Microsoft President Steve Ballmer has sent a message to the computer industry -- as well as the US Department of Justice -- that the software giant is "thinking with great interest" about opening up Windows source code.
Ballmer's comments at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference '99 marked the first time that Microsoft has publicly mulled over the possibility of using an open-source model for its prized operating system.
Responding to a question from Microsoft hardware evangelist Carl Stork, Ballmer said there were some drawbacks to making Windows code widely available, and many users such as company CEOs do not want their shops tinkering with the code.
However, Ballmer said the company was coming to realize that giving source code to users creates a "certain level of comfort" for many of them.
"There is a comfort level, and we are, of course, thinking with great interest about that," Ballmer said. He offered no further elaboration.
One of the remedies being discussed in the Microsoft antitrust trial is opening up Windows to other developers. Company officials, who have met with government prosecutors in hopes of negotiating a settlement, have in the past closely guarded Windows source code as intellectual property.
The trial is in recess until May 10.