Windows code should be opened up, says US expert

10 April 2002 A US computer science professor who was given access to the Windows operating system source code says that it could be split up into separate parts and still work properly – something Microsoft has always rejected.

Andrew W. Appel, a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey, was granted access to the code at the end of February 2002 on behalf of the nine US states that are still pursuing the antitrust case against the US software company.

Appel and his two assistants were only able to inspect a fraction of the 38 million lines of the code. He concluded that not only was it perfectly possible to uncouple applications such as the Internet Explorer web browser from the Windows operating system, but that open access to the source code would be beneficial in terms of competition.

“It is my opinion that this broader disclosure of technical information set forth in the states’ remedy is necessary to allow independent software developers to create programs that effectively inter-operate with Microsoft platform software, including the Windows operating-system products,” said Appel.

The nine states maintain that programmers should have access to the Windows source code so that they can more easily develop non-Microsoft products that are compatible with Windows – thus increasing genuine competition in the market.

Microsoft lawyers have argued that the nine states’ proposals will result in rivals selling cloned versions of the operating system, resulting in the unfair destruction of Microsoft’s product and market.

Appel also rejected Microsoft’s view that it should be allowed to avoid disclosure on security grounds. He said that the company’s stance rested on “a concept of computer security that is inherently flawed … and that is overly broad for any legitimate purpose.”

Appel was the first expert witness to testify as part of the ongoing antitrust court case. The nine states have rejected the compromise agreement reached in November 2001 by Microsoft with the US federal authorities, claiming that it is too lenient.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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