• United States

A free lunch with Microsoft

Aug 02, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoft

* Microsoft Shared Source Initiative

I chatted with Microsoft’s Jason Matusow last week. That, in itself, isn’t unusual as most weeks I talk to someone from the Redmond Empire. But this was a bit more interesting because it took place at the Open Source Conference, and Matusow was wearing a badge identifying him as a Microsoftie.

In fact, Matusow even spoke at the conference. This wasn’t, I hasten to add, a bear-baiting session such as the one Microsoft Vice President Craig Mundie ran into at OSCon a few years ago when he labeled the open source movement as “un-American.” Mundie at the time was touting Microsoft’s own Shared Source Initiative, and Matusow’s job is director of SSI. For the second year in a row, in fact, Microsoft (in the person of Matusow) sponsored and provided the lunches the attendees were noshing on all week.

SSI has been around for five years now, but was originally limited to sharing with a few very close technology partners. Later, source code was shared with governments and quasi-government organizations (United Nations, NATO, the European Union, etc.) mostly to satisfy security concerns.

In all of these cases, the recipients of the code had no license to modify or extend it, although some partners who were using Windows CE (a.k.a., Windows Embedded) were allowed to modify the operating system source code, especially so that it would work with widely diverging hardware. In some cases, Microsoft does allow independent developers to modify and reuse source code, such as the Windows Installer XML (see This code, by the way, has jumped into the top 5% of downloads from SourceForge.

There’s an excellent article (link below) on Microsoft’s Web site detailing the company’s delineation of the various software development models (commercial, open source, free and shared source), which might be of interest, especially if you are developing your own software.

Don’t expect to get your hands on the code for Windows Server 2003 any time soon, though. While it could certainly help your troubleshooting and could let you pare down the lines of code to just what you’d be likely to use, you won’t get your hands on it unless you’re a government entity. But while Matusow made no specific commitment, he did hold out the possibility that more modifiable code could be released in the near future.