Microsoft Passport boost through limited code access

Pseudo open source initiative

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Source code from Microsoft Corp's .NET Passport online authentication service is to be turned loose under a pseudo open source initiative, a move the company claimed will assist development of .NET applications.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft yesterday announced code for its Passport Manager would be released to certain developers under the company's shared source initiative. Specifically, code will be released through Microsoft's Passport Manager Licensing Program.

However, the move - announced at Digital Identity World 2002 Conference in Denver, Colorado - is seen as an attempt to specifically drive Passport's commercial use, seeding the ground for later rollout of .NET services by Microsoft and ISVs.

Passport was last year positioned by Microsoft's as its enabler for federated single sign-in by customers to web services. Despite 200 million Passport accounts and early backing from some partners the service has failed to generate a groundswell of support.

That honor has, instead, fallen to the Liberty Alliance Project which counts heavyweight IT consumers such as American Express, General Motors and United Airlines among its nearly 100-strong membership. Liberty is now signing up non-profits and low-income organizations.

Liberty member Orem, Utah-based Novell Inc welcomed Microsoft's opening of code but noted Passport's relatively lackluster uptake during the last 12 months. Justin Taylor, Novell chief strategist for directory services, said by opening code Microsoft is attempting to spark Passport's uptake.

"Microsoft is attempting to lay the groundwork for additional services. Passport has fairly limited adoption given the amount of time it has been out," Taylor said.

A Microsoft company spokesperson appeared to agree with Taylor. "Passport Manager effort enables further expansion and development around commercial use of Passport," the spokesperson said.

Passport Manager is a COM object that runs on a partner's web site and manages communication and integration with the Passport service. Passport Manager Licensing Program licensees are free to use the source code to develop, debug and support their own commercial software for integration with Passport.

Code will be released in November to licensed companies, academics, developers and governments. Shared source is Microsoft's take on open source, using grass roots developer commitment to improve code and seed the market for up-take of Windows and other company products.

The initiative was originally to open source code for Windows 2000, XP and .NET Server to enterprise customers with 1,500 or more Windows desktops, but has been expanded to cover more platforms, such as Windows CE, and more users, including academic and government institutions and original equipment manufacturers.

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