- Microsoft is expanding a programme that provides access to the source code for its Windows CE .Net operating system, allowing device manufacturers, chip makers and systems integrators to make modifications to the code that can be used in commercial products.
Windows CE .Net is an embedded operating system for use in devices such as handheld computers, smart phones, voice-over-IP phones and industrial automation equipment. It has even been used in a futuristic digital sewing machine displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Under its existing shared source programme, Microsoft's partners in the embedded space could view a portion of the Windows CE .Net source code for debugging purposes or to help them understand the operating system's internal workings, but they were not permitted to modify the code for use in commercial products.
Under the programme, called the Windows CE Shared Source Premium Licensing Program, or CEP, device makers have access to virtually all of the operating system's source code and can modify it for use in commercial products. That should allow them to tailor the software more closely to their needs and help them build more "differentiated" products, says Scott Horn, a Microsoft director of marketing.
"Some of our commercial partners said [they'd] like access to more of the source code to do more innovative things, and [that they'd] like to be able to make modifications for commercial purposes," he says.
Having access to more of the source code also lets vendors provide Microsoft with "more informed and accurate" suggestions about how it could improve the operating system, he says.
Microsoft is treading somewhat cautiously with the expanded programme. It does not yet apply to its Windows Powered Smartphone and Pocket PC operating systems, even though those platforms are based on Windows CE, Horn said. That means Hewlett-Packard, for example, can't modify the Microsoft operating software used in its iPaq computer.
Microsoft could potentially expand the programme to include other operating systems in the future but has no current plans to do so, Horn says. The company wants to ensure that applications written for one Pocket PC or Smartphone device work on devices from other vendors, he says, which is easier to ensure when vendors aren't modifying Microsoft's software. In most embedded markets that type of cross-device compatibility is less important, he says.
More information on Microsoft's shared source programmes.