Tuesday

Tuesday 14/1/03Gradually, Microsoft is bowing to the inevitable. It's decided to let governments see its source code, on the grounds that so many of them were refusing to leave all their IT tasks in the hands of a large block of uncheckable software.

Tuesday 14/1/03
Gradually, Microsoft is bowing to the inevitable. It's decided to let governments see its source code, on the grounds that so many of them were refusing to leave all their IT tasks in the hands of a large block of uncheckable software. Who knows what it might be doing -- radioing data back to Redmond? Leaving back doors open for US government agents? Quietly replacing every occurrence of the words 'Sun Microsystems' in purchase orders with 'Microsoft'? Of course not, but if you're the government you can't be too careful. It's probably not good enough, though. Unless MS makes the source code for each and every Windows patch available to the governments, nobody can be sure that the version of Windows they're running at the moment is anything like the one that got approved. There's no such thing as being a little bit open in your source: for it to do any good, you have to go all the way. Doubtless someone in Microsoft is considering the downside of making all the code available to anyone to view. We can dismiss the idea that there'll be commercial consequences as competitors use the information to somehow undercut Microsoft itself -- there are no competitors, and Microsoft's commercial advantage doesn't derive from the quality of its software (and wouldn't it be a different world if it did?). Here's a prediction: in two years' time or less, most of the core code for Windows will be widely available for viewing -- either officially or with Microsoft's unspoken acquiescence. Even if the company really, truly doesn't want it to happen, you know how government departments like to leak. Especially as they're often filled with firebrand lefties who have a deep distrust of the commercial world...