Microsoft expands Windows source-code sharing program

By Carol Sliwa, Computerworld |  Development

Microsoft Corp. has formalized a promised expansion of its Windows source-code sharing program, detailing plans to give about 1,000 of its large corporate users in the U.S. an opportunity to view the closely guarded code.

The software vendor last Friday sent an e-mail message to its field sales, consulting and support organizations explaining the new Enterprise Source Licensing Program, which will be offered free to customers who hold an Enterprise Agreement or Upgrade Advantage volume license and have at least 1,500 Windows licenses or seats in-house.

Microsoft officials estimated that roughly 1,000 companies meet those eligibility requirements at this point. "We want to work with organizations that have a long-term commitment to Windows because it's going to help them the most to have access to the source code," said Microsoft product manager Jason Matusow.

Matusow said source-code access can help users debug the software, optimize their applications, troubleshoot problems and gain a deeper understanding of how Windows works. But Microsoft wants to limit the new program to companies "that will have the engineering resources to make the best use of the source access," he said.

Microsoft, which first disclosed plans to expand the source-code sharing program last month, has already offered access to "hundreds of organizations," according to Matusow. Many have said they don't think viewing the source code would be useful, but other companies are taking advantage of the offer, he added.

Matusow noted that Microsoft has licensed its source code to academic institutions and computer makers for years. A limited number of corporate users have also been able to quietly look at the code under strict secrecy rules and detailed contracts signed on a case-by-case basis.

Microsoft decided to extend the program after more enterprise customers expressed an interest in gaining access to the source code, Matusow said. The company first tried a pilot project, which resulted in about a dozen users being provided with the Windows code for viewing purposes. Included are financial institutions, manufacturers and other companies, he said.

The source code access program covers Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Datacenter, the new Windows XP and all related Service Pack releases. Users can view the code but won't be allowed to modify it in any way, according to Microsoft officials.

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