5 years ago… Microsoft considers opening Windows

Gates has been sharing the source - but the Windows are still closed…
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor on

Gates has been sharing the source - but the Windows are still closed…

08.04.99: Microsoft president Steve Ballmer has hinted that the software giant may release some of its Windows 2000 source code to developers.

Speaking at the Windows Hardware and Engineering conference in Los Angeles, Ballmer said the firm is considering licensing its operating system (OS) code in response to the popularity of open-source OS Linux.

Ballmer admitted that Microsoft is still debating what the open source movement will mean for the firm. He said: "I don't think the great attraction to Linux is the fact that it's free. The thing I think we're trying to really understand and decide what to do about is this notion of open source. There is a level of flexibility, or at least a level of comfort that people have when they have the source code 'just in case'. Most CIOs I talk to don't actually want their people to touch the source."

Ballmer would not say what code might be made available, or set out a timetable for the move.

08.04.04: While Microsoft is still as protective as ever of its crown jewels, there are signs that the Redmond giant is opening up access to parts of its Windows source code.

Indeed, if it loses the appeal against the EC's €497m antitrust ruling, then Microsoft will be forced to release source code to its rivals to make it easier for their products to interoperate with Windows.

Just this week Microsoft published the code for one of its products on an open-source software development website, departing from its hard-line stance against making the underlying components of its technology available to the general public. The code in question was for its Windows Installer XML software.

Through its Shared Source programme, Microsoft has also been granting increasing access to Windows source code to developers, enterprise users and governments but such is the value that Microsoft places on its IP that Ballmer and co will never put Windows' code completely in the public domain.

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