Microsoft is planning to add the C# programming language and Common Language Interface (CLI), a set of associated components, to its Shared Source Initiative (SSI).
SSI provides access to the source code for Microsoft applications but, unlike open source, does not permit alterations. Access is for non-commercial use only.
Gavin King, developer tools manager at Microsoft, said he expected the main audience for the shared source downloads to be academics and researchers. The code is available for download from MSDN.
Windows CE.Net source code will be available under the same terms as C#. Selected large businesses also have access to the Windows XP code.
Although the code cannot be used for commercial purposes, Mary Anne Novitzkas, shared source manager at Microsoft, explained that the company is open to discussion on how it is used.
But Mike Banahan, chief technology officer at Open Forum, insisted that the conditions of SSI are too limited. "The ban on commercial use is restrictive," he said. "If I find a show-stopping bug in the code, it would be good to be able to fix it and then share the fix."
Microsoft has released a version of the C# code for Windows XP and FreeBSD, a Unix-based operating system, under the scheme. A copy of Visual Studio.Net is required for the Windows platform.
King maintained that the decision to release the C# code for FreeBSD demonstrates Microsoft's "commitment to industry at a standards level".
The FreeBSD version was developed in conjunction with Corel.
Microsoft is keen to encourage the use of C# across a variety of different operating systems to build .Net web services.
As a part of this wider adoption, it submitted the specifications for CLI and C# to the European Computer Manufacturers Association last year for approval as international standards. They were ratified in December 2001.
Steve Barrie, chief analyst at Bloor Research, said that by not permitting alterations to the source code, Microsoft is forcing developers to go back to Microsoft "to help fix their bugs".
"It could be seen as a way of getting cheap labour," he suggested. "But the commercial danger for Microsoft is that, if people are tinkering with the code, it raises support issues."
He pointed out that exposing the code "will show up a lot of .Net code - how web services are set up - which could be useful".
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