Microsoft Preps to Expand Source Sharing Programs
Interview with Jason Matesow,
Program Manager of Microsoft's "Shared Source" Initiative
by Vance McCarthy
Over the last few weeks, Microsoft execs have been focusing on expanding their programs to make certain source code from Windows and other Microsoft core products available to developers.
In fact, Microsoft is already considering plans to enable developers select access to Windows source through a "smart card" facility. To prepare for this added sharing, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a recent gathering in Europe that the next server version of Windows will embrace a "community collaboration" process, where Microsoft will launch online newsgroups for support and advice.
Much of this "opening" of code from Windows, CE, .NET and other software will be managed by Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative. Integration Developer News spoke with Jason Matesow, program manager for Microsoft's SSI, to get more details on Microsoft's "open" software plans.
IDN: What are the overall goals of such an expansion in Microsoft's "shared source" policy?
Matesow: The Shared Source Initiative is Microsoft's continuing commitment to increase the transparency of its code and provide those who would benefit from code access the ability to build on and benefit from Microsoft innovations.
We've been successfully running the Shared Source Initiative for the past 18 months and are always looking at options for expanding source sharing programs. Shared Source continues to deliver valuable intellectual property into the hands of companies, academicians, developers and governments worldwide with increasing global growth in Windows, Windows Embedded and .NET technologies source licensing.
IDN: You just returned from an extended trip overseas. How much of that trip served as a fact-finding mission to provide Microsoft execs more insight on how Microsoft should play in the Shared Source/Open Source space?
Matesow: The purpose of my travel in Europe is to gain customer feedback on their experience with the Shared Source programs thus far and to learn more about how we can expand our Shared Source programs for the greatest customer benefit.
IDN: Speaking of expansion, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer recently told a meeting of Microsoft's Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) in London that the company is considering expanding shared source initiatives beyond just large companies, to include smaller and midsized users/partners. What's the latest on expanding Shared Source?
Matesow: Yes. As Steve said, we are considering source access to Windows through the Shared Source Initiative as one more element to augment their expertise. We're still working on the details of this approach, but sharing source code is just one of many options under review to help MVPs enrich the experience with Microsoft technology.
The Shared Source Initiative is an ongoing project that will evolve over time to support additional source-access programs for many of our valued partners and constituent communities. As an example, Microsoft values its MVP community and the unique link they provide in the customer feedback loop, and we're constantly looking for ways to augment their ability to work with our technologies.
IDN: Some software analysts, and even some Microsoft execs, have made the point that Microsoft's new "collaboration models" are based in some part on Open Source community processes, such as with Linux. Can you point to any examples where Microsoft is "learning" from Open Source?
Matesow: As for demonstrable programs where we're learning from Open Source software, yes, I can.
On Oct. 10th, Craig Mundie announced the latest expansion of the Shared Source Initiative, the .NET Passport Manager Source Licensing Program. This commercial derivative license allows developers and other interested individuals to access and use Passport Manager source code for both commercial and noncommercial purposes, including the creation and distribution of derivatives of the licensed source code for non-Windows applications. Licensees are free to use the source code also to develop, debug and support their own commercial software for integration with .NET Passport.
[The Passport Manager Source Licensing Program aims to enable companies to better integrate applications with Passport by providing access to and use of Passport Manager source code to develop, debug and support both commercial and noncommercial software for the purpose of integration. The Passport licensing program is the latest expansion of the Microsoft Shared Source Initiative.]
IDN: Ballmer specifically mentioned that he wants Microsoft to explore how to offer "smart card access to 'much' of the Windows source code." What can you tell us about that initiative?
Matesow: Currently, source code for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows .NET Server (all versions, service packs and betas) is provided for the Windows source licensees. The mechanism for accessing this source code is through MSDN Code Center Premium, which is a smart-card driven, secure site, where we host the source trees that we're making available. As I said before, the MVP source access program is still under evaluation, and it would be premature for me to comment on the specifics of that program.
IDN: On the more controversial side, while in Europe, Ballmer also caused a stir in the Open Source community with some other remarks -- less supportive of Open Source. In one publication he was quoted as saying, "We have to compete with free software on value, but in a smart way. We cannot price at zero, so we need to justify our posture and pricing. Linux isn't going to go away -- our job is to provide a better product in the marketplace."
I thought Microsoft was taking a more cooperative stance toward Linux, adding certain features to make it easier for developers to integrate NT and Linux platforms. Just how do these statements reflect a shift in Microsoft's thinking on Open Source?
Matesow: Our position on Open Source Software (OSS) and OSS products has not changed. OSS is an important part of the software industry and has been for 30 years.
We will compete with OSS products that compete with us. We're learning from OSS in terms of how to improve communication with our customers and to provide deeper understanding of our products (through source code access). I contend that the integration of our products combined with our strong partner relations with ISVs and services organizations provides the highest-value solution at the most competitive price-point.
Microsoft's commitment is to provide the value beyond the commodity-level OS, and our source access plans, as well as tools like Code Center Premium that help developers not only access the code but use it easily and productively for business benefit, are definitely part of that "added value."