Microsoft Corp is sharing the source code of its Office 2003 productivity suite with government licensees, having now added the desktop application suite to its Government Security Program.
GSP was set up in January 2003 to give government organizations controlled access to Windows source code, application programming interfaces, and communications protocols, and already covers Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows CE, and Windows Server 2003.
The program is an extension of Microsoft’s shared source initiative, a response to the growing popularity of open source software, with the apparent added benefit that it gives national governments and international organizations the benefit of checking the security of Microsoft software.
The Government Shared Source License for Office now gives governments the same advantages for Office and can also be seen as a response to the growing popularity of Linux and the OpenOffice.org application suite among government organizations.
Government has become a key battleground for Microsoft defense of its desktop dominance as organizations such as the City of Munich, Germany, and the City of Austin, Texas, as well as the UK’s National Health Service, have considered or deployed desktop alternatives to Microsoft.
Meanwhile, national governments in Brazil and China have signed up to larger projects to encourage the use of open source software among both government organizations and the population at large.
In response Microsoft released the XML schemas from Office 2003 under a royalty free licensing agreement in late 2003 following discussions with the Danish government, having already signed up national governments in the UK, Russia, China and Australia, among others, to the GSP.
The UK government is among the first to take up the option of adding Office to its GSP agreement, with Dr Steve Marsh, director of the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance in the Cabinet Office citing its importance in helping the UK Government to understand the security implications of the software suite.