Microsoft opts to share more code

Microsoft Corp. will uncloak more of the source code powering its Windows operating system, ostensibly to give system integrators better ability to perform deep security analysis and privacy verification, and to troubleshoot and fine-tune custom Windows applications.

The well-guarded code will be made available under Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative initially to about 150 licensed systems integrators, the company announced Thursday. Eligible licensees are Gold Support Services certified partners and system integrators with more than 1,500 seats of Windows with a level A or B Microsoft premier support agreement.

While Microsoft has cast its action as a means to assist system integrators, the announcement's timing suggests other factors may be at work.

Earlier this week, the U.S. federal judge overseeing the ongoing antitrust case against the software maker ordered the company to open source code for recent versions of the Windows operating system to nine states that are plaintiffs in the case. Microsoft's Thursday announcement did not mention the ongoing litigation.

Microsoft also faces competitive pressure from the open-source Linux operating system. Microsoft's shared-source concept permits integrators and developers to look at Windows code, but not to modify it or resell it. The open-source license covering Linux permits developers to modify the code at will, as long as the modifications are published openly.

"They're trying to make nice from an antitrust perspective, but they're also trying to brunt the force of Linux," said John McCarthy, director of research for Forrester Research Inc.

However, the move is a boon to systems integrators trying to squash bugs they discover while setting up a new system for a customer, said one integrator.

"If we're locked out of the source code, it limits what we can do for our customers," said Scott Weber, a systems consultant for Weber Systems Inc. in Smithtown, New York. If there's a problem in the operating system causing a bug in an integration job, "typically, what we would do is wait for the next service pack or release for our customer," he said.

Microsoft executives bashed open-source software last year, with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer, comparing it to cancer. The company is concerned that if it uses open-source code in its operating system, it would have to post all of the code on the Internet.

The company also came under fire last year for attacking the disclosure practices of some security companies. Microsoft argued that security vendors should not notify the public of software holes until software makers are notified and have sufficient time to act. Detractors said that such a strategy allows Microsoft and other software vendors to indefinitely avoid giving notice to customers and to postpone patching the code until a system breach is made public The Shared Source Initiative arose as a countermeasure to Microsoft's image as a secretive company, but only its top partners will have access to Windows code, and they can't make changes to it. That's not a surprising strategy to Weber.

"They're not going to give the source code to every Tom, Dick and Harry consultant out there," he said "It would cause more problems than it solves."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

George A. Chidi Jr

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?