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Microsoft opens secret gate

Seattle/New Delhi, Jan. 15: What are the world’s two best kept corporate secrets' Coke’s formula and Microsoft’s source code.

One secret is set to be unveiled to at least a part of the world with the software company announcing it would open its source code to governments and international organisations all over the globe.

The code contains Microsoft’s blueprints for programs.

Under the initiative, called the Government Security Program, the world’s largest software maker said governments and their agencies would be able to examine its source code to enhance the security of their software, used for tasks such as tracking personal data, taxes and ensuring national security.

“We have a business interest in having people feel completely comfortable with our software, whether it is mission critical or not,” said Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief technology officer.

The Nato and Russia have already agreed to participate in the programme and discussions with more than 60 other governments and agencies are being held, Mundie said, adding that any cooperation with Microsoft would be disclosed at the discretion of each government agency.

The move will be watched with interest in India, where Microsoft is trying to ward off a strong challenge from Linux, the open-source software, which has been able to persuade several state governments, including Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, to use its product in their e-governance initiatives.

In December, the Indian government proposed to use Linux as the preferred software to push its e-governance project to be implemented in three phases.

At a meeting of senior officials of the department of information technology and of the state governments of Bengal, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, it was agreed in principle to implement the e-governance programme based on the Linux software.

In November, Microsoft boss Bill Gates came to India to persuade government officials to use his software. He had also scheduled several meetings with chief ministers to push his message.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee did not meet him at the time, a clear indication that the state did not want to capitulate to Microsoft’s blandishments.

Microsoft is facing pressure from free software. Since free software, such as Linux, is “open source” and by definition available for close scrutiny, its advocates argue that it is inherently more secure.

Open-source software is also appealing to some governments and companies because it is free, and can be copied and modified unlike Microsoft’s Windows and its other programs.

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