Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative


Jason Matusow is the Shared Source Manager from Microsoft. I notice that he's not wearing a name tag. I'd bet that isn't accidental: Jason started his talk by referring to the scene in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where cows are brought out so that people can be introduced to their dinner. The audience appreciated that analogy. He opened by making these points:

  • Access to source code is not the primary concern for most people
  • Having an option to work with the source code is important to to a few individuals and many organizations
  • Few people who have access to the source code actually use it

Jason points out some common myths:

  • The is a "right" software development model.
  • Contrasting "open source" software with "commercial" software. Much open source software has commercial interests.

Now we get to the heart of the talk: there is a move by traditional software vendors and open source software vendors to move to the middle and find a business model that works better than either has in the past. Microsoft's Shared Source initiative (SSI) is evidence of Microsoft's steps in this direction.

SSI is not open source. Rather, its an initiative to share the source under certain conditions with customers, partners, and governments world-wide. Someone in the last session I was at (actually it was David Sklar who wrote the PHP Cookbook) suggested that SSI created a situation where source is closed only to those without means. From a security standpoint, there is no closed source OS. Someone with the right resources has access to the code whether its Windows or Linux.

A pessimist will look at this as a disinformation campaign by Redmond and indeed, there's certainly a PR aspect to it. I'm by nature an optimist and I view it as evidence that the open source community is having an impact and driving change in traditional high-tech companies like Microsoft, Dell, Oracle, and Novell. We have to be happy about that.