Microsoft Declares War on 'Free Software' Model
By Siobhan Kennedy and Eric Auchard
NEW YORK (May 3) - Microsoft Corp. on Thursday declared war on Linux and
other alternative software that expose their basic instruction codes to
public view, saying the "free software" movement poses a fundamental threat
to commercial software and corporate intellectual property.
In an address at New York University, Craig Mundie, senior vice president of
the world's largest software company, contrasted the open product development
approach of rivals with the careful "Shared Source" partnering approach
favored by Microsoft on its widely used Windows operating system.
Open source is a complex tradition within the software programming industry
that refers to programs in which the source code, or underlying program
instructions, is made available for use or modification as other developers
Mundie laced his speech, heralded as a major position statement, with
language more in the spirit of a trash-talking sports star than the typically
ambiguous, jargon-filled phrasings of a software executive.
He described the open software movement as "flimsy," "flawed," jeopardizing
property rights and threatening to undermine the software industry, a key
economic growth engine.
"We recognize that Open Source Software (OSS) has some benefits such as the
fostering of community, improved feedback... and debugging," Mundie said in
prepared remarks. "But there are significant drawbacks to OSS as well."
Open source software programming creates greater dangers of security risks,
software instability, and breaking up common industry design standards that
could force valuable corporate intellectual property into the public domain,
OPEN SOURCE PHILOSOPHY EMERGES AS RIVAL TO MICROSOFT VIEW
The open source philosophy, with roots in scientific and academic information
sharing, has emerged in the form Linux and various flavors of Unix as a major
alternative to Microsoft's careful guarding of its key source code as a trade
Open source, which was associated in the 1980s with anti-commercial software
programmers who adhered to communitarian work ideals, emerged as a commercial
phenomenon in the 1990s as a popular way of building software to manage Web
Spearheading the development of Linux, the best known of the open source
software systems, were companies such as Red Hat Inc., VA Linux and Caldera
Systems Inc., to name just a few in the grass-roots movement.
Since 1999, International Business Machines Corp., the world's biggest
computer company, has thrown considerable organizational backing behind open
source software. Other top computer hardware and software makers have joined
By contrast, Microsoft has considered open source as a challenge to its way
of doing business. The company identified it as a major threat to its
business during the federal trial where it was found guilty last year of
In recent months, Microsoft executives had turned up the rhetorical
temperature against the rival software philosophy, but not as explicitly as
Mundie's comments on Thursday.
MICROSOFT: OPEN SOURCE THREATENS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
The Microsoft official took aim at the General Public License, the basic
agreement under which open source software is distributed. He likened the
GPL, which rejects traditional copyright in favor of open sharing of any
advances made in software design, to failed dot-com business models of the
"(Supporters of the GPL) ask software developers to give away for free the
very thing they create that is of greatest value, in the hope that, somehow,
they'll make money selling something else," Mundie said.
Open source programmers typically rely on selling custom programming or
consulting services necessary to make such software meet specific business
requirements. Many, but by no means all, adherents view software code itself
as a commodity whose utility exists in being widely and freely available.
In recent years, open source development has captured the imagination of
millions of software programmers across the globe as a new way of working
outside the orbit of Microsoft, which had previously dominated computer
Mundie said Microsoft's newly defined Shared Source strategy is "a balanced
approach that allows us to share source code with customers and partners
while maintaining the intellectual property needed to support a strong
Shared Source will be the mantra for programmers working on software for what
Microsoft has dubbed its .NET strategy.
The company sees the Internet as entering the commercial software era, the
next phase beyond the free library and early electronic commerce days -- when
it grows up to handle complex technology systems and critical business tasks.
Seeking to leave no confusion, Mundie underscored that Shared Source software
design is not some bland attempt to embrace the open source movement, but
marks a fundamental break with the anticommercial elements of open-source
Reuters 15:36 05-03-01
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