At Build earlier this month, Microsoft announced the Windows Package Manager, or winget. The feature is a command line tool that lets you run scripts to install apps, something that other desktop operating systems like Linux have had for years. There are actually third-party solutions that do the same on Windows, such as Chocolatey, but the developer behind another solution, AppGet, says that Microsoft copied his idea.
In a blog post on Medium, Keivan Beigi details an experience in which Microsoft reached out to him about AppGet, had planned to bring him on as a sort of aqui-hire, brought him in for a full day of interviews, and then didn’t communicate for six months. According to Beigi, the next he heard from Microsoft was the day before winget launched, simply saying that the team was going to mention AppGet in the blog post.
Beigi was first contacted on July 3, 2019, nearly a year ago, by someone named Andrew. He provides email transcripts, and at that point, Micosoft was planning to be up in Vancouver and wanted to meet with Beigi. They met and discussed things like how AppGet works, what the future plans were for it, and so on. That was on August 20, and the next email arrived on August 28.
That was when he was told that Microsoft is planning big changes to the way software distribution works on Windows, and was asked if he wanted to come work at the company in Redmond. The plan was something like an acqui-hire, where he’d go work there and AppGet would come too. Apparently, the regular acqui-hire process takes too long, so the plan was just going to be to hire him with a bonus, and then transition ownership of AppGet to Microsoft.
On December 5, Beigi said he flew to Seattle for a full day of interviews and meetings, and then he didn’t hear a word from Microsoft for six months. The email he received the day before Build apologized that the PM position didn’t work out, and said that AppGet would get a call-out in the blog post.
Beigi says he wasn’t upset that he wasn’t hired, that Microsoft released the Windows Package Manager, or even the code he claimed was copied. He said that what bothers him is how everything was handled, with everything ending in “radio silence”. He claims that AppGet is where most of the winget ideas came from, and it was only mentioned as “another package manager that just happened to exist”.
Beigi said in the blog post, “Do you want to know how Microsoft WinGet works? go read the article I wrote 2 years ago about how AppGet works.” He also followed up on some discussions on Reddit, if you want to read more.
Microsoft says that it’s investigating this, and it’s important to remember that this is only one side of the story. If you take a look at the winget repository and the AppGet repository on GitHub, it’s actually hard to find real similarities between the two, although you’re free to dive deeper into it, since that’s the nature of open source.
He also noted in the Medium post about how his wife made a comment about Microsoft’s solution being called winget, implying the the name is based on AppGet. To be fair to this complaint, the Linux variant of this, which existed long before either AppGet or winget, is called apt-get.
Microsoft is likely to respond to this sooner rather than later, but the truth is that when any company wants to make something, a decision has to be made as to whether to build it in-house, or acquire a company that’s already done it. It’s entirely possible that the Redmond firm simply decided that this would be an easier thing to do in-house, using already-existing open source code.