Microsoft Corp will expand sharing of the code underlying its Windows programs to help governments and agencies such as Russia and NATO improve computer security.
The new program increases the number of countries eligible and gives them help from Microsoft in addressing security concerns. It expands on a May 2001 initiate in which Microsoft offered to share the Windows code with governments, said Mark Martin, a spokesman for Microsoft with the Waggener Edstrom public relations firm.
Microsoft is facing competition from the Linux operating system, which lets customers view and modify its source code. In the government sector in particular, Microsoft has lost contracts to Linux, analysts said. More than 20 countries are looking at legislative proposals that mandate considering or using Linux in government computers.
Microsoft, which resisted calls from rivals to open up its source code during the company's antitrust case, has in the last 18 months begun to make the code available to governments, as well as key customers and partners, in an effort to compete with Linux.
Ten countries or agencies including Russia and NATO have already signed agreements, and Microsoft said it's in discussions with 20 more about the new program. Sixty countries and agencies are eligible for the new Government Security Program, compared with the 32 that were offered access to the code under the previous plan.
The new program also expands the amount of code countries can view to add programming components related to encryption, Martin said.
The program will enable mem-ber countries to visit Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, headquarters to meet with security engineers and review parts of the Windows programming code development and testing.
The new plan addresses concerns governments had that the existing program gave them no way to address security needs, Martin said. Under the previous program, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden had licensed access to Microsoft's code.