AS one of the 30 countries that have signed up to Microsoft’s Government Security Programme (GSP), the New Zealand government can now access the source code of the Office 2003 suite.
Last week the vendor announced an extension to the programme to include such access.
Terry Allen, Microsoft New Zealand enterprise and partner group director says the government shared source licence for Office gives qualifying governments and international organisations access to source code and technical information about Office 2003.
Allen says as the New Zealand government is one of the participating GSP governments, Microsoft will be working with the Government Communications Security Bureau to review the new offering.
Microsoft says the initiative is aimed at improving confidence among governments in the security and interoperability of its software.
However, reports from the US suggest the move comes as Microsoft faces stiffer competition in the public sector from rivals such as Sun Microsystems, which has been touting growing support among governments for its open source productivity software, dubbed StarOffice.
Microsoft has offered governments access to source code for its Windows desktop software under the GSP since January 2003 as an extension of its Shared Source Initiative.
Last year the company began allowing governments access to Office 2003 XML (Extensible Markup Language) Reference Schemas, enabling them to incorporate the schemas into their own software to improve the interoperability with Office documents.
Microsoft says the GSP is designed to address the specific information technology requirements of governments and allows programme participants to discuss existing and future projects related to the software. It also provides opportunities for officials to visit Microsoft’s development facilities in Redmond, Washington and to review various aspects of Windows and Office source-code development, testing and deployment processes.
In addition to offering more shared source licences, the company has also sent signals that it would be willing to cooperate more with rivals.
Under a litigation ceasefire deal sealed with Sun earlier this year, Microsoft said it would look for more ways to work with developers of the Open Office open source project, although it apparently reserved the right to sue them for patent infringement.
Other countries that have signed up to the programme include Australia, China, Norway, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom.