Microsoft announced today a deal with the Chinese government to give them access to the complete source code for Windows2000, XP Server 2003, and Windows CE.NET.
The justification of these deals (also made with Russia, Britain and NATO) is to increase users comfort levels with the security of the products, and to allow governments to review to source code to understand exactly what goes on under the covers.
The ironic thing is that compared to Open Source software, users under these deals with Microsoft will not be able to modify and/or redistribute the code (unless this arrangement has been made but not publicized), as Microsoft still holds the proprietary rights to the software. So this is a strictly ‘look but don’t touch’ arrangement.
Microsoft must understandably be scared that if it completely opens up its source code to the world in true Open Source fashion, then its game will likely be over – no longer will it control the desktop OS world, as many Windows-like variants would surely evolve over time.
The trouble is, Microsoft has been for years trying to make in-roads into the server market and compete with various Unix flavours, first with NT, then 2000 Server editions, and now the latest Server 2003.
The Open Source world of Linux has been a big blow to their attempts in this market, because now there is a free Unix available to all. Plus, Open Source has shown to produce an OS that is stable and reliable, something that Microsoft struggles to do even with a paid staff of thousands.
As a side note, even Apple is now going down the Unix road, with their Unix-based OS X (based on BSD?).
So what lies in the future for Microsoft in their attempts to gain server market share? Is .NET going to gain popularity? Will the Common Language Runtime ever become ‘cross platform’ (as the Open Source ‘Mono’ project hopes to achieve – but not if Microsoft patents the .NET API’s, making this legally impossible). And how long will it be before Microsoft releases their next version of their server software, in a box that says ‘Microsoft Linux Server’ on the front….?