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Microsoft Agrees to License Windows Source Code 423

msbmsb writes "Stepping away from previous tradition, "Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday it will license its Windows source code to comply with a European Union antitrust ruling." But in an effort to stop the cloning of the OS, developers will still have to pay an unspecified amount for the code. This is an addition to the "12,000 pages of technical documents and 500 hours of free technical support" to those who purchase a license."
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Microsoft Agrees to License Windows Source Code

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  • by unheard02 ( 949368 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:43PM (#14558737) Homepage
    Man, and all we get is clippy to help us out.
    • Bets on when it will be leaked?
  • How much? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:43PM (#14558748)
    But in an effort to stop the cloning of the OS, developers will still have to pay an unspecified amount for the code.

    One Cajillion Dollars
  • How long will it take before this code hits the streets?
    How long will it take before a fork is on the net?

    This would also be really helpfull for wine and samba developers.
    • The code is already "out there" in the US government, some schools, and some corporations. And it hasn't hit the streets yet. I imagine few are afraid of the NDA. But they all probably fear that MS put something special in each copy of the code in order to track down the source of any leaks.
    • This would also be really helpfull for wine and samba developers.

      Actually I think it would be wise for the wine and samba developers to never look at the code. It would certainly be part of the license that you could not work on competing products after viewing the source. I am pondering contributing to the classpath project, and they are pretty strict about havign their developers never view the source of the original java library.

      Ive also seen, on site, the source code for the complete Windows CE 3.
    • "This would also be really helpfull for wine and samba developers."
      Totally. It'll also be helpful to developers of malware and exploits. MS had better be on top of their game getting patches out. (Like that will happen.)
  • Ok.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tragek ( 772040 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:45PM (#14558779) Journal
    I'll admit it, I'm shocked. However, I have to ask the question? What is this going to change?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:46PM (#14558788)
    Once this hits pirate land, are we in for more trouble than good?
  • Should help Security (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WebHostingGuy ( 825421 ) * on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:46PM (#14558794) Homepage Journal
    With the actual source and another pair of eyes looking at it, there should be more security fixes and hopefully a more secure OS.
    • by dotgain ( 630123 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:51PM (#14558858) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, I can see it now. People flocking en masse to fix the holes, and pay for the privilege!
    • You'd think so, wouldn't you? But the US government has had access to the code for years and we haven't seen much improvement. They do notify MS of at least some issues they find. The OS is probably more secure today because it. I guess things would be even worse if less people were looking at it.
    • With the actual source and another pair of eyes looking at it, there should be more security fixes and hopefully a more secure OS.

      Iff they accept patches. I don't know if their build and release system can handle such a thing right now, this is entirely a different model for them if they adopt it.

      Why is it that about 80% of the Microsoft headlines are basically a recital of the Henry Spencer quote -- "Those who don't understand UNIX are doomed to reinvent it, poorly."

      If MS is to license their source (but n
  • Will it compile? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ptaff ( 165113 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:46PM (#14558795) Homepage

    The question is will it be complete and compile? Don't they have to hide parts of Windows that are licensed from other companies?

    Windows will still be distributed as binaries, having this source code does not give any guarantee about what's really running on your system.

  • Money Matters (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UPZ ( 947916 )
    I guess Europe is a market too big to ignore for Microsoft. Had Singapore govt asked for this, they'd simply have ignored it.
    • What Europe asked for, IIRC, was documentation. Microsoft has so far failed to produce any of a sufficient standard (i.e. that can be actually understood by a programmer), so they're apparently offering source code as a substitute. For a fee, of course.
  • by jpsowin ( 325530 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:49PM (#14558828) Homepage
    developers will still have to pay an unspecified amount for the code

    That means it's either free, or will cost trillions of dollars. I vote for the latter.

    DEVELOPER: I'd like to purchase your code, please.
    MS: Sure, no problem! Sign here.
    DEV: Wait, how much is this again?
    MS: It's an unspecified amount.
    DEV: Oh, okay, that's right. Here is my signature. My company will foot the bill.
    MS: We will send the bill soon--it will take a few weeks to finish printing. Very good doing business with you, sir. You are an intelligent man. We are a small company.
  • This is a dumb arguments to justify putting a price on it, the real reason is to profit from a court decision. Do they imply people with money don't copy? We all know it's not true, quite the oppsite. Let's pretend it's true though, what will prevent a group of people to gather the money and then clone the OS?

  • Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:52PM (#14558859) Homepage Journal
    In the US Microsoft already offers their code to governments, schools, and some limited corporations. All sign NDAs of course. The only news is that it's now happening in Europe. So don't be all surprised people outside MS are seeing the code. This isn't anything new.
    • The release of Microsoft's code is like a virus and I'm pretty sure its on purpose. They let developer's see their IP and forever after all works from that developer could be subject to an IP lawsuit. The poor bastard is infected with it. The GPL is the anti-virus in this case. Seeing the code does not require you to keep your mouth shut and people are encouraged to build on it, but derivative work is also free. Imagine being a developer that sees the source of Media Player. you'd never be able to wor
    • Are you sure? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bmajik ( 96670 )
      My understanding is that previous disclosures of Windows Source typically had "no develop" and "no commercial spinoff" clauses. I.e. you couldn't necessarily use the Windows source to try and make your pay-ware version of $whatever work better.

      I think this changes that. Now software companies working on plugsin/whatever for windows will be able to continue working on those things, even after looking at the windows code.

      That is a pretty significant change, I think. Previous source offerings were primarily
  • The price, in money and terms, will be too high for businesses. What it will mean that foreign governements will have similar access to what the US already has. The government(s) can make custom backdoors etc.... with their own people. They can give them back to MS who compiles and distributes.

    I wonder whose version of M$ I'll get in the future?

    I wonder if it will cover 2003?
  • by stikves ( 127823 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:55PM (#14558912) Homepage
    Actually, Microsoft is already licensing the Windows source code. However the significance of the new event is, they will not be choosing the licensor (at least not as much as before).

    For a list of microsoft shared source licencing programs look at censing/default.mspx []. You'll see that the top item [] mentions "access to Microsoft Windows® source code for internal development and support purpose". And as far as I know there are already many utility producers (Symantec, WinInternals, etc) that can access NTFS source codes.

    Anyways do not keep your hopes too high. As you can see there are many shared source licenses (some are even like BSD), however Windows is not becoming "Open Source" soon.
    • Taking part in a shared source program with Microsoft has been criticized before by the open source community for being a great risk to the developer that looks at the MS code.
      Isn't there the same problem with this new initiative? source.php []

      Shared source licenses include a requirement that the licensor agree to treat Microsoft's code as confidential proprietary data. It follows that any developer, once he has seen shared source code, can be enjoined

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:55PM (#14558915)
    Nicely played by Microsoft.

    As usual - they're not giving what anyone asks for (afaik - noone actually wants to have to look at the internals of windows), they just want to get the documentation on the protocols used so that they can intercommunicate.

    By offering to license Windows, Micrsofts "crown jewels", MS has done two nice things (for them).
    1) They appear to be bending over backwards to meeting the EUs demands; and
    2) They will manage to set any number of unreasonable licensing terms (both monetary and otherwise), to turn this into yet another profit center (and ensure that open-source can't use any of it...)

    Imo, the EU should tell them that this is *not* what was asked for, and while it's nice and whatever, please just provide what you were asked for.
    Otherwise please pass go, please pay $2million dollars.

    • Long ago Digital used to provide the source for VMS on Microfiche so that they could comply with government and business security requirements without really giving up control over their OS crown jewels. Looks like this is a similar move by MS. It's similar to a the legal strategy of information overload - dumping tens of thousands of irrelevant documents into the hands of the opposition to force them to waste time and resources looking for that needle hidden in the proverbial haystack.
  • Consequences (Score:3, Insightful)

    by doublegauss ( 223543 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:56PM (#14558922)
    This will have no consequences whatsoever on piracy. Those people don't give a toss about source code, all they need is to copy the executables.

    This will have consequences on projects like Wine, Samba or ReactOS because some legal mechanism will be in force so that you can't look at the Windows source and rewrite it, let alone cut-n-paste it. What those guys need to do is ensuring any development is clean-room. What I see as conceivable is that someone (the FSF for instance) pays for one licence and the devotes some effort into releasing documents which describe accurately the internals in plain language. Obviously, the people who do this job must not contribute any code to any project.

    • Re:Consequences (Score:5, Insightful)

      by js3 ( 319268 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:28PM (#14559373)
      yea but once you have access to the source, they can come after you for copying their implementation. As a developer I find this push to release the windows source sort of strange. We need proper documentation not source code, if something is broken we can point to the manual and have it corrected, instead of following the broken implementation in the source only to find it "fixed" in another version of the os and breaking compatibility.
  • Wahoo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:58PM (#14558950) Journal
    Now I can learn how to create secure bugfree code from the masters.
  • by Lifewish ( 724999 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:00PM (#14558982) Homepage Journal
    So MS get ordered to hand over documentation for their protocols. They do so. It's crap and they're ordered to go back and do it properly.

    So they respond with "figure it out yourself. After paying us some cash obviously."

    Does anyone actually think this is an acceptable response?
  • Microsoft has licensed its source code in the past (think Citrix circa NT 3.51) to those who could meet their terms. Of course, Microsoft tried to "sweep the leg" on Citrix with NT4TSE; but Citrix, unlike so many others who have gone to bed with Microsoft, managed to survive.

    Just remember about how Microsoft has *always* licensed their source code: under their terms. Sure Microsoft will license their source code. But you can bet the agreement(s) you must sign to license it will be lengthy, ambiguous wh
  • sweet (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tachikoma ( 878191 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:04PM (#14559039)
    i hope it gets leaked on the web.
    that way i can cut-and-paste it into a Obfuscated code [] contest!
  • O_o (Score:2, Funny)

    Did I just see a pig fly by overhead?
  • .. in the source code:

    //..Damn! I am paid per hour, so I guess let me make up more statements, who
    //..cares if it is a program statement or comment statement, anyways, who the
    //..heck would read it? and btw the new receptionist is damn hot,
    //..reminder: ask her out

    oblig code

    //..lala lalala

  • This isn't a big deal.
    Microsoft has already licensed Windows source code to over 100 universities, listed here: sity/ntsrclicensees.aspx []

    More details: sity/NTSrcLicInfo.aspx []
  • They have been asked to document their protocols such that their competitors (mostly open source) can compete. Licensing their server software is much like asking a politician one question and them answering the question they wanted you to ask. Of course the open source vendors can not sign the NDAs this will require. and Microsoft can't seem to get their shit together to document their protocols, probably their biggest problem behind the scenes.

    I will be personally surprised if this is accepted or even an
  • What does Microsoft not want? Competition. In particular, they do not want open source competition in the server platform arena.

    How will this aid that goal? That is the question to ask.

    Why would Microsoft do this, rather than provide complete, accurate, usable documentation of the interface between Windows servers and client stations? Why license source code instead?

    Simply, this provides another method for Microsoft to control competition through licensing and restrictions. This will not help the small deve
  • by anzev ( 894391 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:18PM (#14559237)
    Well, the artcile cleary states:

    Microsoft is to open up the source code behind its server communication protocols, in an attempt to get the European Commission off its back.
    I'm pretty sure this isn't Windows... actually, being a developer myself I KNOW this is not the Windows source code. It's just source code to the protocols. It's a great step forward no less, but anyway.

    There will be no additional charge for access to the code.

    Er... and the article summary states that developers will have to pay an unspecified amount of money... Ok...

    RTFA! That's all I have to say. It's a really short article you know.
  • by Big Jojo ( 50231 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:20PM (#14559263)

    This is an end-run around the requirement to provide complete and accurate protocol documentation, for the purposes of third party inter-operation.

    Notice how any third party that uses that code in lieu of the protocol documentation is now unable to inter-operate without forking money over to Microsoft ... sleazy.

    Of course, many of us have long suspected that Microsoft really doesn't understand software engineering disciplines well enough to make their products adhere to such specifications. They may think "here's the code" is the best they can do without actually revising their development practices. Well, tough noogies, this is just the price for their previous abusive practices.

  • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:30PM (#14559398)
    I think the implicitly stiff fee is to slow down OSS developers from discovering the undocumented hooks in windows so they can make better windwos emulations.
  • With all the warning about how even looking at the code could cause trouble, I can't help but think of it as MS's version of the Tar Baby []
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter@slashdot.2 ... m ['6.t' in gap]> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:48PM (#14559670) Homepage Journal
    EXISTING customers who are ALREADY paying for documentation on the Windows server networking protocols will now be allowed to see the source code to the protocols for no additional charge.

    They won't be able to modify, extend, or redistribute the code, even in closed applications.

    This is only by the most liberal interpretation "opening" the code, and it's really not licensing the code except as reference material.
  • by SteveX ( 5640 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @02:07PM (#14559923) Homepage
    This creates a huge opportunity for companies to take over supporting legacy operating systems.

    License the Windows XP code today, wait a few years for Microsoft to stop supporting it, and then sell support contracts to companies that have chosen not to upgrade and still need security patches and bug fixes.
  • by fufinache ( 787019 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @02:38PM (#14560321)
    If I had the money and the knowledge to set up one of those internet money pools, I would try to pool together some money so that Codeweavers, or maybe even Cedega can get a copy of the code. I'm sure a this could go a long way to help linux acceptance.
  • by Rob Y. ( 110975 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @02:52PM (#14560480)
    The whole point of the EU's interoperability requirement was so that people could build compatible systems. Nobody want's to clone Windows (or at least that isn't an EU requirement). And just because somebody wants to be able to serve files to Windows desktops doesn't mean that they want to steal Microsoft's intellectual property. They just want to be able to support 90+ % of the systems out there. And maybe if MS hadn't broken the law, they wouldn't be forced to allow that. But they did.

    Offering the source code with draconian licensing terms doesn't do it. They just need to release detailed specs for the bits of Windows that are required to interoperate with the system. That means the filesystem layout, networking protocols, and I'd argue, codecs that are 'built in' to windows enough that website dev's use them as 'always available' facilities.

    And the specs should be made available for free. No restrictions on use. That's the whole point. If MS has the ability through its monopoly position to set de-facto standards, they should not be able to use those standards to further entrench their monopoly. A requirement to publish the specs would remove that incentive.

    This offering is a big old red herring, and the EU should reject it.
  • What if the Windows clone has fewer bugs, fewer security flaws, runs faster, and is a better quality than Microsoft Windows and sells for a lower price? Can they sell it outside of Europe then?
  • by thanasakis ( 225405 ) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @03:14PM (#14560735)
    I have the feeling that this product is more and more moving away from the realm of products and into the realm of neccesities. Sooner or later people will want to create products that have the same API as windows (essentialy windows clones). So far they ae not able because M$ is potentialy able to stop them, but when we are talking about an OS that has >90% share, will they be able to keep it up? AT&T had monopoly and lost it also.

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