Windows Source Code Deal: Not for All

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2001-03-12

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."

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