Microsoft opens its Windows for integrators

Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., plans to allow 150 integrators access to the source code for its Windows operating system, the company announced Feb. 21. Critics maintain that the company could do more to facilitate open solutions with its software.

Called the Systems Integrator Source Licensing Program, this initiative will allow favored integrators to analyze the source code of Windows source code (the source code is the original programmer-readable code written that later gets compiled into executing software).

The availability of the source code will permit developers to gain in-depth knowledge of the Windows platform, perform deeper security analysis and privacy verification and to build customized software solutions that can interact more smoothly with the operating system, the company said. It will also allow resellers to better handle technical support issues.

Microsoft's licensing program will be available for no fee to integrators who participate in the company's premier support agreement. As of press time, no date was given as to when integrators would be able to access the code.

"This program gives Compaq Global Services the ability to expand significantly the depth of expertise we bring to our clients," said Rick Fricchione, vice president of Microsoft enterprise solutions for Compaq Global Services, the services arm of Compaq Computer Corp., Houston.

"We will be able to provide quicker time to resolution for our support and systems integration services."

This licensing program is part of Microsoft's larger Shared Source Initiative, which was introduced in May 2001 to allow developers closer scrutiny of Microsoft software. Critics said this initiative came as a response to the growing open-source development community, which shares program code freely among programmers, and has produced such software as the Linux operating system and Apache Web server software.

"The biggest problem with shared source is that it is available on a strict 'look but don't touch' basis," said Ronald Gage, a Saginaw, Mich.-based programmer in a mailing list discussion forum of the Open-Source Software Institute, a non-profit organization to promote open-source software solutions within federal and state government agencies.

"As a programmer, the only value to the shared source program is that I can look at how a procedure is coded so I know exactly how to implement the call to that procedure. Contrast that with open source, where not only can I look at the source . . [but] also make additions to the code . . . make repairs to the code . . .even extract sections of the code for use elsewhere, generally," Gage said.

Such sharing and modifying of open-source code could reduce software costs for the government, the Open-Source Software Institute maintains.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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