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Microsoft Loosens Its Source-Code Policy

But it still opposes free exchange of software

Microsoft has released more than 1 million lines of source code for academic use, at a time when it's weighing disclosure of more code to business customers. Microsoft posted the code to implementations for its Common Language Infrastructure run-time environment and C# programming language on its Web site, under a license that prohibits resale. The software runs on Windows XP and the open-source FreeBSD system.

Historically, Microsoft has been stingy with its line-by-line software instructions. Unix, by contrast, grew up in a milieu that encouraged source-code sharing among researchers, and Unix derivatives Java and Linux are widely used on college campuses.

Last spring, Microsoft began to share code with chip vendors, systems integrators, and top customers for support purposes. Microsoft might disclose more of its source code to buyers who sign Software Assurance licenses, says chief technical officer Craig Mundie. President Rick Belluzzo has said he's considering making Software Assurance agreements--in which customers pay premiums for access to product upgrades--more appealing by including some source-code access. "We need to do a better job of associating value with those bits," Belluzzo says.

But Microsoft opposes free exchange of software. Says Mundie: "We're not look-ing for people to do our development."

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