Dmitry Nikolaev -

Gates ponders open source

Microsoft is considering making some of its software open source in the light of this week's Department of Justice (DoJ) anti-trust ruling

Microsoft is considering making some of its software open source in the light of this week's Department of Justice (DoJ) anti-trust ruling.

Oliver Roll, Microsoft UK and Ireland director of business marketing, told Computer Weekly, "We may well voluntarily make code available, but will fight any legal move to make us change the core of Windows."

This is a significant shift in the software giant's position. Only last November - after the interim DoJ statement of findings - Microsoft ruled out such a move.

Microsoft's new stance suggests the firm would consider releasing peripheral elements of Windows and making other Microsoft products completely open source. This could make it easier for competitors to give users altenatives to buying full Microsoft software suites.

However, Microsoft still rejects any suggestion of making "the core" of the Windows operating system open source.

Roll said, "When the core is offered, there can be disadvantages. Windows is now a standard, and there are already many applications out there built around Windows which are cost effective. Changing the core would affect that."

Microsoft is lodging an appeal, but Roll said he was still hopeful the matter could be settled out of court.

Any suggestion that Microsoft was waiting for a new US president to arrive in November was a "red herring", said Roll. Ronald Reagan settled the long-running IBM case when he came to power.

Asked whether Microsoft would entertain requested clauses in user contracts covering the potential break-up of the company, Roll said it wasn't, so far, an issue, but this could be discussed at a customer's request.

User organisations want the future of the company to be sorted out as soon as possible. Roger Ellis, chairman of the Elite user group, said, "The ruling strikes me as a bit of a damp squib, with no suggestion of what penalties Microsoft faces. I was expecting more."

Ellis added, "I'm not sure breaking-up the company will solve anything, and you can't really break-up an operating system, but the sooner the matter is settled the better."

David Roberts, executive director of The Infrastructure Forum user group, said, "Whatever happens, the priority for us is easier to use and easier and cheaper to licence products. If breaking up the company delivers that, so be it."

Geoff Petherick, chairman of the Eurim campaign for fair software and services contracts, said, "In terms of IT planning, the judgment should make users' lives easier." Petherick hopes the judgment will force Microsoft to re-think its strategy, which he claims locks users into a perpetual software upgrade cycle.

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