Microsoft has expanded its Shared Source Initiative to give access to the Windows source code to a group of technology enthusiasts who help Microsoft users.
A Windows source code licensing programme has been created for the so-called Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), individuals recognised by Microsoft for their technical knowledge and time they spend helping users of Microsoft products in online message boards and users groups.
Microsoft already shares Windows code with governments, companies and educational institutions under various programmes which are part of its Shared Source Initiative announced in 2001.
The new Most Valuable Professional Source Licensing Program (MVPSLP) is meant to raise the level of self-support in the Microsoft user community and help Microsoft with product development and research.
There are more than 1,800 Microsoft MVPs in 55 countries. They already had access to source code for other Microsoft products including Windows CE .net, Visual Studio .net and Passport Manager. The latest licensing programme adds Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to that list.
MVPs in the Windows Server Systems, Windows or Visual categories are eligible for the new programme, provided they live in one of 27 eligible countries and are 18 or older, said Jason Matusow, shared source manager at Microsoft.
Country eligibility is based on intellectual property protection laws.
"About 1,200 MVPs are eligible for this programme and we expect a significant percentage of those, say 80%, to sign up," Matusow said.
Access to the Windows code is through a heavily secured website. MVPs will be able to look at the Windows code, but are not allowed to make modifications or compile the source code into Windows programs themselves.
Enterprise users, system integrators and original equipment manufacturers have the same type of access, Matusow said.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service