Windows Source Code Deal: Not for All

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-03-12 Print this article Print

Microsoft Corp.'s decision last week to give its 1,000 top U.S. enterprise customers access to the Windows 2000 source code has been sharply criticized

Microsoft Corp.s decision last week to give its 1,000 top U.S. enterprise customers access to the Windows 2000 source code has been sharply criticized by smaller customers.

Many of them are developers who feel they should be allowed to see the source code, too, so they can more effectively develop Windows applications.

Mike Kuchenbrod, a senior programmer at a Microsoft solution provider based in Kentucky, said he is disappointed that smaller companies are not going to get access to the code. "It would be useful in my current job to be able to use the code to determine why an API does not work as documented and then code around it," Kuchenbrod said.

The initiative, known as the Enterprise Source Licensing Program, will encompass the Windows 2000 server and client platforms and all service packs when released, said Steve Lipner, Microsofts lead program manager for the .Net server group, in Redmond, Wash.

However, customers qualifying for access to the source code will have to sign a license that forbids altering the code or giving any other party access to it so as to "maintain the integrity of the platform," Lipner said.

A developer who has seen the license said it requires that all persons with access to the code be prevented from working for, or contributing to, any competing company or product. All names must be turned over to Microsoft before the code is licensed. "This essentially removes most of the [independent] developer community from having access, as we work across a variety of platforms," said the developer, who requested anonymity.

If a customer finds a bug, it is to be reported through the normal product support channels and corrected by Microsoft through a service pack or a more immediate and individual "hot fix," Lipner said.

He denied that the decision for the expanded program had anything to do with the success of the open-source movement.

Microsoft, nevertheless, stands to benefit significantly from the move.

"The source code will inevitably end up on the Web," contends Peter Burris, a Meta Group Inc. analyst, in Stamford, Conn. "Hackers will start working on it. This will help Microsoft improve its products ... until they are bulletproof."

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


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