Developers Weigh

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-02-20 Print this article Print

-in on Exposure"> Microsoft has a far more restrictive approach to sharing its source code than other platform vendors, such as Sun Microsystems Inc. Microsofts Shared Source and Government Security programs require licensees to sign nondisclosure agreements that give them limited-rights access to code, which they cannot change or use to create a modified version of Windows. Licensees can access the source code only through Microsofts secured Code Center Premium site. The service gives them access to browse, search and reference the code.

Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., licenses its Solaris source code to developers, partners and academic institutions, allowing each to download the actual code, which they can modify as long as it is for noncommercial reasons, said Sun Chief Technology Officer John Fowler. Suns Java is also part of the quasi-open Java Community Process.

"The exposure of the Solaris and Java source has materially improved the products as we get suggestions on security improvements before they show up on the radar of the bad guys. It helps foster innovation," Fowler said. "If more people can interoperate with Solaris, Im happy. Closing the source code off doesnt help me."

Sharing the source

Products in Microsofts Shared Source programs:

  • Windows 2000
  • Windows XP
  • Windows CE
  • Visual Studio.Net
  • ASP.Net
  • .Net Framework
  • Microsoft spokesman Mark Martin would say only that the company stands behind its programs. He declined to say if there are any initiatives to change the process or security around its source code programs and access following the leak.

    Although Microsoft customers and developers would like to see the company open its code, they are not optimistic that this will happen any time soon.

    "I do not dismiss Microsoft at all when it comes to finding a model similar to open source or finding a way to buy a position in the open-source community," said Sean Frazier, a networking consultant in Burbank, Calif. "But to openly display the source code without gain, I just dont think Microsoft can think that far outside the shrink-wrapped box."

    David Blomberg, an engineer at a large network solutions company in Tokyo, agreed, saying that "open source code has shown that shown code is more secure. I think everyone benefits with code being viewed by many eyes, and as long as the copyrights are in place, no one else can steal your code."

    Frazier said he expects the leak to have an impact on the way some businesses deploy Windows. "Already, we are looking at deploying Linux in a few key areas," he said. "I imagine that this will speed up some of that."

    Want the story latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools? Check out eWEEKs Developer Center at

    Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

    He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

    He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

    He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

    He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

    He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

    His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

    For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


    Submit a Comment

    Loading Comments...
    Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

    Rocket Fuel