Microsoft Likes Open Source. Kind Of

The peace and love of Linux is wearing thin just as Microsoft puts its own twist on the open-source concept.

In the escalating controversy that pits The SCO Group--owner of one of the original Unix operating systems--against Linux developers and distributors, Microsoft has come down, predictably, on the side of SCO. Yet, overlooked in the stir created when Microsoft recently licensed SCO's Unix for use in some of its products is the fact that Microsoft itself has been easing restrictions on its own code.

May marks the second anniversary of Microsoft's so-called shared-source initiative. Microsoft has made parts of its Windows and Windows CE operating systems available to third parties, as well as elements of its Passport identity-management software, Visual Studio .Net development environment, and ASP.Net. The world's largest commercial software company is increasingly letting other developers not only view the internal workings of its operating systems and middleware, but also modify portions of its software and sell products that incorporate the changed code.

Microsoft estimates that it has made 100 million lines of code available under the initiative. "It was important for Microsoft to say, 'This is what we believe in,'" said Jason Matusow, the shared-source manager spearheading the program, last month in an interview. "We're going to learn from open source."

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