Microsoft has hit out to the competitive threat of cheaper open source software by deciding to reveal the source code for its Office productivity suite to governments around the world.

The US software giant said releasing 90 per cent of its code on 2003 products, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint – would allow IT workers to build custom applications on top of existing software.

The release is an extension to Microsoft’s Government Security Program (GSP), which from January 2003 offered agencies the source code of its Windows operating system for better security.

More thorough security audits will also now become possible, as part of a strategy to attract European and Eastern governments, currently tempted by Linux alternatives.

The launch coincides with suspicion from European governments that the inner code of some Microsoft products could give US authorities back-door access to their systems.

Reluctant users often then turn to alternatives such as Linux, for basic and free software where the code can be easily reviewed and changed.

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