Microsoft traditionally has used its ten-year-old Windows CE platform as a testing ground for source-code code-licensing strategy. On November 1, the company took another step in this arena by making all of its Windows CE 6.0 kernel available under a new element of Microsoft's Shared Source licensing program.
"This is the first and only real-time kernel available in source form on the Internet," said Microsoft Corporate Vice President Todd Warren, who rolled out Microsoft's plans during a "virtual" Webcast launch of the CE 6.0 product.
Microsoft has been offering elements of its Windows CE operating system to academic community partners and other developers under Shared Source licensing arrangements for the past five years, Warren said. But Wednesday's announcement of new Shared Source licensing extensions open up those licensing terms further, officials said.
Microsoft released Windows CE 6.0, code-named "Yamazaki," to manufacturing on September 15. The newest release will be the foundation upon which Microsoft builds its next release of the Windows Mobile 6.0 operating system, which is code-named "Crossbow."
According to Microsoft's CE 6.0 press release, "100 percent of the Windows Embedded CE 6.0 kernel is now available through the Microsoft Shared Source program, an overall increase of 56 percent from previous versions of Windows Embedded CE."
Where did that extra 44 percent come from? The new wrinkle in Microsoft's Shared Source licensing terms seems to be something the Redmondians are calling "private Shared Source." CE 6.0 licensees will have access to public/sample Shared Source code, which is automatically installed with the Embedded CE toolkit. The private Shared Source piece is an "optional component" of the Embedded CE Toolkit.
In order to gain access to this, a licensee mus "electronically accept the terms and conditiions of the Embedded CE 6.0 Shared Source license agreement" before installing the source code, according to Microsoft's updated CE licensing page.
"You may redistribute the Private Shared Source code with your modifications by using the Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Shared Source License Terms," according to the new licensing information.
Among the newly licensable operating system components: Kernel library, device manager, file system, storage manager, HTTP Web Server and Microsoft message queuing.
CE 6.0 supports up to 32k processes, with 2 GB of virtual memory per process, compared to CE 5.0, which supported a maximum of 32 processes with 32 MB of virtual memory per process.
With CE 6.0, Microsoft also moved operating system processes and subsystems, like device-driver manager and file-system manager, into the kernel space.
Will including the CE kernel under Shared Source make it more attractive to device makers who've been working with (or leaning toward working with) Linux and other more liberally licensed operating systems? Any embedded developers out there intrigued? Or is Shared Source still too restrictive for your tastes?