On Tuesday Microsoft turned on Channel 9, a community weblog designed to give visitors a glimpse inside the software development process at Microsoft. The site’s founders, five Microsoft employees, hope to counter widespread resentment and suspicion among outside software engineers over Microsoft’s autocratic control of Windows, the planet’s dominant computing platform.
The site is named after the audio channel on many United Airlines jets that lets passengers listen in on the pilots’ communications with air traffic controllers. Lenn Pryor, “Director of Platform Evangelism” at Microsoft’s Laguna Hills, CA, facility and one of the people behind Channel 9, says in a video on the site that he overcame his former fear of flying by learning all he could about airplanes and how they work, including listening to channel 9 every time he flew. An introduction to the site says, “We think developers need their own Channel 9, a way to listen in to the cockpit at Microsoft, an opportunity to learn how we fly, a chance to get to know our pilots.”
The debut, hotly anticipated in software circles, is receiving mixed reviews. Many commentators on sites such as Slashdot.org are unswayed so far by Microsoft’s apparent move toward greater transparency, interpreting Channel 9 as a marketing ploy designed to appeal to programmers who might otherwise join the growing ranks of open-source developers.
If you go the the Channel 9 site, be warned that it doesn’t work very well using the Netscape Navigator browser or Macintosh computers. (No surprise there.)