Microsoft Bares CE Source to OEMs

Aiming to make its Windows CE operating system more attractive to device
manufacturers, Microsoft late Wednesday debuted the
Windows CE Shared Source Premium Licensing Program (CEP).


CEP, a program under Microsoft’s Shared
Source Initiative
, qualified OEMs, silicon vendors and systems
integrators will have full access to the Windows CE source code, and will
additionally have the right to modify that code and commercially distribute
those modifications in devices.


Premium source code access is vital to enabling our long-standing
optimization efforts around Windows CE .NET on the ARM architecture,” said
Mike Muller, chief technology officer at ARM, one of the companies that
embraced the new program. “The results enabled by this program directly
translate into competitive advantage delivered to the entire ARM
partnership. Premium source access, along with out on-site people in
Redmond, has increased the effectiveness of our collaboration efforts.”


The company already licenses the CE source code to academics and
researchers, but the program announced Wednesday is the first time
Microsoft has opened the code up to third-party modification. A number of
companies have already leapt on the program, including ARM, BSQUARE,
Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, MIPS Technologies and Samsung Electronics.

“Having the rights to modify the Windows CE .NET source code allows us to
bring optimized and differentiated devices to market quickly,” said Shigeru
Matsuoka, general manager of the Mobile Information & Communication
Appliance Division, Ubiquitous Platform Systems, at Hitachi.

Microsoft said CEP also includes a customer feedback program, which allows
customers to give Microsoft guidance on future development of Windows CE —
a program which somewhat resembles the more wide open collaboration in the
open source community.

The company has already created a
similar program
for its Passport digital identity service, and has even
taken
steps
to open up some of its Windows source code to certain customers,
partners, developers and academics.

“Microsoft is definitely making a push to “open” their technologies,” said
Ronald Schmelzer, founder and senior analyst of research firm ZapThink.
“It’s not clear how far this will go, but there are indications that
various different market sectors are demanding that Microsoft open up their
technologies so that buyers won’t feel locked in to the Microsoft solution.
In particular, the US government is one of those forces demanding those
changes — and not from a Department of Justice perspective, but rather as
a customer of Microsoft’s.”

Still, Schmelzer said it is a mistake to confuse Microsoft’s Shared Source
Initiative with open source.

“These notions are totally different,” he said. “Microsoft is just giving
us a cursory peek under their kimonos in order to give comfort to
customers, but by no means are they intending to share development of their
offerings with others. That’s the potent notion in open source: community
development. I don’t think Microsoft will ever go there as it simply is not
in their (and some would argue their customers’) best interest.”

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