Microsoft to expand access to source code

Microsoft Corp. is preparing to announce a limited expansion of its Windows source-code sharing program that could pave the way for "potentially hundreds" of new customers, including some corporate users, to gain access to the code, a company official said.

Doug Miller, a group product manager for Microsoft's server-level software packages, said at the recent LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in New York that the plan will be detailed in the next few weeks.

But, Miller added, the impending expansion of the sharing program doesn't mean Microsoft intends to break into the world of open-source software collaboration. Under the company's program, the code can be viewed but not modified in any way. "The intention is not to allow the chaos you have in the open-source world, where people create code that may be incompatible," he said.

Those who have taken advantage of the program in the past include hardware, independent software and chip vendors, plus an unspecified number of corporate users, a Microsoft spokesman said. "The criteria generally is large, good customers of Microsoft," he said, declining to provide numbers.

Like many other vendors, Microsoft has been providing its source code to some vendors and users for years, Miller and analysts said. Until now, though, the practice has been done quietly behind the scenes and under strict confidentiality agreements, he said.

By getting access to the code, IT troubleshooters can work backward to solve problems that may arise in software. Some large Windows users "feel that if they have access to the source code, they can get to the bottom of the problem faster," Miller said.

This week at its Windows Embedded Developers Conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced that leading silicon vendors will be given access to Windows CE source code so that they can optimize the operating system for their architectures. Members of the Windows Embedded Strategic Silicon Alliance include Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Microelectronics Group, Hitachi Ltd., Intel Corp., NEC Corp. and Toshiba Corp.

Reporter Carol Sliwa contributed to this story.

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