Microsoft's Open Sesame Moment
Monday, September 20, 2004; 10:17 AM
The Financial Times said the source-code giveaway is a response "to the competitive threat of cheaper open source software by announcing that it is sharing the source code of its Microsoft Office productivity suite with governments round the world." More from the FT: "Significantly, Microsoft has chosen to release details of the decision to share its source code from the company's European headquarters in Paris, France. European governments had been suspicious that the inner code of the U.S. company's products could offer the U.S. government back-door access to their systems. Europe is proving receptive to open-source software solutions based on the rival Linux operating system, in which code can be easily reviewed and changed and the basic software is free. Open-source productivity suites such as OpenOffice are also gaining acceptance and the release of the Microsoft Office code will be viewed as a response to that commercial threat." And CNET's News.com also cut to the chase regarding the deeper meaning of Microsoft's code-sharing push: "Its stated goals include allowing government IT workers to conduct more thorough security audits and to build custom applications on top of Microsoft products. But the move was also widely seen as an attempt to counter growing government interest in open-source software, which has been given preferential status by numerous government entities."
The Wall Street Journal: Microsoft to Let Governments Access Code for Office 2003 (Subscription required)
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Microsoft Expands Sharing of Source Code (Registration required)
The Financial Times: Microsoft to Share Office Source Code
CNET's News.com: Microsoft Lets Governments Into Office
The government of Britain is the first to sign on to view Office's source code. "The release of this source code will help the U.K. Government understand the security implications of the Office productivity suite and aid secure deployment in a wide range of scenarios," Steve Marsh, director of the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance in the Cabinet Office, said in a statement put out by Microsoft.
The Associated Press explained more about what Microsoft is offering governments as a lure to use its products. "Beginning Monday, Microsoft will offer more than 60 governments and international organizations the option of viewing the proprietary source code for the latest version of its ubiquitous Office software, including the Outlook e-mail program, Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheet application." Reuters had more details on the program. "The Linux software system, which is now a major competitor to Windows and other Microsoft products, and its source code are freely available to anyone under an open source license that guarantees that the data will always be shared. Microsoft launched an initiative a few years ago to share more of its software code with other technology companies, and later expanded that to include governments."
Reuters: Microsoft to Share Office Source Code
More Windows Washing
Microsoft has good reason to be expanding its efforts to bolster the security of its products and giving governments an inside look at what's under the hood of the software. A new report shows that attacks against Windows-based PCs are growing in number. "A survey of Internet vulnerabilities to be released Monday shows a sharp jump in attacks on Windows-based personal computers during the first six months of 2004, along with a marked increase in commercially motivated threats," the New York Times reported, noting the results come from data from Symantec. "The Internet Security Threat Report says that from Jan. 1 to June 30 there were at least 1,237 newly discovered software vulnerabilities, or flaws that could compromise security. That translates into an average of 48 new vulnerabilities a week."
The New York Times: Attacks on Windows PCs Grew in First Half of 2004 (Registration required)