Microsoft opens Windows to loyal techies

Microsoft has expanded its Shared Source Initiative to give access to the Windows source code to a group of technology enthusiasts who help Microsoft users.

A Windows source code licensing program has been created for so-called Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), individuals recognized by Microsoft for their technical knowledge and time spent helping users of Microsoft products for example in online message boards and users groups, Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft already shares Windows code with governments, companies and educational institutions under various programs that are part of its Shared Source Initiative announced in 2001.

The new Most Valuable Professional Source Licensing Program (MVPSLP) is meant to raise the level of self-support in the Microsoft user community and help Microsoft with product development and research, the vendor said.

There are over 1,800 Microsoft MVPs in 55 countries. They already had access to source code for other Microsoft products including Windows CE .Net, Visual Studio .Net and Passport Manager. The new licensing program adds Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to that list.

MVPs in the Windows Server Systems, Windows or Visual categories are eligible for the new Windows shared source program, provided they live in one of 27 eligible countries and are 18 or older, said Jason Matusow, shared source manager at Microsoft. Country eligibility is based on intellectual property protection laws, he said.

"About 1,200 MVPs are eligible for this program and we expect a significant percentage of those, say 80 percent, to sign up," Matusow said.

Steven Bink, a Windows Server Systems MVP in the Netherlands, agrees that many MVPs will sign up, although he himself won't be one of them. He is a systems engineer, not a software developer.

"I think it is a great addition to the MVP program. MVPs will be able to give better quality of support in the online communities," he said. "That source code will look like Chinese to me, but I think the developer MVPs will certainly go for it."

Bink earned his MVP status by running a Web site with information on Microsoft products at http://www.bink.nu/.

Access to the Windows code is through a heavily-secured Web site. MVPs will be able to look at the Windows code, but are not allowed to make modifications or compile the source code into Windows programs themselves. Enterprise users, system integrators and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have the same type of access, Matusow said.

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