Microsoft opens Windows code to more techies

Microsoft Corp. has expanded a program that gives access to Windows source code to include the majority of its Most Valuable...

Microsoft has expanded a programme giving access to Windows source code to include the majority of its Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), technology enthusiasts who help Microsoft users.

When it was first announced in October, the MVP Source Licensing Programme covered about 1,200 MVPs specialising in the Windows client, Microsoft's server products and its developer tools. The source code licensing programme is now available to 2,187 MVPs across all product areas, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

MVPs are individuals recognised by Microsoft for their technical knowledge and the time they spend helping other users, for example in message boards and user groups. There are 2,747 MVPs worldwide, but the source code is available only to those living in 27 countries, the spokeswoman said. Eligibility is based on intellectual property protection laws.

MVPs are grouped by area of expertise. The licensing programme now includes MVPs who specialise in Microsoft Business Solutions, Xbox, consumer products and Office Systems.

Since October, only 175 MVPs have signed up for access to the source code, far fewer than Microsoft had expected. By expanding the program, Microsoft aims to give all MVPs at least the option to access the code, if they decide it might be valuable to them, said Jason Matusow, director of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative.

Two MVPs said they had no intention of accessing Windows source code, for varying reasons.

"I have zero interest in looking at the Windows code. Even if I was just curious, I wouldn't want to risk being a possible suspect if anyone did anything really awful with that source code," said Julia Lerman, a Visual Developer MVP and an independent software developer in the US.

Steven Bink, a Windows Server Systems MVP in the Netherlands, said he was not interested in the code because he is a systems engineer, not a software developer. "That source code will look like Chinese to me," he said. Bink would like to see additions to the MVP programme that benefited systems engineers rather than developers, he said.

The MVP source code licensing programme offers access to parts of the underlying code of Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, as well as future versions of the Windows operating systems, service packs and betas, Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft does not release source code that it considers to be particularly valuable, such as the code that underlies the product activation feature of Windows, Matusow said. Additionally, Microsoft does not share third-party code or cryptographic code that is subject to export restrictions, he said.

Access to the Windows code is through a heavily-secured website. MVPs can look at the Windows code but are not allowed to modify or compile it. Enterprise users, systems integrators and OEMs have similar access.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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