Open-source debate rages

Despite recent changes to Microsoft's licensing strategy for some software, the debate between commercial software developers and the open-source community continued to rage on Thursday, as top executives from Microsoft and Red Hat met at an industry conference.

Craig Mundie, senior vice president at Microsoft, echoed his company's long-standing claims that commercial software is but one choice in a large software ecosystem driven by customers, vendors, academia and the government, during his opening remarks at the O'Reilly Open Source conference here. While Microsoft stands accused of undermining the strength of open-source software development, Mundie contended that open source is a valued part of the software economy, but is not an approach his company will fully embrace any time soon.

"Microsoft has no beef with open source," Mundie said. "We happen to like and will continue to pursue commercial software as a business model Microsoft believes in. Ultimately, the market will tell us if that choice is a good one."

Mundie's comments were deflected by Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Red Hat, who said that Microsoft's claims are a ruse to hide the company's dominance and control over choice in the software market.

"To build an architecture of trust, it is better to be open than to seem open and better to be trustworthy than to seem trustworthy," Tiemann said.

Microsoft has recently opened some of its software code on select products under its recently released Shared Source License. Under the terms of the license, users can see and even alter some Microsoft code for noncommercial purposes.

This new license, however, is just a mechanism to steer users' focus away from Microsoft's ability to monopolize parts of the software market, Tiemann said.

Top Microsoft executives have come out against open-source projects, such as Linux, that rely on licenses like the GPL (General Public License), claiming that they "fundamentally undermine" the commercial software model and pose a threat to intellectual property. The GPL mandates that any software incorporating source code already licensed under the GPL becomes subject to the same terms of the license.

Mundie delivered a biting commentary on the downside of open-source software during a presentation at New York University's school of business in May.

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Ashlee Vance

Computerworld

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