Microsoft is virtually doing the unthinkable in India it is planning to share the Windows source code. Not with one and all, as Linux does, but with a specific government body which, in turn, will share it with others for the purposes of e-governance and education.

Microsoft has already made a proposal to the ministry of information technology for sharing the Windows source code with one government body. The nature of the body has not been spelt out; it will presumably be worked out after discussions between the company and the government officials. Interestingly, the offer comes at a time when state governments are showing interest in rival Linux operating system as the latter's source code is free and downloadable from the internet.

When contacted by ET, Microsoft India president Rajiv Nair was somewhat cagey. Although he didn't deny the move, he merely said, "We are evaluating the idea (of sharing the source code)." However, sources in the company said that MS is already in talks with the government to work out the modalities of sharing the source code. It's learnt that MS worldwide program manager for shared source program, Jason Matusow, was recently in India to work out the modalities.

Microsoft is exceedingly secretive about its Windows source code the company has so far shared it with only a few big clients and developers. In Asia. MS has shared the Windows source code with select clients in Japan, Korea and Singapore. What appears to have persuaded it to extend the same privilege to the Indian government is the growing attraction here for the Linux OS, which is seen by some state governments as a cheaper alternative to Windows.

Microsoft officials are, of course, playing down the Linux threat. They insisted that Linux wasn't a big issue while selling to the governments in India. Says Peter Hayes, industry vice-president, Microsoft Government: "OS software is merely 1-3% of the total cost of an IT project, and studies have shown that total cost can be lower with Microsoft technologies compared to Linux. The open source software has been grabbing headlines recently as the debate on open versus proprietary software has gained momentum in government circles here.

Says MS boss for shared source program, Jason Matusow, "There has been a lot of hype about open source code in the software industry as well as in the media. Linux might grab headlines, but being able to look at source code doesn't bring any benefits to an average end-user, though it might increase the trust level.

The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. While open source community believes that this process produces better software than the traditional closed model, proponents of proprietary software argue that this model can't work in the commercial world.

Adopted From The Economics Times (13/Dec/2002)
Online Addition At(http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/...artid=31102968