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Microsoft's PR machine has been tipping off selected journalists about a 'relaxation' of its closed source policy today. But Linux's own PR rottweiler Eric Raymond appears to have gotten his retaliation in first.

Senior VP Craig Mundie is expected to tell New York University Stern School of Business today that Microsoft will extend the availability of parts of the code in what the FT says will be called a 'shared source philosophy'. The New York Times interprets the speech as an assault on software libre itself. Eric Raymond caught wind of a comparison Mundie would make between dot.com's giving away loss-leader items and the GNU General Public License.

If Mundie hasn't already begun speaking, he'd do well to scrub that ludicrous comparison from the teleprompter.

Currently Microsoft, in common with the proprietary Unix vendors, makes Windows source code commercially available for a hefty fee, although this appears to be discretionary. For the past couple of years Microsoft has also declared it wants to make Windows source more widely used in academic institutions. But Microsoft could release portions of its enormous code base under a technical-style license, and still keep the important bits closed.

It's a balancing act of course, as any acknowledgement that the Bazaar model produces better code begs the question 'well why not release the source code for the whole lot?'

"Microsoft wants all the 'sharing' to be in one direction," blasts Raymond. "What they're doing is what we call 'source under glass' - you can see it, but you can't modify or reuse it in other programs. They want to be able to get the huge benefit of having thousands of outside people review their code without allowing any of those people to use what they learn on other projects."

Raymond suggests Microsoft is covering its tracks in lieu of "a fast exit out of the packaged-software business, a lock on your critical data and network services, and an indefinite extension of the coercive monopoly position."

Raymond's pre-emptive strike can be found here.

The irony of all this, of course, is that if Microsoft did the unthinkable and satisfied requests to open its Windows source code, the world wouldn't be dramatically different.

In the remedial phase of the Microsoft anti-trust trial, the States' attorneys privately touted the idea of an industry-owned, open source Windows. The pitch was taken to a number of large vendors, including Hewlett Packard.

No one wanted to touch it.®

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