Microsoft revealed this morning that, to date, several national governments have decided to review the Windows source code to help determine whether they'll use Microsoft's offering or a Linux alternative to fill lucrative public-sector contracts. Microsoft hasn't released the identities of all the countries, but the list includes Austria, China, Russia, and the UK. Those countries have signed on to review the Windows source code since January, when Microsoft started its Government Security Program (GSP); another 35 countries are in various stages of negotiation, the software giant said.
The GSP initiative is designed to blunt the success of Linux and other open-source solutions, which are beginning to eat into Microsoft's crucial enterprise sales. Worldwide, government contracts represent a huge portion of the company's earnings, but many governments are beginning to investigate and deploy open-source offerings, citing the benefits of the open-source code and data-storage models that companies such as Microsoft don't offer. Governments that want to review the source code can view, but not change, the Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000 code.
Linux backers point to recent successes--such as Munich, Germany's decision to replace Windows with Linux on 14,000 local government computers--as examples of open-source software (OSS) finding its way into markets that Windows once dominated. But Microsoft has responded by revealing some of its recent successes--contracts that the company never would have publicized, per se, had Linux not become so popular. For example, Microsoft pointed to new contracts with Lithuania and Romania, as well as the success of its Windows CE .NET "shared source" initiative, in which device makers can modify the Windows CE .NET source code as long as they make the changes available to other developers and to Microsoft.
Linux and OSS in general have caused huge changes in the way Microsoft handles its most crucial intellectual-property resources. Clearly, opening up its source code is a dramatic change in attitude from the days when the company jealously protected its "crown jewels."