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[P]
Open source: a threat to innovation?

By khym in MLP
Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:03:54 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

According to this C|Net article , Microsoft's operating system chief, Jim Allchin, claimed that open source would stifle innovation and threaten intellectual property.


Excerpts from the article:

The result will be the demise of both intellectual property rights and the incentive to spend on research and development, he said yesterday, after the company previewed its latest version of Windows. Microsoft has told U.S. lawmakers of its concern while discussing protection of intellectual property rights.

''Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer,'' Allchin said. ''I can't imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business.''

''I'm an American, I believe in the American Way,'' he said. ''I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat.''

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Open source: a threat to innovation? | 62 comments (62 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
prove him wrong (3.14 / 7) (#1)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:07:02 AM EST

I've seen similar articles posted all over this, each assuming that what the guy is saying is obviously wrong. I think he makes a number of good points - the main one being, why put money into R&D when your competitor can just take your product and sell it cheaper (or offer better value added services or whatever).

I'd really like to see a good rebuttal of this article.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Why do you vote -1 and then post topical comments? (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by cp on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:18:39 AM EST

It defies logic. I'd pass this one by as a mistaken popup selection, but I've seen you do it before.
I'd really like to see a good rebuttal of this article.
One could expect such a rebuttal to come in the comment portion of this article's lifespan as well. Feel free.

[ Parent ]
-1 (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:06:33 AM EST

I voted -1 because the author makes no attempt to rebut the article despite obviously disagreeing with it. I posted a topical comment because after writing the comment I felt it was more topical than editorial.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
That's where the logic fails (2.00 / 1) (#19)
by cp on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:56:06 AM EST

I posted a topical comment because after writing the comment I felt it was more topical than editorial.
I was hoping you'd say it was a mistake, because this way you're just foolish. You voted the story down. That means you wanted it to die. That means you weren't interested in the conversation, because otherwise, you'd have at least voted +0.

You vote most stories down. That's your prerogative, though it saddens me that it's your most distinguishing characteristic in my mind. I just wish you'd be internally consistent about it.

[ Parent ]

discussion (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:12:44 AM EST

I'd like to discuss this topic. I think it has potential. However the article doesn't do it justice. I think we should have standards and vote things down when they aren't as good as they should be.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Patents? (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by interiot on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:20:24 AM EST

I could be wrong, but I thought patents existed to protect an organization's R&D investments, and software isn't exempt from patent infringements by being open source.

[ Parent ]
One of us is missunderstanding (3.66 / 3) (#4)
by delmoi on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:23:28 AM EST

I think he makes a number of good points - the main one being, why put money into R&D when your competitor can just take your product and sell it cheaper (or offer better value added services or whatever).

From my interpretation of Allchin's comments I'd say that he wants to make all open source illegal, not that all code shouldn't have to be open. As in, it would be illegal for you to write software and then distribute it for free.

I don't think anyone other then RMS is saying that, but I wouldn't like to loose my rights to give out source code to the software I write, even if in doing so I'm hurting Microsoft's business.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
That pretty much amounts to defamation. (2.25 / 4) (#15)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:18:35 AM EST

From my interpretation of Allchin's comments I'd say that he wants to make all open source illegal, not that all code shouldn't have to be open. As in, it would be illegal for you to write software and then distribute it for free.

Point out which of Allchin's words imply that he wants free software to be outlawed (rather than merely have the government not support it). His words:

I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat.
So essentially, you've accused Allchin in a public forum of actively seeking to gravely curtail Freedom of Speech, a right guaranteed by the constitution of all States of the US, by the constitution of the federal government, and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the pursuit of larger profits for his company. Amazing the depths you can sink to.

--em
[ Parent ]

afdasd (none / 0) (#62)
by delmoi on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 03:52:26 AM EST

So essentially, you've accused Allchin in a public forum of actively seeking to gravely curtail Freedom of Speech, a right guaranteed by the constitution of all States of the US, by the constitution of the federal government, and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the pursuit of larger profits for his company. Amazing the depths you can sink to.

Look at the ruleing in the DeCSS case. Clearly, for someone who dosn't understand Software development, sourcecode dosn't need to be considered 'free speach'. Someone in Allchin's postition must understand software, but perhaps he understands it 'backwards.' I didn't find anything terribly 'immoral' in my interpretation of his statement, just misguided. And there have been lots of violations of freedom of speach in this contry, look at the McCarthy era, or whatever. It's posible. Not all people are moral people, not all people subscribe to the morals laid down in the constitution. Anyway
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Re: prove him wrong (4.20 / 5) (#5)
by khym on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:27:15 AM EST

People aren't getting riled up (or at least, not very much) because of the points that he makes, but because he say that the government should do something about this, with the implication that the government should somehow constrain or regulate open source in some manner; this really pisses people off as it's rather hypocritical, with Microsoft shouting that it shouldn't be regulated, then turning around and hinting at regualting open source.

I think he makes a number of good points - the main one being, why put money into R&D when your competitor can just take your product and sell it cheaper
No one in the opensource movement is forcing anyone to go opensource against their will (Well, the Free Software Foundation would like to, but they don't have a chance in Hell of doing it). And if companies spend less on R&D because people who voluntarily go opensource are providing such functionality that there's no need to do any more R&D, then what's the problem.

Likewise, how is opensource going to be a threat to intellectual property? So Linus creates some intellectual property and then gives it away (with restrictions). How is this going to weaken the intellectual property laws?

Finally, says ''I'm an American, I believe in the American Way,'', implying that there is something un-American or shady about opensource; that bit probably really pissed off a lot of U.S. open source developers.



--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
Why indeed... (4.60 / 5) (#6)
by zephiros on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:29:02 AM EST

why put money into R&D when your competitor can just take your product and sell it cheaper (or offer better value added services or whatever).

Microsoft has a less than sterling history when it comes to borrowing a competitor's product and producing it cheaper and/or offering added services (like OS integration and a standardized API). Your argument hinges on the idea that innovators are always the ones to benefit from their work. When it comes to the PC market, however, innovators have traditionally been driven by curiosity and a desire to improve the technology. It's been the business-minded folks, who packaged that technology as a product, who have made bank. Just ask Tim Berners-Lee how much of the dot-com boom landed in his checkbook.

If anything, OSS is a giant academic research lab that Microsoft (and other companies) can (and will) tap to keep at the forefront of technology. MS is simply chafing at the idea of hobbyist researchers edging in on their business-software turf.
 
Kuro5hin is full of mostly freaks and hostile lunatics - KTB
[ Parent ]

A nit to pick. (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by eLuddite on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 03:26:44 AM EST

Innovation doesnt come from the OSS movement, it comes from university researchers who are neither financial driven (as you mention) nor politically driven (as dont mention.) It is our good fortune that the software these people write does usually end up available in source form, usually under some form of the BSD license which, if I am not mistaken, predates the GPL.

Open source as it stands today is politically driven. It is considerably less innovative than its corporate nemesis, usually being content merely to offer GPLed alternatives to commercial releases. Some of those alternatives are better, most are utter crap, none of them are "innovative."[1] Most exist and are written with the purpose of "freeing" commercial software already in extant.

In other words, both the OSS and the FSF can disappear tomorrow without a significant impact on software innovation. The same cannot be said if university research was halted. The distribution of unfettered source has been the modus operundi in research (even corporate sponsored research) long before the acronyms OSS and FSF came into existence. It is important to realize that RMS, the FSF and OSS in general have merely politicized the norm by challenging commercial development strategies. They havent done anything to further innovation and I challenge anyone to produce contrary evidence.

I like free software just fine. I only wish people would tone down statements for its mythic accomplishments before everything explodes in a fit of hubris and failed expectations.

[1] Before anyone jumps down my throat: Perl, sendmail, bind, tex, etc, while wonderful, innovative examples, are not the result of either OSS or the FSF. I find it a little disingenuous that pundits for either organization assume credit for these accomplishments when all of them were developed in complete ignorance of Free Software as a philosophy. Looking over the list of software at the gnu site, I see that emacs is innovative but that's about it.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Terminology (none / 0) (#49)
by zephiros on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:55:22 AM EST

In other words, both the OSS and the FSF can disappear tomorrow without a significant impact on software innovation. The same cannot be said if university research was halted.

OSS is a question of license. Whether the decision to release under that license is prompted by academic altruism or software socialism is irrelevant. Suggesting that we evaluate OSS minus academic contribution is like suggesting we evaluate closed source software minus corporate contribution.

If your intention is to throw stones at the clan of Stallman and the GPL, hurl away. But mind the terminology; regardless of what one might read on Slashdot, GPL is simply one among many ways to release open source software. Suggesting that all OSS proponents are flag-waving GPL zealots is just as bad as suggesting flag-waving GPL zealots are responsible for all open source innovation.
 
Kuro5hin is full of mostly freaks and hostile lunatics - KTB
[ Parent ]

His argument makes no sense.... (4.75 / 8) (#8)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:41:52 AM EST

I think he makes a number of good points - the main one being, why put money into R&D when your competitor can just take your product and sell it cheaper (or offer better value added services or whatever).

If you are talking about the current software landscape with MSFT, ORCL, HP, IBM are making billions of dollars in revenues while LNUX, RHAT, etc are making peanuts then I have no idea what you are talking about.

Currently all the afforementioned companies are reaping the benefits of Open Source and are using Open Source R & D, from MSFT that uses BSD code in it's TCP/IP stack to IBM that pushes Linux for use on it's mainframes and Oracle which uses Apache as it's web server for a number of products.

Quite frankly, I'm still waiting for someone to point out a valid case of Open Source stealing some corporations R & D and competing with them. On the other hand MSFT does this regularly by stealing developers from competitors, e.g. Palm and Borland (the designer of C# also created Delphi).

On the other hand if you are talking about some mythical future when all code is Open Sourced, then I still do not agree with you. Currently the average software developer is underpaid. A friend of mine who worked at MSFT, did the math and realized that each employee brings in $350,000 to $500,000 in revenue per year[0], yet each employee gets to see only 10 to 20 per cent of that while the CEOs and directors make millions. If all code was Open Sourced, then all that would be needed would be well trained developers to either act as consultants, support staff and/or in-house coders. Basically Open Source will lead to many of us freeing the shackles of wage slavery and let us all become an army of consultants who are suppliant to no corporation, sounds fine to me.

[0] If these numbers sound bogus click this link.

[ Parent ]
Why, indeed? (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by sinclair on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:07:46 AM EST

why put money into R&D when your competitor can just take your product and sell it cheaper

This line of reasoning rests on a fundamental assumption: that of software as product. That's the business model that Bill Gates built Microsoft upon, so it's no wonder they're scared of open source software. But why does software have to come from a company that just writes software, boxes it, shrink-wraps it, and puts it on a shelf as a product in and of itself? Why, indeed?

Open source software makes sense outside of the software-as-product framework, in companies that don't make their money from software. The best description I can give of the way software can work is through the example of Apache. It began when a number of Web server administrators across the Internet patched up the NCSA httpd to create "a patch-y server." (Nyuk nyuk!) They gave away their work, because they were in the business of providing Web service, not selling Web server software. Each one contributed just a little bit, but all the little bits put together made a pretty good server. Apache continues to grow to this day. People or companies add the features they need, and everybody benefits from each addition. In this way, everybody gets back far more than they put in, and nobody loses.

This model could work for all sorts of software. People and businesses the world oven often need the same sorts of software. If each user of an open-source project contributes back the features he/she/it needed to add, that project becomes very powerful. This could even work for the humble word processor, as I have yet to meet a business that doesn't need one. Furthermore, this model answers the question of how programmers can make money in an open-source world: by contracting their services to businesses or people who need specific features added to an open-source project, or a new project started.

No, it doesn't make much sense for a software company to put R&D money into developing open-source software, because with open-source software, a software company doesn't make much sense.



[ Parent ]
Why, indeed? (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:15:22 AM EST

This line of reasoning rests on a fundamental assumption: that of software as product. That's the business model that Bill Gates built Microsoft upon, so it's no wonder they're scared of open source software. But why does software have to come from a company that just writes software, boxes it, shrink-wraps it, and puts it on a shelf as a product in and of itself? Why, indeed?
Because that's where the money is. If a sortware company can use a different model and make more money then perhaps we can ask why, but at present the companies that make money are the ones that treat software as a product.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Great way to start a fight :-) (5.00 / 2) (#55)
by kostya on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 03:32:45 PM EST

Asking this question is a great way to start a fight. I should know. I asked it at a session for free software developers about how to license your software. ESR, RMS, and Perens were there. My question was how does my company open source its tools and not get killed by the competition--who would then just use our tools and kill us through superior marketing.

The response, was a literal firestorm, with people shouting and screaming, ending with RMS calling a guy I was friends with a "soulless, greedy man". Classic RMS. ESR wasn't much better, for those of you who know him (he was mighty pissed at me for creating such a stink--I think they wanted to talk and discuss other issues). He an RMS started arguing and then defending each other. It was nasty.

But what I got out of it was this: software is NOT a product. It is a service. To found a company on software as a product is flawed. The real money is made in providing services. This is what consulting is built on and PS arms of various software makers. ESR and RMS argued that even if your competitor took the product, if your clients want true expertise, they will come to the guys who created it in the first place. Open sourcing software allows you to achieve the best product available, while getting free advertising as "The People Who Can".

Whether you agree with this or not, this is what free software proponents believe.

As a contractor, I have to say that I believe it. I have open sourced all of my tools and packages. They have served as a great advertisement for my skills. I have landed several gigs specifically because my work matched my resume: not only did I have the work experience, but I had proof of competency.

Also, having been in consulting, many consulting firms sound good in the sales pitch but fail to deliver in the skills. Imagine if you could download tool kits they had built and get a feel for their real competence. It would definitely change things.



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
Goodie! (4.60 / 15) (#7)
by Seumas on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:30:30 AM EST

Oh man, I was really hoping this would eventually make its way to Kuro5hin!

To start with, the guy (Jim Allchin) speaking on behalf of Microsoft makes some interesting points.

  • [1] ''Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer [. . .]''
  • [2] "I can't imagine something that could be worse than this for the software business and the intellectual-property business.''
  • [3] ''I'm an American, I believe in the American Way.''
  • [4] ''I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat.''
  • [5] ''We can build a better product than Linux.
  • [6] "There is always something enamoring about thinking you can get something for free.''
  • [7] "Companies that use Linux in their products then must pay someone else for support."
However, each of these points has major flaws:

  • [1] Open Source is not an intellectual property destroyer. Open Source material is still intellectual property. Just because it is not held tightly and exploited for vasts amount of money and used to excite consumerism in the name of corporate lust does not mean that it is not intellectual property. Some would also argue that intellectual-property rights need to be destroyed.
  • [2] We can all imagine something worse than open source for the software business. Monopolies. Buying out competitors to stifle competition. Stealing from and threatening competitors. Keeping your material zipped-up tighter than Dr. Laura's legs and screwing your competitors over by tweaking your hidden code.
  • [3] He may be an American, but he really doesn't understand what the American Way is. It certainly isn't hording, manipulating, stealing, lying, buying-out and making a crappy product. If anything, open source is the american way. If open source isn't the perfect metaphor for the melting-pot of our country, then I don't know what the hell is.
  • [4] He's worried that they haven't done enough education of lawmakers to understand the threate of open source? Would this be the kind of education that comes in $50 and $100 denominations?
  • [5] If they can build a better product, why don't they? If they built a better product than open source solutions, open source wouldn't be a threat! And exactly when do they plan to build this better product? I think they're confusing better product with better marketing.
  • [6] I'm perplexed by his comment about being enamored by getting something for free. What isn't enamoring about getting something for free? And why should one assume that just because you had to pay hundreds of dollars for it, it must be better? These are starting to sound like the plaintiff wails of a scrawny kid who's neck is being stamped on by the boot of the fierce bully -- attempting to talk his way out of losing his milk-money.
  • [7] Yep. Companies that use linux in their offices -- who also want outside support, have to pay for that support. They have to pay for Microsoft support contracts, too -- if they're using Microsoft products. In fact, my company produces lots of closed-source software and if they want support, they have to purchase very expensive support contracts, too. Again, this arguement also falls flat on itself like a drunk toddler.
Microsoft is making a huge mistake here. In fact, these statements are right at the top -- if not higher, of some of the most idiotic things anyone has ever said by, for or from Microsoft. I would not be surprised if this guy wakes up on Tuesday, to find that he no longer has a job.

I sincerely hope that the DoJ will continue to be vigilent in their watch over Microsoft. If not, I wouldn't be surprised by any related decisions made by any courts or legistlators.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

Allchin (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by bjrubble on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:50:16 AM EST

Allchin was the guy behind the video tape evidence in the antitrust trial. He certainly seems to have a talent for PR blunders.

OT: I loved the MSNBC coverage of the antitrust trial!

Allchin reeled. "In this case, I don't think the Felten program was running, and I did check it," Allchin said. In an attempt to defend his sworn testimony now under question, Allchin shot back, "There are performance problems" with Windows when the Felten program is installed, "I just know it."


[ Parent ]
veering slightly off topic (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by eLuddite on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 08:16:38 AM EST

Just because it is not held tightly and exploited for vasts amount of money and used to excite consumerism in the name of corporate lust does not mean that it is not intellectual property.

I just wanted to add parenthetically that Linux is tightly held (Linus being the sole arbitrar of its features, in practice), Linux is exploited for vast amounts of money (as are open source programmers who put their work under the gpl yet receive not one scintilla of copper from RH, IBM, SGI. etc in return), and that Linux is being used to excite consumerism like no other os in the history of software. Be careful of the panaceas you wish for, they rarely end up being any different than the status quo they were meant to supplant.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Linux developers are exploited? (none / 0) (#61)
by Chris Andreasen on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 01:36:17 AM EST

Linux is exploited for vast amounts of money (as are open source programmers who put their work under the gpl yet receive not one scintilla of copper from RH, IBM, SGI. etc in return)
The entire point behind open source/Free software development (or one of the big points, at least) is that developers are writing the software because they need functionality that doesn't already exist. The propensity for publishing it as open source/Free software stems from
  1. altruism - others might find it useful as well
  2. others might add functionality that you didn't think of/didn't know how to write/etc.
Capital can take many forms aside from cash. The developers are payed in the sense that they have use for what they wrote. They are not being held at gunpoint and being told to write drivers for the Linux kernel.
--------
Is public worship then, a sin,
That for devotions paid to Bacchus
The lictors dare to run us in,
and resolutely thump and whack us?

[ Parent ]
American (3.00 / 1) (#40)
by jabber on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 10:53:24 AM EST

If MS is claiming that open source is UnAmerican they must be getting pretty desperate. America is "all about Freedom(tm)", and claiming otherwise is like saying that I got stopped in down town Harlem, 'just because I'm black'.

MS may believe in the "American Way" as far as Calvin Coolidge's famous quote (#3) is concerned. There's much more to it then that, and today, there's much more to aspire to in the first place.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Yer close... (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by Elendale on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 08:05:29 PM EST

  1. Darn skipppy! Open Source destroys all ability buy out and outright "own" something. If you take notice, all intellectual property was supposed to go this way but some blockhead government changed this.
  2. Translated as: "Oh my god! Linux is an actual good product that we can't out-FUD or buy! Whatever shall we do?"
  3. Random unrelated thing (other than associating American with Capitalism) designed to inspire our patriotism
  4. If we don't send the government to special Microsoft Re-Education they might use something other than Windows! The horror!
  5. Translated as: But we're not going to because you dumbasses practically pander to crappy software... then you have the audacity to use free software that is non-crappy? Think before you act! Oh, and we're also saying "Linux is better than our current products"
  6. Again, darn skippy! Much better than paying 80-3000 USD for a similar product- oh, and not to mention various assaults on your freedom and attempts to harrass more money out of you.
  7. Yeah, like their techs. Those lazy bastards should be doing something better than playing Quake anyway. Lets see them do something other than "Reboot, Reformat, Reinstall" (which, i swear, are the new 3Rs of education).

-Elendale (Sorry if i sound a bit cynical... but... well, actually i'm not all that sorry)
---

When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.


[ Parent ]
But of course... (2.53 / 15) (#9)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:44:59 AM EST

Free software is not about innovation-- it is about copying commercial software and producing free alternatives, typically inferior in alternative, without any decent end-user documentation, and wallowing in arrogance and contempt of those who can't be bothered to become '1337 enough to use it.

To give them some credit, the software is typically much more solid and more free from bugs (the crashfest that is GNOME notwithstanding).

No highly visual Free software package, save for Apache, has produced a decent innovation other than improving in detail over previous commercial software. The most visual packages are copies of the Unix kernel (Linux), of the Windows GUI (GNOME, KDE).

--em

What's that have to do with "Stifling Innovat (3.80 / 5) (#11)
by khym on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:56:51 AM EST

Alright, so there isn't much opensource out there that's innovative. That's not what Jim Allchin was saying: he was saying that opensource would stifle the innovation of closed source companies, which is just plain absurd.



--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
WTF? (1.50 / 6) (#14)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:06:48 AM EST

That's not what Jim Allchin was saying: he was saying that opensource would stifle the innovation of closed source companies, which is just plain absurd.

Because more money given to Free software (who'd they give it to, anyway?) means less money given to commercial software or academic research labs, which make pretty much all the innovations anyway.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself.

Why the fuck are you hypothesizing I'm an idiot? Are you just insulting me because I burst your childish "Linux g**k" balloon?

--em
[ Parent ]

Geez, Relax! (4.25 / 4) (#16)
by khym on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:22:33 AM EST

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself.
Why the fuck are you hypothesizing I'm an idiot? Are you just insulting me because I burst your childish "Linux g**k" balloon?
Geez, it's my signature, it's been like that for months and months!
That's not what Jim Allchin was saying: he was saying that opensource would stifle the innovation of closed source companies, which is just plain absurd.
Because more money given to Free software (who'd they give it to, anyway?) means less money given to commercial software or academic research labs, which make pretty much all the innovations anyway.
If closed source companies continue to innovate, then plenty of people will continue to pay for that software rather than using open source. Open source could only ever kill off closed source companies if open source provided everything that everyone needed.

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
re: WTF?? (4.00 / 3) (#17)
by 31: on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:27:08 AM EST

well... I'd recommend calming down a touch... will make it so your points can perhaps be recieved.

Look, if closed source companies can produce better products, people will buy them. The corporate market isn't persuaded by open source ideals, and they have quite alot of money. Even if Microsoft loses the entire desktop market (which is unlikely, if your assertion that the open source products are a step behind is true), they won't be dead. And with Microsoft having the corporate market, most of the people who work at corps. with MS software will use the same software at home, for familiarity of use, and compatibilities with their work.

And that Suppose you were a moron... was part of a sig. Calling congressmen stupid, not you. Unless you are a congressman, in which case, may god have mercy on your soul.

-Patrick
[ Parent ]
It isn't so absurd (none / 0) (#24)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 03:32:35 AM EST

Alright, so there isn't much opensource out there that's innovative. That's not what Jim Allchin was saying: he was saying that opensource would stifle the innovation of closed source companies, which is just plain absurd.

No it isn't. His point is that there is no incentive for closed source companies to spend billions on research and focus groups if Open Source developers simply reengineer their innovations and give away the source.

It's the same argument the RIAA makes against Napster.

[ Parent ]
Re: It isn't so absurd (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by khym on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:31:54 AM EST

Alright, so there isn't much opensource out there that's innovative. That's not what Jim Allchin was saying: he was saying that opensource would stifle the innovation of closed source companies, which is just plain absurd.
No it isn't. His point is that there is no incentive for closed source companies to spend billions on research and focus groups if Open Source developers simply reengineer their innovations and give away the source.
But closed source companies can reengineer inovations and make a profit off of it; what's more, they could give it away for free, like Microsoft does with IE. The only difference that I can see is that closed source companies wouldn't give away the reengineered code.

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
academic research and free software (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by Nyarlathotep on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 02:56:09 AM EST

Actually, I've been under the impression that most software writen for academic purposes is GPLed today. Now, you can say that this is not "free software" since it would have been releazsed under a simillar lissence 20 years ago too, but it was exactly that academic free lissences which motivated the GPL. Plus, there are a few projects like Perl which have a significant "creative" quality to their develoment, but do not normally come under the political banner of free software. Still, you are correct that the vast majority of the software which slashbots get excited about is not original.

Personally, I think this just say how little interest your average person / programmer has in real research. Yes, it's sad that he people who have the free time to write free software are not more creative / original, but you never get original software from Microsoft either. Your average computer user just dose not care about tring to understand new ideas.

Clearly, it is a really really dumb idea to take money away from academic research to fund Gnome, but I don't think that's what this guy was concerened about. He was concerened about unfunded free software which would read Word files or interact with Microsoft protocolls. He want free software to be incompatible with Microsoft product pure and simple.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
look again (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:38:16 AM EST

Actually, I've been under the impression that most software writen for academic purposes is GPLed today.

Then you need to come off your impressions.

Most software written for academic purposes is non-free. Many in such a way that you can use it free-beer in academia, but must pay to use it outside academia. And there's plenty of software written in academia which is exclusively pay-to-play-- though for much of it you get source, and the right to make derivative products.

--em
[ Parent ]

Free Software Innovations. (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by marevalo on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 07:33:24 AM EST

UNIX
TCP/IP
Sockets
EMACS
HTTP - httpd
HTML
Mosaic
Jabber IM
Scoop
Slash

but all in all,

FREE SOFTWARE IS ABOUT FREEDOM

[ Parent ]
Let's look at your examples. (none / 0) (#59)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Feb 17, 2001 at 07:34:44 PM EST

Real AT&T UNIX has never been free. BSD only became free after all AT&T code was purged. TCP/IP was first implemented on BSD Unix, which was not free at the time. Anyway, networking was already a well-known technology, so TCP/IP was not a huge innovation. "Sockets" are not an innovation in a strict sense-- they are an API for networking. EMACS is a visual editor, which is hardly an innovation, too-- the idea of having an embedded extension language might be a minor innovation, but I suspect prior art exists. The web, multimedia, hyperlinks and such, were not innovations-- such things had been independently discovered many times before. HTML is not a software program. Anyway, markup languages have existed for a long time, and SGML was invented by an industry consortium. Mosaic is out, for the same reason as HTTP and HTML. Jabber didn't invent instant messaging.

And WRT Slash and Scoop: are you trying to make me laugh?

The point, again: most significant innovations in software come from academia, and even then, most of these are not released as free software. Free software makes for good implementations of old ideas, but the idea that free software produces many significant innovations is wrong.

--em
[ Parent ]

Is this any different than a... (4.38 / 13) (#12)
by elenchos on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:01:02 AM EST

...prostitute who complains that the amateurs who just give it away will ruin the business?

Adequacy.org

re: Is this any different than a... (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by 31: on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:37:33 AM EST

I guess you'd better be careful... if you buy it, you might catch something nasty.

-Patrick
[ Parent ]
The mask has really come off now (3.50 / 10) (#20)
by Erbo on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 02:05:26 AM EST

I think Allchin has unwittingly betrayed Microsoft's true colors now. They've discovered that they can't FUD Free Software out of existence, and they can't steamroller it with marketing, and they can't buy it up and bury it in a dark corner of the Redmond campus. So now they're trying to buy enough legislators to have it made illegal.

Oh, it won't be called "outlawing Free Software," it'll be called "protecting the consumer" (UCITA anyone?) or "enforcing copyright" (DMCA?), or maybe even "protecting our children!" (CDA, COPPA, COPA, etc.?). But the language Allchin is using is as unmistakable as a whore's wink; he'd like nothing better than to see Linux CD-ROMs tossed on a gigantic Fahrenheit 451-esque bonfire, and Linus thrown in prison for "crimes against American capitalism." Either that, or he's gone completely off his trolley, and the entire senior management of Microsoft with him.

Do any of you reading this who are Microsoft shareholders approve of this philosophy? If the only way Microsoft can guarantee its future profits when faced with the competition of Free Software is to try and have it legislated out of existence, what does that say about the stability of the company that you have invested your dollars in?

I will close with a pithy quote I came up with today: "When Free Software is outlawed, only outlaws will be truly free."

Eric
--
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org

Re: The mask has really come off now (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by khym on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 02:28:20 AM EST

So now they're trying to buy enough legislators to have it made illegal.
They don't need to make it illegal, they only need to regulate it. If doing XYZ is regulated, then only people to do XYZ will be those:
  1. With enough money/resources to figure out all the regulations.
  2. Who can make enough money doing XYZ to make up for the risk of running afoul of the regulators.
So if open source were regulated in the U.S., then pretty much all open source related stuff in the U.S. would just dissapear, without it being made illegal.

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
Depends... (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 03:51:42 AM EST

I would think that if the US were to regulate open source software, they would also have to regulate commerical closed source software. The two are basically the same thing, except the distributed code for one is more readable than the other. Also, using one is not that much different than the using the other. By asking for regulations on the software industry, Microsoft is asking for itself to be regulated.

If it's made difficult for open source software in the US, it won't disappear from here, it'll just move outside the country. People will still use it here, they'll just buy the CDs from outside the US.

[ Parent ]

Overregulation == de facto outlawing (none / 0) (#56)
by Erbo on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 07:03:35 PM EST

They don't need to make it illegal, they only need to regulate it. If doing XYZ is regulated, then only people to do XYZ will be those:
  1. With enough money/resources to figure out all the regulations.
  2. Who can make enough money doing XYZ to make up for the risk of running afoul of the regulators.
So if open source were regulated in the U.S., then pretty much all open source related stuff in the U.S. would just dissapear, without it being made illegal.

Which amounts, in my book, to de facto outlawing the development of Free Software. "Oh, well, you can do Free Software development if you fill out these 187 forms, get these 14 certifications, these 23 permits, and of course have full liability insurance. What? You can't afford that? Sorry, Buster. Now go get your weekly ration of Microsoft Software.Net like a good little sheep...and be sure you have your credit card handy."

It may not be as bad as I posted earlier; Jim Allchin may have just been talking out of his ass when he said that. But, if that were the case, he is, at bare minimum, guilty of stupidity so colossal that it defies human understanding. He's just handing the Appeals Court an excuse to give Microsoft a royal kneecapping...and you know they have to be listening.

One thing's for sure, as Dan Gillmor pointed out today: If he really said this, or even something even vaguely like this, he's just proved to the world why Microsoft can never, ever, ever be trusted.

Eric
--
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

and what exactly are they going to outlaw? (none / 0) (#30)
by klash on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:45:15 AM EST

So now they're trying to buy enough legislators to have it made illegal.

Have what made illegal, exactly?

Giving away software? Don't even think about it, because then MS could no longer give away IE and Windows Media, both critical parts of their overall strategy.

Giving away source code? Completely infeasable--How would I hand in my CS homework, or write a book on programming? Not to mention that MS could no longer release technical articles that include code snippets.

Licensing under the GPL? When you look at the liberties companies take with THEIR licensing (you own nothing, and we have no liability), do you really think they'll take initiative to WEAKEN the ability to enforce licensing terms? Just look at UCITA, it's a move in the opposite direction--making licenses more binding. UCITA obviously sucks, but I use it simply as an example to demonstrate the leaning of the corporate world.

Take a minute to think before declaring that the sky is falling. There's lots of stuff going on that really is dangerous, but this ain't it. It's FUD at worst, and the the only negative effect I can see coming as a result of this is a reluctance by the government to use free software, for fear of being called "Un-American."



[ Parent ]
Key phrase is "encourages open source" (4.75 / 4) (#33)
by Paul Johnson on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 07:35:10 AM EST

He's not angling to have OSS made illegal. What MS want to see is the government banned from paying for OSS. A number of very successful OSS projects have been based on US government funding, including the GNAT Ada translator and the WinVN newsreader. Then there are a range of university research projects such as CUseeMe which were originally open source or some variant thereof.

MS presumably want to argue that the government should not be in the position of funding software development which then knocks commercial software on the head. Which is not unreasonable as far as it goes: the US is built on the idea that the government should not be doing things that private enterprise does perfectly well. But I don't see trying to ban government funding for open source software as being exactly feasible either because (AIUI) all software produced with government funding has to be made open anyway.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.

absolutely (none / 0) (#47)
by cbatt on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:32:23 AM EST

I think that many people are reading this fearing that the underlying message is that he is asking the government to put into place laws to restrict and constrain Open Source development. This isn't exactly correct, though the results would be to this effect.

He's not stating that OSS should be made illegal. Rather that the source of funding for many OSS projects (The Government) be made aware of the fact that when they sponsor OSS they are competing with businesses that drive the economy. He might as well just say that it's "communist", instead of beating around the bush.

Basically, they're trying to kill two birds with one stone here:

  1. Government involvement in, and regulation of, the software industry. Leaving the playing field wide open for corporate interests to run rampant.

  2. Drying up the source of funding for a competitor that cannot be beaten any other way. It could be crippling to the OSS movement to have the funding which spawned so much of it, simply dry up. True, there are a few benign corporate investors out there that believe in OSS, but a lot of good OSS software comes from, or has its roots in, government funded projects.
It's a wonderful strategic move on MS's part, from a purely neutral standpoint. But it really is a dirty, underhanded trick.

-----------
Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

[ Parent ]
Software written by US Govt is public domain (none / 0) (#53)
by enry on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 02:05:02 PM EST

I worked with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs a few years ago, working on their Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) CD-ROM release. Here's the gist of it all:

Software written by the govt (such as the VA) is owned by the taxpayers, since they're the ones that paid for the software. Thus, the software is deemed public domain. Public domain is VERY different from the GPL, such that the viral part of the license doesn't apply, so you can make a commercial app out of PD software, but there's no requirement to publish the source.

Then again, this does not prevent someone else from taking the PD software and GPL'ing a fork.

[ Parent ]

You Have Been Trolled (2.50 / 6) (#35)
by theboz on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 08:19:15 AM EST

This article is nothing more than a troll. For how inaccurate the media can be, it wouldn't suprise me if the Microsoft guy never said these things. Of course, at the same time it is likely he said them, but I don't know. I guess my point is that I've seen less effective trolls on /. than this cnet article. I won't even respond to it other than to call it trolling, because there is no other purpose of the article.

Stuff.

Darn skippy (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by 0xdeadbeef on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 10:53:22 AM EST

Though there is no way CNet is making this up, as they'd be nailed against the wall if caught doing that.

This Allchin can't be a complete idiot or he wouldn't have a job that high at Microsoft, nor would they stick him in front of a reporter. This smells like a PR stunt, a "let's throw the free software zealots a bone and see how they bite" type of thing. They're probably hoping we'll all go off the handle, say a bunch of stupid things in response, and then M$ turns around presents that to the media: "see, I told you these guys can't be trusted".

[ Parent ]
User Friendly Comic (4.66 / 3) (#36)
by reshippie on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 09:40:20 AM EST

Today's strip from UserFriendly takes a whack at this stubject. Check it out here.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)
and call me wacky (none / 0) (#45)
by jeanlucpikachu on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:24:21 AM EST

But well before this was put up, there was a post in Slashdot saying the exact same thing... I wonder who stole from who, or if great minds think alike?

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
[ Parent ]
heh (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by regeya on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 02:09:56 PM EST

Jean Luc Pikachu?

There's an original name...

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

^_^ (none / 0) (#58)
by jeanlucpikachu on Sat Feb 17, 2001 at 02:32:13 PM EST

Jean Luc Pikachu? There's an original name...
Thanks =)

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
[ Parent ]
I knew this would happen... (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by jdtux on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 09:44:44 AM EST

I don't know why or how, but I knew MS would try and make Open Source illegal, or make it look bad because it's not "the American Way". I suppose it just goes to show how scareed they are, and how predictable they are.

Why is Open Source bad now? Brief history 'lesson' (4.90 / 11) (#38)
by WinPimp2K on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 10:24:45 AM EST

The argument that Open Source stifles innovation (while having valid points) does not apply to Microsoft. They are using it as a smokescreen.

Lets just turn the question Alchin raises around.
Who would spend R&D money on software when Microsoft will just turn around and and duplicate it (and bundle it into the operating system or just make a competing product)? A serious look at Microsoft's history of 'innovation' demonstrates this. Consider the following examples off the top of my head:
Disk defragmentation software
GUIs (Xerox, Apple, anyone remember GEM?)
Disk compression (yeah, they got nailed for patent infringement on this one - but it was chump change)
File management software (XTREE anyone?)
Spreadsheets (Visicalc, Lotus, then Excel)

Now my real point (which I'm sure isn't the whole reason) is that Microsoft is running scared - specifically of Borland.IBM's adoption of Linux is not a Good thing for MS, but it doesn't strike at the heart of Microsoft's strength - their vast army of developers. More history: Way back in the mists of time (early 80's), there were very few options for software development on the PC. Before there was C, there was BASIC, and some upstart fifty dollar package called Turbo Pascal. Although Microsoft was able to demolish all of the applications Borland put out, they were never able to crush Borland's development tools. MS was always trying to make their next version of their C (later C++) compiler better than Borland's last one.
Once Windows was really well entrenched (Win 95), Borland was finally relegated to 'also ran' status.
But now, Microsoft is vulnerable. Many of the developers are griping that .NET will require them to learn a new language and they can't port their existing work. This is not the time for anyone to go and release a very inexpensive development system that will allow both Windows and Linux development with a solid IDE behind it.
Naturally, that is exactly what Kylix/Delphi allows. I doubt that the folks at Borland knew that .NET was in the works, but it is definately in the right place to appeal to developers who are going to have to learn a new language anyways - and may have problems with some of the other implications of .NET (requiring signed code where MS contrrols the signature authority). Oh well, thats my binary 10 cents worth

another angle (none / 0) (#51)
by spacejack on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:17:29 PM EST

The flip side of doing portable GUIs is doing portable, hardware-accelerated multimedia (what I'm more familiar with). SDL is well on its way to providing a Linux-based development environment for games that use hardware acceleration. Basically, a wrapper that allows you to program for Windows/DX, Linux, BeOS, MacOS via a Linux dev system (or a cross-compiler setup on Windows if you like that sort of pain) -- all without buying a single commercial product. I'm playing around with this in my spare time so I'm not yet sure how practical a solution it will turn out to be, but it would be damn cool if it works out. I'm also pretty sure that you will not see SDL support appearing on an X-Box near you anytime soon :)

Again, MS may be scared that "real" developers get hooked on SDL (there are some obviously very knowledgable developers working with it -- that project is massively active) and say, who needs MS to make Windows games? (Not that this would kill them financially -- the sales of MSVC to game developers is probably insignificant in the long run, but it could turn the tide against D3D in favour of OpenGL). There still isn't any real market for PC games outside of Windows, but game development could see some (badly needed IMHO) standardization occur.

One other point about Borland's Windows compilers.. ehh, this is just rumour that I heard once, but one of the tactics MS used against Borland was to hire away their progammers to work on MSVC. Nasty.

[ Parent ]
People for the American Way! (3.33 / 3) (#41)
by marlowe on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 10:54:24 AM EST

Wrap yourselves in the flag, boys, and let's see who salutes.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
Babel Fish and Webster (5.00 / 2) (#42)
by GreenCrackBaby on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:21:40 AM EST

I put the phrase I believe in the American Way through babel fish, translating from "Corporate Jargon" to "Everyday English". This is what came out:

Corporate Jargon: -- I believe in the American Way.

Everyday English: -- We are greeding

Looking up the same phrase in Webster yields:
I believe in the American Way. -- Commonly used by large coporations when they see profit margins shrinking.

oops, this is what happens when you try and (none / 0) (#44)
by GreenCrackBaby on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:22:32 AM EST

correct a spelling error just before it posts

[ Parent ]
Babel Fish and Webster (1.00 / 1) (#43)
by GreenCrackBaby on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:21:40 AM EST

I put the phrase I believe in the American Way through babel fish, translating from "Corporate Jargon" to "Everyday English". This is what came out:

Corporate Jargon: -- I believe in the American Way.

Everyday English: -- We are greedy

Looking up the same phrase in Webster yields:
I believe in the American Way. -- Commonly used by large coporations when they see profit margins shrinking.

Since ya'll know so much 'bout what M$ steals (2.00 / 2) (#46)
by jeanlucpikachu on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:26:13 AM EST

Why don't you check out http://research.microsoft.com/research/ and tell me what you think was stolen from other places and what you think M$ developed on its own...

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
Sorry to lay da smackdown (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by slaytanic killer on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 11:40:26 AM EST

Guess where all these researchers were stolen from. Myhrvold (when he was CTO before getting bored and disappearing) made up a list of researchers to snatch from universities and have them do what they were already doing. This list was populated with people from fields that seemed likely to pay off in the medium-term.

[ Parent ]
but (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by jeanlucpikachu on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 01:57:03 PM EST

That's like saying, "School's never do research, they just grab students who had an interest in some area and forced them to do research or fail." It's still the school that's famous for coming up with something like that. If M$ is paying them to come up with something, then it's M$ who deserves the credit for the research.

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
[ Parent ]
What they are really afraid of... (5.00 / 4) (#50)
by ucblockhead on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 12:04:49 PM EST

Microsoft wants government business pretty badly, of course, because government contracts are huge cash-cows. What they are concerned about is not open competition, but rather, they are concerned because some parts of the government may start favoring open source over commercial software.

The most important place this happens is in the spy organizations, like the NSA. The NSA is going to favor open source for the simple reason that they are so paranoid that they need the source to ensure themselves that they are not compromised. Microsoft is, I'm sure, afraid that this idea will spread to other organizations, like the defense department. They are afraid that the government will decide to go beyond just comparing open source software to commercial software on an equal footing, but will go beyond that to actually give open source an advantage.

This is a huge threat to them because if the government is relying on open source, not only does this mean that Microsoft won't get that revenue, it also means that millions of government hackers will be adding to open source projects.

-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
eh... "millions of government hackers"? (none / 0) (#60)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Feb 17, 2001 at 07:42:49 PM EST

[...] that millions of government hackers will be adding to open source projects.

You mean the government has millions of hackers working for it? Wait till good old 'Dubya hears about this! ;)

--em
[ Parent ]

Open source: a threat to innovation? | 62 comments (62 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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