For some time now Microsoft has been dabbling in Robotics with their Robotics Studio offering. It’s an interesting toolkit that includes a 3D simulation environment, a visual language designer and a runtime that works on a little Pocket PC or can be used in a giant system like MySpace for massive scaling.

Editor and several pre-programmed robot models

At an estimated 60,000 active users it looks like the uptake isn’t very high for a MS offering. It’s a big planet with a lot more people than that into robotics! On top of that they charge money for it – the nerve ;) To be fair though the team that put the system together is really tiny and they operate outside of the giant developer division with it’s marketing and support machine.

And now its free! They’re giving it away.

Perhaps surprisingly the biggest winners in the short term might not be in robotics. Other areas like Silverlight development on the upcoming Windows Phone 7 are where the CCR Toolkit (Concurrency and Coordination Runtime) at the heart of the robotics platform is ideally suited to solve the asynchronous programming quagmire that mobile development creates.

But I wonder how they will work with the open source community that is so important to robotics? In the past I’d think not at all, but things seem to be changing. Robotics studio uses SOAP standards for communication and the .Net micro framework is now open source. This follows on from the successful Asp.Net MVC web development framework opening the door with head honcho Scott Gu and his band of merry men pushing the cause. Maybe they are starting to get it.

MS are now making a serious move into robotics. Is this a good thing?