Microsoft opens source code to integrators

Microsoft Corp. recently announced that its Windows source-code sharing initiative is being extended to some 150 systems integrators in more than 30 countries.

A Microsoft spokesperson said feedback from corporate users factored into the company’s decision to expand the program to Gold Support Services Certified Partners, or systems integrators, with more than 1,500 seats of Windows and Level A or Level B premier support agreements.

The spokesperson claimed that the source-code expansion has no relation to ongoing antitrust litigation. Recently, the federal judge overseeing the antitrust case against Microsoft ordered the company to open its source code for recent versions of Windows to the nine states that are plaintiffs in the case. “We’ve been working on this for quite some time. It does signal our commitment to sharing even more technical information about Windows,” the Microsoft spokesperson said.

But John McCarthy, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., claimed that Microsoft isn’t only “trying to make nice from an antitrust perspective,” but it’s also seeking to blunt the force of open-source Linux.

Among the many developers to whom Microsoft opened its Shared Source Initiative last year were about 1,700 worldwide enterprise customers, each of whom had more than 1,500 seats of Windows covered by enterprise or upgrade advantage agreements.

The Enterprise Source Licensing Program permits enterprise users to access Windows source code to develop and debug internal applications, as long as they don’t modify the source code.

A Microsoft spokesperson said that approximately 50 enterprise customers are using the source code. But the prevalent reaction was ” ‘Gosh, we don’t want to spend our IT time digging into Microsoft source code, but it would be beneficial if our systems integrators could,’ ” he said.

Frank Orlow, manager of technical services at Clark Retail Enterprises Inc. in Oak Brook, Ill., said it’s not a priority for his firm.

One reason that “nobody has the inclination” to access Microsoft’s source code is that the software maker has been “sheltering [itself] for so many years,” said Tom Pane, vice-president of technology at New York-based Ann Taylor Stores Corp.

“Would we like sometimes to have the source code to look at it? Yeah, but it would be like once every three months,” Pane said. “We buy packages targeted for the NT environment. I like to know that my vendor has access to that code. It isn’t the old days where we have systems programmers, and we tell IBM where they made a mistake. Those days are gone.”

According to Microsoft, systems integrators last year responded to about one million customer support calls from Windows users in the U.S. Microsoft claims the extension of its source-code program will help systems integrators more rapidly troubleshoot customer issues, fine-tune Windows-based custom applications and deliver security analysis and privacy verification.

IDG News Service correspondent George A. Chidi Jr. contributed to this report.