Microsoft’s shared source effort grows

Microsoft Corp. announced on Wednesday that it is expanding its shared source program by opening the doors for eligible customers to the nuts and bolts of the company’s source code for Windows. It’s a move that one industry analyst said takes Microsoft closer to embracing open-source, while at the same time allows the company to keep its customers happy.

Initially the Shared Source Initiative, which started a few years ago, provided select partners, customers, developers and governments worldwide with access to source code components for Windows CE .Net, ASP .Net, Visual Studio .Net and Passport Manager. Through the new program called the Most Valuable Professional Source Licensing Program (MVPSLP), Microsoft said it would expand source code offerings to include Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 access for eligible MVPs.

The increased visibility into Microsoft Windows source code will enrich the broader customer and community support for organizations using the Windows platform, the Redmond, Wash.-based company said in a statement.

The announcement is about moving Microsoft into the open-source space, while at the same time trying to keep its customers happy, said Rob Enderle, a principal analyst with the Enderle Group in San Jose.

“One of the complaints that the user community has had and certainly one of the things that has fuelled the open source movement is the fact that the large Microsoft customers have become concerned about what they don’t know about the code,” Enderle said. He added that many of the large corporations that build custom applications need to know and understand how the source code works in order to build an application that works consistently.

Enderle explained that the argument being raised by the open source community is that everybody should have access to the code, while the Microsoft camps are concerned that access to its code would increase piracy and make the company an even bigger target for security breeches. This is why only selected groups and members of the MVP program are granted access to the code and not the greater population.

“[Microsoft] is worried that if they open [the source code for everyone], suddenly source code for Windows would be available on Web sites and they would have a nightmare of rogue versions of Windows out there that people would still want them to support,” Enderle said.

At the end of the day, Microsoft doesn’t have a lot of choice and it will have to continue taking these baby steps by making its source code available, Enderle said.

Earlier this week Microsoft launched its Office System 2003 [Please see: Microsoft launches Office 2003]. More information about the MVP Program can be found at