Update: Microsoft to expand 'shared-source' initatives

ITworld.com |  Operating Systems

Microsoft Corp. is preparing to expand its "shared-source" initiatives, through which partners are allowed a peek at the prized Windows operating-system source code, but the company remains opposed to the open-source ethos, and it particularly scorns the popular GNU General Public License (GPL), a Microsoft executive said Thursday.

In a speech delivered to about 150 people at New York University's Stern School of Business, Microsoft's Craig Mundie, the company's senior vice president of advanced strategies, outlined the company's new initiatives, while arguing that many developers using the GPL don't really understand what they're getting into.

The GPL requires that work developed using code covered by the license also be available for no more than the cost of distribution. The license is "an attempt to create a vortex that pulls a lot of other peoples' intellectual property in ... (and) ultimately undermines intellectual property," Mundie said.

By contrast, Microsoft's strategy is to allow a few select partners access to its source code, without allowing those partners to modify the code in any way, Mundie said. That approach satisfies most customers, who are far more interested in interoperability and open standards than open source code, he said.

Microsoft will announce Thursday that its Enterprise Source Licensing Program will be expanded to 12 additional countries, Mundie said. He also said that within the year Microsoft will begin licensing its Windows source code to top-tier ISVs, (independent software vendors), and that in the second half of 2001 the company will begin offering academic site licenses for Windows CE source code. Microsoft was unable to provide a list of the 12 newly added countries, although a spokesman said they are primarily in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Straying widely from the prepared text of his speech, Mundie repeatedly emphasized the "confusion" Microsoft perceives around the open-source issue. "You'll hear people talk about open source and open standards. These two things are orthogonal. If history is any guide, the open-source environment actually has a tougher time generating standards because of the fragmentation," he said.

Mundie outlined Microsoft's history of shared software, from its decade-old program of licensing Windows source code to about 100 academic institutions to its much-publicized recent initiative to allow key enterprise customers access to the code. Microsoft's customers are more interested in seeing the company focus on interoperability and standards that allow communication among programs and platforms than they are in source-code rights, he said.

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