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Windows CE plan draws criticism

As part of its effort to deal with the threat of open-source software, Microsoft plans to let device makers modify more of the source code of its specialized Windows CE operating system. But some say the company's licensing terms could kill interest in the plan.

In a highly touted announcement late Wednesday, Microsoft expanded its existing "shared source" program for Windows CE, its OS for "embedded" devices, which include everything from personal digital assistants to cell phones to sewing machines. Microsoft played up giving manufacturers access to the operating system's source code--or blueprint--and an opportunity to modify it. But analysts placed less significance on the changes than did Microsoft.

"Manufacturers already had access to the source code and could modify it," said Paul DeGroot of market researcher Directions on Microsoft. "There's absolutely nothing new about that." But Scott Horn, marketing director for Microsoft's embedded device division, disagreed, saying that under an earlier program the source code available to embedded developers and manufacturers "was not all of Windows CE." The newer program "enables our partners pretty much all the source code we can provide to them."

DeGroot also faulted the licensing terms governing the source-code changes, calling them a "deal breaker" for most manufacturers. Under the terms, manufacturers could be compelled to license some changes back to Microsoft, which would get them without paying royalties. Such a situation could amount to the software maker potentially receiving free research and development at the hands of other companies, DeGroot said.

News source: C|net

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