Microsoft, Open Source, and The Kinect SDK


Microsoft clarifies open source position for gaming console peripheral

Since the start of this year, developer newswires and discussion forums have been richly populated with discussion over whether Microsoft is about to open source the SDK underpinning its Kinect for Xbox360 “controller-free gaming and entertainment experience” peripheral.

Attendees at the company’s recent Microsoft Mix ’11 web and multimedia developer event reportedly overheard Kristin Tolle, director of the Microsoft Research natural user interface team, confirm that open sourcing of the SDK was going ahead.

Founder of the OpenKinect community Joshua Blake has said that Microsoft had previously announced its plans to make the Kinect for Windows SDK available this Spring, initially for non-commercial use and later for commercial use. Blake then Tweeted celebrated ZDNet journalist Mary-Jo Foley to highlight Tolle’s comments at Mix.

“During a Q&A after a session on Day 3 at Mix, Blake reported that Tolle said (twice) that Microsoft planned to open-source the Kinect SDK – the non-commercial version of which is due out in beta form “this spring,” wrote Foley.

Foley continued, “It wasn’t clear whether Tolle meant all of the Kinect SDK, or just parts of it. However, it turns out Microsoft isn’t open-sourcing the Kinect SDK, after all – at least according to what Microsoft officials told me this afternoon. There was no explanation for Tolle’s reported comments.”

Foley finally received a clarifying statement from a Kinect SDK team spokesperson: “Kinect for Windows SDK will not be made available as open source. We are not releasing any source of the SDK, the SDK is in binary. The intent is to allow use of the SDK only to facilitate non-commercial ***a***experimentation with the Kinect functionality.”

Whatever the future holds for Kinect, Microsoft has (over the last 18 months at least) open sourced most of its community developed projects and technologies via the Outercurve Foundation – the not-for-profit software IP management and project development organization.