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Microsoft Opens Source Code to Some Governments

Microsoft Corp. is offering limited rights to review source code to a third of the world's governments in what is widely viewed as an attempt to blunt open source momentum among security conscious national agencies. Early participants in the program announced this week are NATO and a Russian agency.

Microsoft's Government Security Program consists of a tool to allow immediate online review of source code for some current and beta versions of the operating system. Participants can look at source code for Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

The program also provides government users with access to technical information about the Windows platform and includes the option of one-week or two-week visits to Redmond to see how the operating system is developed and to offer feedback.

Germany and France are among nations where government users have made noises about moving toward open source software such as Linux that allows them to review and modify source code. Cost is at least as important a consideration as security in many government reviews.

Microsoft officials say they have identified more than 60 eligible nations. According to the Infoplease.com almanac, there are 193 countries. Microsoft's criteria are a government's attitude and laws about intellectual property. As a U.S.-based company, Microsoft also won't offer the program to countries under a U.S. trade embargo such as Cuba and Iraq.

Microsoft is currently in discussions with 20 countries about the program. An organization representing the Federal Agency for Governmental Communication and Information in Russia has signed a GSP. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has also signed a GSP.

The program is primarily intended for central national agencies that focus on security as a core priority. State, provincial and local agencies, as well as government agencies requiring source code access for product support, will be steered toward the Shared Source Initiative Microsoft launched in 2001.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.