In a bid to quell the adoption of competing open-source solutions, Microsoft revealed this week that the company is offering governmental entities access to the source code for its Microsoft Office 2003 family of products. The source-code access will be part of Microsoft's Government Security Program (GSP), the company said.
  
"At Microsoft, we view governments that utilize our software as trusted partners," Jonathan Murray, vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) of Microsoft Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), said. "The addition of Office 2003 to the GSP demonstrates our continued commitment to collaborating with governments all over the world to deliver solutions that address their unique and specific IT needs."
  
Microsoft started the GSP in January 2003, giving select governments and international organizations access to the source code for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows CE .NET. The Government Shared Source License for Office expands the GSP to include the source code for Office 2003 applications such as Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel, and Microsoft Office Outlook. Microsoft says that the British government is among the first to participate in the Office program. People's Republic of China, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and Russia have participated in the program for various Windows versions.
  
Typically, Microsoft jealously guards the source code to its proprietary programs, believing that the secrets the code contains are extremely valuable--the company's crown jewels, so to speak. But open-source solutions have made recent inroads that convinced Microsoft to begin opening its source code to selected entities. Governments, in particular, have expressed concerns about trusting their citizens' private data to proprietary software and data formats over which they have no control or access. Clearly, the software giant hopes that expanding the GSP to include Office applications will alleviate those fears.