Q&A: Microsoft Expands Shared Source Initiative to Include Systems Integrators

REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 21, 2002 — Last May, Microsoft unveiled its Shared Source Initiative (SSI) to make source code available selectively, while still preserving intellectual property rights to sustain a strong software industry. Today, Microsoft announces the expansion of this initiative to include systems integrators, a group that has broad-reaching capabilities and customer impact. As a key player in coordinating the SSI both to partners and customers and throughout Microsoft, SSI Product Manager Jason Matusow spoke with PressPass to discuss the history of the initiative, source licensing and the computer industry, and the significance of systems integrators.

PressPass: Why is the SSI being expanded to include systems integrators?

Matusow: We want to help companies like Accenture, Avanade, Cap Gemini, Compaq, PWC and others better serve their customers with more detailed Microsoft information. We believe that sharing source code with systems integrators is the most practical step to take, because it will enable them to use the code to its fullest capabilities. For users, this expansion will result in enhanced security, greater Windows-based deployment and inter-operability, and other advantages.

PressPass: Who qualifies for participation in this program?

Matusow: We’re offering the program to approximately 150 top systems integrators in 30 countries. To be eligible, the systems integrator must either be a Microsoft Gold Certified Support Partner or have at least 1,500 seats of Windows and a level A or B Premiere Support agreement.

PressPass: How does this benefit users?

Matusow: Last year, our Microsoft Gold Certified Support Partners responded to more than a million Windows support calls in the United States alone. Having increased access to Microsoft’s code base means they can respond more thoroughly and more quickly to a broader set of questions and problems. Ultimately, they are able to offer higher-value services to our mutual customers.

PressPass: Where does Microsoft stand on the issue of open source vs. shared source?

Matusow: Both models have merits. We considered the issue from a number of perspectives. We took a hard look at how sharing source code would benefit customers and partners while still maintaining a healthy commercial software business. In working with our Windows customer base, we found that very few of them wanted to modify code. They felt very strongly that the code was Microsoft’s responsibility. Our SSI was developed to help directly with support issues, deployment issues and the customization of applications that are built on top of the Windows platform — not to transfer the burden of operating system support and maintenance to the customer. Microsoft is committed to protecting the integrity of the code base and the operating system, and the SSI helps accomplish that while increasing the transparency of the code.

PressPass: Does providing access to source code open up security concerns?

Matusow: Security is a tremendously complex issue, and it’s one that Microsoft has considered extensively and put a lot of resources behind. As the Internet continues to change how businesses communicate with each other and with customers, concerns about both hardware and software security become more top-of-mind. To that end, the access programs we’ve provided for Windows give the code to highly trusted entities. At the same time, we’ve remained steadfast in making sure the code doesn’t fall into the hands of people with malicious intent.

PressPass: How has the initiative progressed since you introduced it last year?

Matusow: In May, we were just getting started with the Enterprise Source License Agreement for Windows source code. We’ve since expanded the program to include other entities — like national and state governments as well as other operating systems such as Windows CE where we’re now sharing more than 1.5 million lines of that code base. The positive response, too, has been increasing. When we first started offering access to the code base for Windows CE 3.0, we experienced 23,000 downloads in the first six months. With Windows CE .NET there were more than 32,000 downloads in the first four weeks of the program — and over 50 percent of the downloads are being used actively. Another major progression is the delivery mechanism. We have a secure Web site, MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Code Center Premium, which offers more rapid access to code and greater flexibility, improving the use of code access through what we call “just-in-time” debugging.

PressPass: What are some of the larger concerns around the issue of sharing code, and how has Microsoft taken these into consideration while developing the SSI?

Matusow: There is a strong software ecosystem that supports a cycle of sustained innovation. Within the ecosystem there is a critical relationship between the applied research undertaken in government and academia and the production of useful products by industry. We believe that it is important for the global economy to maintain this ecosystem and to foster innovation at every level. Open source, shared source, freeware, shareware, public domain software, commercial software, etc. all play an important role in the ecosystem. From our perspective, shared source offers a balanced approach for all commercial software companies to share their source code while still owning their intellectual property. I’m very proud of how we’ve listened to a broad scope of voices to arrive at an approach that delivers maximum value, rather than getting caught up in semantics.