[Linux-aus] [Fwd: Microsoft "Shared Source" Seminar details]

Jon maddog Hall maddog at li.org
Mon Sep 22 23:15:02 UTC 2003


Shared Source is a series of programs that Microsoft has put together.  Many
portion's of Microsoft's source base is covered, but not all, and not in
every country in the world.   One of their MOST EXTENSIVE programs, their
OEM program, is only available for 60 countries around the world, and the
last time I checked, there were over 200 countries recognized by the UN.

They have a listing of what countries are able to share the source for which
areas listed on this page:


Note that some countries can not share any source because the United States
has embargoed them.  Whether you agree with the United States on any one
or more of these embargoes is not the issue.  The issue is that a government
other than Australia is determining business issues for Australia.

As I said, the "shared source" program is a series of initiatives.  Each one
has different levels of "sharing" that go with it.  A chart can be found on
their FAQ site:


Remember that this is tempered by what countries can participate and by what
entities can participate.  Each of these programs have different "fine print"
as to who can participate and what they can do.  And most of these programs
do not allow changes to the software, or if they do, you can not re-distribute
those changes.

Microsoft will argue that these restrictions are necessary for innovation,
yet the bulk of real software innovation happened well before software
patents were enabled.  It happened in universities, in government research
programs, in private research, all before software patents became law.

Microsoft will argue that researchers in Universities will find greater market
for their research by using Microsoft source code to do this research.  However,
without the benefit of being able to re-distribute that research, they will
find that the research only sees the light of day if it fits Microsoft's
business model.

Here is an example:

Suppose a university in Australia is doing research in operating system
design, and they use XP as the development platform.  Now they hear about
a bright researcher in China who is also working on the same research.  Can
that Australian university simply ship their code to China, and allow
world-wide collaboration?  No, because the "shared source" program will
not allow it.

Let's say the work that these two universities create allows a 25% speed-up in
processing to be done on Itanium processors, but it slows down the other
99.999% of the processors in the world by 10%.  Do you think that Microsoft
would leap on this and put it into their next distribution?  Probably not.
They would (at a minimum) wait until Itanium processors were more prevalent,
and put in in then.

Do you think I am making up this scenario?  Digital Equipment Corporation had
a true 64-bit address-space version of Windows NT years ago, but Microsoft
refused to incorporate it and distribute it.  Only when they started to see
64-bit processors come out in commercial quantity did they move to support
that larger address space.

On the other hand, as we all know, Free and Open Source allows this research
to "rise to the top" and be visible, like cream on milk, ready to be skimmed
off and used by people who need it.

In short, shared source creates a model for world-wide commerce and governments,
which is so complex, and so unwieldy, that it is worse than having completely
closed source. At least with completely closed source, you know where you
stand. Even though you may be standing in mud, it is better than standing in

Warmest regards,

Jon "maddog" Hall
Jon "maddog" Hall
Executive Director           Linux(R) International
email: maddog at li.org         80 Amherst St. 
Voice: +1.603.672.4557       Amherst, N.H. 03031-3032 U.S.A.
WWW: http://www.li.org

Board Member: Uniforum Association, USENIX Association

(R)Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries.
UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the US and other countries.

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