft. In fact, it doesn’t even mean I don’t like Windows. Heck, if it wasn’t for Windows, I’d not use a computer like I do today. I feel that Windows doesn’t allow me to have as much freedom on the computer (therefore I prefer Linux), but at the same time it has allowed so many people to easily get introduced to computing without having to learn bash first.

Ok, Let’s get back on topic here. Let’s take a look at Blender’s objectives and how whatever sort of deal with Microsoft might affect it. Number one: Blender wants users. It’s growing. Are you saying that weakening Blender’s power on the most popular operating system out there is going to help Blender? I quote ArtIsLight‘s comment on the Blendernation article:

Getting rid of the Windows port would be a crippling stroke to Blender, as there are so many users that use Windows, in the business world and for personal entertainment. Is giving support (for MS) causing bloated code or excessive work-arounds to get it to work properly on that OS?

I cannot lie that I used Blender on Windows before I made the switch to Linux. I believe that a lot of Blender users out there do use Windows, and Microsoft knocking at the Blender Institutes door asking to see how they can help support their project is going to help Blender. Let’s take a little step back and look at the original post sent to Ton (Blender big boss).

A good user experience of Blender on Windows is good for your project/community and good for Microsoft.

OK. I don’t care how much you hate Microsoft, that statement is true. Let’s take a look at the next lines:

What we are trying to understand is what file formats, which are not open or not fully open, are impeding the optimal experience with your community. If this is an important issue to your users then it also accrues to the experience in Windows.

I’m not a lawyer and nor am I psychic to know exactly what Microsoft is up to. However, the way I interpret that sentence and the rest of that rather short email is that Microsoft wants to help get that .blend format out there with the boys like .3ds. I do not think that all of a sudden Microsoft is going to turn the .blend into a .msblend and call it a not-open format.

Let’s take a look at Ton’s reaction:

I recently was contacted by Microsoft Development, they’ve assigned one of their people with the job to support open source projects better. Yep, I’ve immediately asked for free MSVC Pro licenses! :)

If a single person knows best whats going on with Blender, it’s Ton. The bit that speaks to me most in that quote above is that smiley face at the end. Especially the straightforward quote of “they’ve assigned one of their people with the job to support open source projects better” leaps out at me. I think Microsoft knows that open-source applications are definitely rising to take their place, and they also know that sticking themselves in a tiny circle labeled “this is commercial land” is not going to help. A comment made on the Blendernation article also mentioned that this isn’t Microsoft’s next evil plan to take over some awesome project but simply some good, well thought-out public relations heist. I agree with that.

I personally think anything that will help Blender receive more (good) publicity that doesn’t ruin its strong bases in open-source attitudes, and multi-OS support is good news.

As a final note, Microsoft managed to spur up 238 (no longer counting because comments are closed) comments filled with some seriously nasty flames and bloodthirsty comments about what is meant to represent a truly open community. Let’s set a better example at looking at this issue from Blender’s point of view, and not from which OS is crappier.

The cake is a lie.

Comments? (If you want to flame, send me an email! It’s private and I train GMail’s spam filter! dionmoult[at]gmail[dot]com)

Dion Moult

I've been developing software for well over 10 years, work as an architect (not the computer kind, the regular sort), and am classically trained as a pianist. I try to do the right thing when I get the chance in my field, such as through contributing to open-source communities and promoting sustainable living.

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