Microsoft expands Windows CE shared source program

Microsoft Corp. is expanding a program that provides access to the source code for its Windows CE .Net operating system, allowing device manufacturers, chip makers and systems integrators to make modifications to the code that can be used in commercial products, the company said Wednesday.

Windows CE .Net is an embedded operating system for use in devices such as handheld computers, smart phones, voice-over-IP phones and industrial automation equipment. It has even been used in a futuristic digital sewing machine displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Under its existing shared source program, Microsoft's partners in the embedded space could view a portion of the Windows CE .Net source code for debugging purposes or to help them understand the operating system's internal workings, but they were not permitted to modify the code for use in commercial products.

Under the program announced Tuesday, called the Windows CE Shared Source Premium Licensing Program, or CEP, device makers have access to virtually all of the operating system's source code and can modify it for use in commercial products. That should allow them to tailor the software more closely to their needs and help them build more "differentiated" products, said Scott Horn, a Microsoft director of marketing.

"Some of our commercial partners said (they'd) like access to more of the source code to do more innovative things, and (that they'd) like to be able to make modifications for commercial purposes," he said.

Having access to more of the source code also lets vendors provide Microsoft with "more informed and accurate" suggestions about how it could improve the operating system, he said.

Microsoft is treading somewhat cautiously with the expanded program. It does not yet apply to its Windows Powered Smartphone and Pocket PC operating systems, even though those platforms are based on Windows CE, Horn said. That means Hewlett-Packard Co., for example, can't modify the Microsoft operating software used in its iPaq computer.

Microsoft could potentially expand the program to include other operating systems in the future but has no current plans to do so, Horn said. The company wants to ensure that applications written for one Pocket PC or Smartphone device work on devices from other vendors, he said, which is easier to ensure when vendors aren't modifying Microsoft's software. In most embedded markets that type of cross-device compatibility is less important, he said.

"For the embedded market, having access to things like the kernel and device drivers is critical. Also, you don't really see the need for broad applications compatibility across a broad range of devices. Applications tend to be more specific. That's one of the reasons we've been able to move forward very aggressively with the CE platform," Horn said.

ARM Ltd., BSquare Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., MIPS Technologies Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. are already taking part in the program, and Microsoft hopes to attract other vendors and systems integrators, the company said in a statement. Hitachi has already modified Windows CE .Net for use in its Net-PDA product.

"Net-PDA used a unique screen display, and they wanted to modify the applications we provided to work with that screen," Horn said.

Microsoft launched its shared source initiative in July 2001. Some industry watchers saw it as a defensive response to momentum gathering behind the open source model of software development. With open source software, the source code is made available freely and developers can modify it for use in commercial products, so long as they make those changes available for use by others.

Microsoft doesn't distribute the source code to its products as widely or as freely. Under the existing Windows CE program, which will continue to exist alongside CEP, academics, hobbyists and other enthusiasts can view a portion of the operating system's source code. Only its partners in the CEP program have access to all of the operating system source code.

In addition, unlike the open source model, Microsoft doesn't require its partners to make public any modifications and improvements they make to its software.

"Our philosophy says that shared-source code access is a good thing, but that source code access should enable the IP (intellectual property) owner to maintain their rights to their IP. We think that's essential for a healthy competitive ecosystem," Horn said.

More information on Microsoft's shared source programs is at

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?