Microsoft Takes Another Step Toward More Open Licensing

The Redmond software vendor is testing the boundaries of "derivative works" with its latest Windows CE licensing offer.

As part of its official launch of Windows CE 5.0 on Monday, Microsoft Corp. announced that, for the first time, all CE source code licensees will be allowed to ship so-called "derivative works" based on the CE 5.0 code.

Previously, Microsoft allowed only Windows CE Premium source-code licensees to take advantage of the "derivative works" licensing terms as part of its Shared Source initiative. But under the old licensing terms, Premium licensors were required to share with Microsoft any changes they made to the source.

Shared Source is Microsofts alternative to open-source licensing.

Microsoft officials said since making the Windows CE source code available to developers via Shared Source, there have been 250,000 downloads. Microsoft is making 2.5 million lines of Windows CE code available as of the 5.0 release, said Scott Horn, senior director of marketing.

"The majority of the code is out there," said Horn. Microsoft still is not making available to general CE source licensors intellectual property thats part of CE but that isnt owned by Microsoft, as well as some security-related code (such as flash-file passwords), Horn explained.

Microsoft officials said by the time Windows CE 5.0 is delivered to OEMs late this summer, all licensors will be able to "maintain ownership of their derivative code and will not be obligated to share modifications with Microsoft, partners or competitors."

If Microsofts licensing terms sound somewhat familiar, they should. They are akin to the "Copyleft" licensing terms popularized by members of the open-source community.


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