Microsoft is to allow personal digital assistant makers to modify its Windows CE operating system for their commercial benefit, while retaining the right to use any of their improvements without paying royalties.
The Windows CE Shared Source Premium Licensing Programme allows manufacturers to modify and commercially redistribute the platform for their own devices.
It covers equipment and chip manufacturers and systems integrators. The company hopes that the move will boost the features of the embedded operating system for the pocket PC market.
Most of the CE code is already available, but the new programme is the first to allow companies to modify the operating system for commercial benefit.
Companies including Samsung, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Intel and National Semiconductor have already joined the programme, said Hardy Poppinger, European product manager for Windows CE at Microsoft.
"We listen to what our partners and customers are saying and they wanted to be more flexible in the ability to innovate and differentiate their products," he told vnunet.com.
But under the programme, any improvements made by the manufacturers that Microsoft can work into the generic CE code can be relicensed back for free.
Poppinger argued that this meant all manufacturers would benefit from the modifications made by each other.
"They will benefit from our other partners if we incorporate their changes into the CE operating system," he said.
Unlike the open source environment, companies will not be required to make public any changes they have made to the source code.
Microsoft played down questions about whether it is planning any similar programmes with other versions of Windows."It's not clear. We can't say anything at the moment," Poppinger said.
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