says it will share the source code for
its Windows operating system with a number of foreign governments to assuage
Under the program announced Tuesday, Microsoft will allow governments to see
the source code for Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003 and CE. Microsoft will
also let the governments see security documentation, which until now had
been secret. Some say Microsoft’s newfound openness is a response to
critical vulnerabilities to its source code that governments around the
world have exposed.
The reasons behind Microsoft’s shift in strategy do not appear entirely
altruistic, and some say are politically motivated. Through this move,
Microsoft is simultaneously trying to strengthen its hand with governments
around the world, while responding to the alternative Linux vendors have
been presenting to officials from Beijing to Rio.
For the past several years, a number of countries have been looking at
adopting legislation that would require open-source software. In particular,
China, Japan, Germany and Brazil have voiced interest in adopting
open-source software solutions, and Microsoft clearly became concerned that
immense revenues could be lost in these massive markets.
Microsoft has engineered an aggressive lobbying campaign and been a vocal
critic of adoption of the open-source software movement, including products
stemming from Linux. In open-source environments, programmers are able to
see, modify and redistribute code, not an option in the many variants of
Microsoft software. Governments that sign up for the Microsoft program will
have to sign strict confidentiality agreements aimed at protecting against
piracy of its software, resulting from sharing its code.
Microsoft’s Government Security Program, led by Craig Mundie, the company’s
chief technical officer of advanced strategies and policy, is in part a
response to growing interest by foreign governments to adopt Linux, which
boasts complete openness of its code, recognized security protections and
significantly lower costs.
Russia and NATO have already signed up for the Microsoft initiative. Mundie
and his team are said to be traveling around the world aiming to sign up
more than 60 other governments and international organizations.