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[P]
Jim Allchin and the Linux threat

By enterfornone in Technology
Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 02:10:07 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

By now most of you would have seen this CNET article, where Microsoft's Jim Allchin claims that open source software threatens innovation and is a danger to intellectual property rights.

In typical zealot style, Allchin's words have immediately been dismissed as FUD by the Linux and open source community. In doing so the Linux community has ignored the legitimate concerns of business and exposed the true "Linux threat" - the threat that the idealists at the forefront of the Linux movement will scare off software companies who still rely on traditional business models.


Allchin claims that "Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer". Is this FUD? Hardly, GNU/Linux was founded on the idea that software should have no owners. To suggest that those at the forefront of Linux and GNU are anti-IP is fairly accurate (unless you are talking about their own IP).

Allchin believes in "the American Way", a term that smacks of McCarthyism and is generally accepted to refer in part to capitalism. He's not alone. Many in the US and the wider world feel that they should be able to use their creations (whether tangible or intellectual) to make money. They feel they should be able to own intellectual property like any other property. And why shouldn't they? The effort required to create a CD or a novel is no less worthy than the effort required to build a house or sculpt a statue. The fact that music, books and software can easily be duplicated is no reason to suggest that these things can't be owned.

While many would argue that it is possible to make money from open source software, it's certainly true to say that most of the more successful software companies have been solely or mostly based on proprietary software. If you consider that part of "the American Way" is "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", certainly success in business would be part of that. And if you want success in business, why not emulate the business model used by America's richest man?

Open source is clearly a threat to this business model. A large scale uptake of open source software would make it very difficult for traditional closed source software manufacturers. Instead of competing based on the quality of the software, companies would be on an equal footing - all with access to the same software and would be required to find other sources of revenue. The failure of open source companies such as VALinux to turn a profit has shown that creating an open source business model is not as easy as ESR makes it out to be.

Whether a large scale uptake of open source would threaten innovation is another story. There certainly have been innovations in the open source arena. However it would certainly reduce the incentive for software companies to invest in research, it is more likely that any innovation in open source would have to come from academia.

Allchin claims that Microsoft can "build a better product than Linux". We wouldn't expect him to say anything else, and it's certainly fair to say that his motives for saying these things are the betterment of his own company. However Microsoft didn't get where they are by being dumb. Allchin and Microsoft know what the business community think. If we are to win over business to Linux we need to be able to convince them that their fears are unfounded. By dismissing Allchin so easily we are not doing the open source community any favours.

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Jim Allchin and the Linux threat | 57 comments (39 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
Read the article (3.87 / 8) (#6)
by DranoK on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:41:28 PM EST

This is not 'beating a dead horse' as has been suggested. This article makes a damn good point.

First Microsoft sends a letter off to Sun which Sun blasts ( http://www.sun.com/dot-com/realitycheck/headsup010205.html ) , which everyone thought was a HUGE PR mistake. (OK, maybe not too linux-specific but Sun does do a lot of open-source stuff)

Now Microsoft is getting bad PR for saying these things. It's creating a huge buzz in the opensource community and that is starting to spill over into management type people.

Add to that the new wave of Microsoft commercials which make windows out to be 100% stable.

Microsoft didn't get to be where they are by making mistakes. And all this recent PR crap is starting to scare me.

Microsoft has a plan, don't doubt it. Microsoft has damn good reason to be doing what they are doing, if for no other reason than to add fuel to the debate.

Microsoft knows that at this immediate point in time they can win any war against Linux. That scenario might change in the next few years. IMHO, Microsoft is trying to start the battle NOW on THEIR terms, so they know they can win.

This article makes an excellent point. +1FP


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



bad PR (3.75 / 4) (#13)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:56:49 PM EST

Is it really bad PR? I would expect that there are people outside of the open source community that do believe Microsoft puts out good products and that they do have the "freedom to innovate". Those people are very likely to accept Microsoft as a source of truth.

The original CNET article was faily unbiased in my view. The bad PR came from sites like this and Slashdot, sites that don't have a high opinion of MS anyway.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Somewhat true... (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by DranoK on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:35:06 PM EST

and indeed it is what I thought at first. After talking to some older folks (heh - age does count for something I guess) I think I more fully understand the bullshit that goes into PR.

As for the letter to Sun: You never, never, never invite critisism. Look at the response Sun replied with; these are things Sun never would have been able to say without being invited to first.

Generally Microsoft has good PR, that is, they don't visciously attack their competition. Up until now, Microsoft has doen this VERY subtley.

Why? Because everyone loves the underdog. Microsoft, even though it is a huge corporation, cannot afford to start looking like this huge corporate tyrant. In the past, Microsoft has done everything possible to make it look like a more fluffy kind of business. ;) Why they are now becoming an attack-dog is yet to be seen, IMHO.


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



[ Parent ]
Microsoft ads (4.66 / 3) (#28)
by bjrubble on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 07:18:25 PM EST

When I saw the latest Microsoft ads ("nobody talks to the server, but the server isn't lonely...") the word that popped immediately to my mind was infantilization (props to Ellen Ullman). If these ads are generating anything but embarrassed laughter among the people who actually buy databases and servers, then it's time to pack up and leave the industry.

I also love the ones that go on about the "mythical five nines" and note in the small print that, effectively, they're only talking about the bare OS sans applications and services. I don't even deal with servers except in the course of application programming, and I still feel insulted by these ads.

OTOH, "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

[ Parent ]
Re: Microsoft ads (5.00 / 4) (#49)
by Minuit on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 04:47:33 PM EST

If these ads are generating anything but embarrassed laughter among the people who actually buy databases and servers, then it's time to pack up and leave the industry.
The scary thing is that the people who make the decisions to buy databases and servers aren't always the ones who understand them.

In a perfect world the choice of which database software to run and what hardware to run it on will be made by an experienced DBA who has carefully researched all of the available options and made an informed decision based on factors such as performance and reliability. This decision is then passed up to management where the recommendations of the technical personell are balanced against the cost of various options and the best plan is chosen.

Here in the real world, it's more likely that the sales rep from VarCo will take one of the managers from Victim, Inc (who can barely spell IT, let alone understand what it's all about) out skiing, and happen to mention over a quiet lunch with his best friend, Jack Daniels, "Oh, I hear you're looking for a database server. I can get you a sweet deal on the new Crudware SQL-minus system which can store all your corporate data, scales up to fifty teraquads, is insulated against tetrionic fields, makes six different types of coffee and will even get you laid."

"Hey, yeah! I've heard of Crudware! Their servers have 100% availability even during floods and they can keep serving up web pages while Keanu Reeves empties a submachinegun into the monitor, just like I saw in the commercial! Let me write a purchase order for you..."

A week later, a couple mysterious boxes from VarCo arrive at the desk of our DBA, who is half way through reserching the best database solution for Victim Inc, along with a hand-written note from the department head saying "Here are the new servers. Can you have them up and running by next Tuesday when I get back from Aspen?"

(And we wonder why so many dot coms went broke.)

-D
If you were my .sig, you would be home by now.
[ Parent ]

conflation of views (3.55 / 9) (#7)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:45:37 PM EST

Allchin claims that "Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer". Is this FUD? Hardly, GNU/Linux was founded on the idea that software should have no owners.
*Ahem* This is FUD. GNU was (arguably) founded on the principle that software should have no owners. (A much more correct statement would be that GNU is built on the principle that if someone buys a piece of software, they actually own it.) Linux on the other hand was founded on the principle of making a UNIX that ran on the 80386 processor. Linux used the GPL simply because he thought it an expedient method to get other people to help.

Therefore, saying that GNU/Linux was founded on the idea that software should have no owners is a bit bizarre. It takes into account only the GNU view and not the Linux view.

choice of license seems to indicate agreement (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by Delirium on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:48:43 PM EST

If Linus only wanted an "expedient" license, the BSD would be perfectly good for his uses. His choice of the GPL seems to indicate a preference for the "you MUST release your changes" view held by GNU.

[ Parent ]
Important distinction (4.00 / 3) (#15)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:01:28 PM EST

Linus is well within his right to specify such a license for code he created. However, Linus does not insist that all software be so licensed.

As far as the BSD license being expedient, apparently Linus was correct. More programmers seem willing to help code the Linux kernel than seem willing to code the BSD kernels. Although it is difficult to say what would have happened, in hindsight Linus' choice appears to be the correct expedient choice.

[ Parent ]

Linus' Choice of GPL (none / 0) (#53)
by Erisson on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 02:36:04 PM EST

I believe I read somewhere that Linus said he picked the GPL as a nod to RMS/FSF because he was dependent on GCC for the creation of Linux. I also think Linus was more or less license-agnostic. Erisson

[ Parent ]
GNU/Linux (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 04:50:44 PM EST

That's exactly why I said GNU/Linux. Linux was the final component of the GNU/Linux OS and was created for different reasons but the original (or founding) components were developed by the FSF and carry their philosophy. So to say that GNU/Linux was founded on FSF ideals is entirely accurate.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Not exactly what you said (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:04:42 PM EST

Linux was the final component of the GNU/Linux OS and was created for different reasons but the original (or founding) components were developed by the FSF and carry their philosophy. So to say that GNU/Linux was founded on FSF ideals is entirely accurate.
If one limits the discussion to distributions that use the GNU/Linux label (such as Debian) you are correct. Most distributions, however, simply use the label Linux (no GNU). These distributions pick GPL'd software solely out of expediency. If BSD had had the early mindshare of Linux, many of these companies might very well have picked BSD instead.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps (4.57 / 7) (#14)
by finkployd on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:00:45 PM EST

Perhaps open source DOES present a threat to business. Maybe it threatens to put many computer companies out of business and hurts the profits of others. However, this is all LEGAL. OSS programmers CHOOSE to release their code without restriction. Can you sue Habitat for Humanity because they undercut legitimate construction firms and build houses to give to people? Can you prevent online news outlets from enjoying their first amendment rights because they are threatening the business model of established newspaper companies? Can prostitutes sue sluts who just give it away for free (I know it's offensive, but I think it proves the point)

My point is that all this "FUD" about open source software being dangerous to closed course companies is TRUE. So what can be done about it? What should be done about it? If no laws are being broken then the companies are just going to have to deal with it. This is nothing new, everytime a new concept or technology comes out it threatens the old way of doing things. If we are going to be concerned with the existance of all currently money making companies, then I say we place a serious ban on all innovation, invention, and research. It will only lead to some new technology hurting an established company.

Finkployd
Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
FUD (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:24:42 PM EST

Nowhere does Allchin say open source should be banned, he is simply saying that government should not encourage it without looking at the implications (particularly the implication that it will hurt American business and stop innovation).

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Well, (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by finkployd on Sat Feb 17, 2001 at 06:31:32 PM EST

I'm not sure what the government is currently doing to encourage open source. They use it in places, but I would like to believe that the government chooses it's software based on what is best for it's needs, and not whether it will help a certain business or hurt them. As for innovation, I have yet to see any evidence that open source is doing anything but foster it. Closed source is more commonly associated with stopping innovation than open, IMHO.

Finkployd
Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
How they "deal with it" is critical (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by Erbo on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 07:30:48 PM EST

My point is that all this "FUD" about open source software being dangerous to closed course companies is TRUE. So what can be done about it? What should be done about it? If no laws are being broken then the companies are just going to have to deal with it.

Ah, but it's the way they deal with it that's the question here.

If Microsoft chose to "deal with" the threat of Linux and Open Source by making real, tangible improvements to the performance and stability of their products, making better use of protocols which were kept totally open and interoperable, and maybe even (heavens!) opening up some of their own source code, I would have zero problem with that. Allchin says "We can build a better product than Linux"? If that's what they were to actually do, then more power to 'em. If Microsoft were to engage in real innovation, not the half-assed copying, marketing spin, and blatant theft that they call "innovation," they'd have a good sporting chance.

Instead, by saying that "legislators need to understand the threat," Allchin is more than strongly hinting that Microsoft will try to buy enough Congressmen and Senators to pass laws that, while not outlawing Free Software, would make it virtually impossible for developers of Free Software in the US to continue. This is where Microsoft has crossed the line that we--Free Software developers, US citizens, and indeed the entire world--cannot allow them to cross.

"First they came for the DeCSS developers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a DeCSS developer. Then they came for the Gnutella developers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Gnutella developer. Then they came for the Linux kernel developers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Linux kernel developer. Then they came for me--and by then, there was no one left who would speak up."

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

You're mad, you know that, don't you? (1.00 / 1) (#51)
by PenguinWrangler on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 06:37:14 AM EST

"First they came for the DeCSS developers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a DeCSS developer. Then they came for the Gnutella developers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Gnutella developer. Then they came for the Linux kernel developers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Linux kernel developer. Then they came for me--and by then, there was no one left who would speak up."

Microsoft != Nazis. Bill Gates, for all his faults, has not instigated the invasion of Poland or the extermination of the Jewish Race.

Congratulations! You have chosen a metaphor that insults the memory of millions of people, and the intelligence of practically everyone but the most loony of open source zealots.
"Information wants to be paid"
[ Parent ]
The point of open source as I see it (4.16 / 6) (#16)
by FlightTest on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:04:01 PM EST

They feel they should be able to own intellectual property like any other property. And why shouldn't they? The effort required to create a CD or a novel is no less worthy than the effort required to build a house or sculpt a statue. The fact that music, books and software can easily be duplicated is no reason to suggest that these things can't be owned.

The point of Open Source isn't that *ALL* software must be open source, it's just that if you use code that someone else created and published as open source to make your program, than your program must be open source as well. It's somewhat like a lumber yard giving lumber to a builder for free on the condition that the builder give the house that he builds with that lumber away for free. The guy at the lumber yard isn't telling the builder that he has to give away *ALL* of the houses he builds, only those that he builds using lumber that was given to him for free. (I realize this isn't a perfect example, but please try to understand the meaning rather than the technicalities)

You still will be able to own your own original IP, you just can't take someone else's IP and make it yours.

Open source is clearly a threat to this business model. A large scale uptake of open source software would make it very difficult for traditional closed source software manufacturers. Instead of competing based on the quality of the software, companies would be on an equal footing - all with access to the same software and would be required to find other sources of revenue.

No, the problem traditional closed source software houses will have is how to make money in the first place if they convert to open source. Closed source will continue to compete on the basis of quality, even against open source. If there is a closed source program, Foo, that does bar better than any open source alternative, I'll buy Foo because I'm not a coder and can't write my own program to do bar. And I might not have time to wait for "the community" to make an equal or better program to do bar.

And, even dismissing closed source for now, open source programs will *STILL* compete against one another on the basis of quality. There seems to be a widespread view that open source means all the "best" features eventually end up on the main tree, and the forks die out as a result. This view erroneously presumes that everyone will agree on what the "best" features are. They won't. Some will like Foo's way of doing bar, and some will like Goo's way of doing bar. Foo and Goo may have a lot of features in common, but the way they are done may be different, and there may be features that the users of Foo want that the users of Goo don't want.



Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
IP ownership (2.66 / 3) (#19)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:18:32 PM EST

Read any article here or at Slashdot on trademarks, patents, napster etc. and it's clear that the majority feel that it is OK to copy someone elses IP even when they wouldn't steal someones physical property.

It is very true to say that many in the OSS world are anti-IP.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Words and Meaning (5.00 / 4) (#24)
by tnt on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:50:24 PM EST

The point of Open Source isn't that *ALL* software must be open source, it's just that if you use code that someone else created and published as open source to make your program, than your program must be open source as well.

That's not true. What you are talking about is copyleft not open source. With copyleft, anything derived from it must be copylefted as well. But open source does not have this restriction. Just look at the licenses used by Apache or the BSDs; these are each open source but not copyleft... and you do not have to release the source of the derived work.

(I know the media probably does not distinguish between the ideas of free (as in freedom), copylefted, and open source software.)



--
     Charles Iliya Krempeaux, B.Sc.
__________________________________________________
  Kuro5hin user #279

[ Parent ]
Give away main product, make money on perhipherals (3.85 / 7) (#22)
by interiot on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:42:37 PM EST

Lots of industries do it. Musicians make money of off concerts and tshirts. Books are placed in libraries, but some people want to own them for themselves. MP3.com makes some of its money from booklets and cover art. Tons of products are given away for free but include advertising. And RedHat and others make money off of support.

If all software was open source, the profession would still survive, just like the others I mentioned.

But why? (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by enterfornone on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:47:40 PM EST

Why do that when you can make more money by selling software and perhipherals.

I doubt MS wants to be known just for their range of mice and joysticks.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
What are we going to do today Brain? (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by interiot on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 05:54:50 PM EST

I'm not the one who suggested that OSS would take over the world, Allchin was. But if the consumer demands open source for interoperability and security reasons, then companies might be forced to comply.

By perhipheral, I meant "related to, but less important".

But no, I don't think Microsoft wants to be known for their support.

[ Parent ]

Oh, sheesh... (4.20 / 5) (#29)
by regeya on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 07:29:15 PM EST

You're both making one huge, fundamental error: that Open Source and Free Software always means freedom from financial cost. Not necessarily true. It would be entirely possible for Microsoft to GPL their OSen and still make f**ktons of money on their systems. Sell boxed packages, charge for distribution and QoS. Heck, charge for tech support. Sure, there will be people who take the source and try to make their own distribution...but nobody said Microsoft would have to make the build/porting process easy, right? :-) And they can always take the improvements that other companies make and fold it into their own personal tree.

Not that I would expect them to do that, since they believe in the American Way and Open Source is un-American. ;-)

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Buy why would they? (2.33 / 3) (#40)
by enterfornone on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 04:36:25 PM EST

Yeah, so MS have the option to sell stuff, and people have the option as to whether to pay for it or use it for free. At the moment if you want to use MS stuff you have to pay.

What reason do they have to change to a business model that will make them less money than they currently make (other than idealism).

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Their reason for doing this... (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by Carnage4Life on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 09:23:39 AM EST

What reason do they have to change to a business model that will make them less money than they currently make (other than idealism).

Because if they don't they'll soon be extinct or at least rendered irrelevant. The desktop is set to become irrelevant, the OS battle is now being fought on the server and Linux with the support of most of the software industry is in a good position the defeat Microsoft in that space. Windows 2000 sales are below expectation while anticipation for Windows XP is almost non-existent, they have just cause to be afraid and also reconsider their business model.

Frankly if I can code, I don't see why my OS/API's shouldn't come with source. A trained mechanic can fix his own car while competent developers are Shit Outta Luck if they want to modify or fix their tools when they buy Microsoft products. Seems like common sense that people would flock to the Open Source solution.

[ Parent ]
EULA - Licence to print money (none / 0) (#56)
by mdavids on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 02:37:47 AM EST

Making money might be acceptable, but a licence to print it is ideal. Microsoft's IP revenues, once the cost of development has been recouped, are almost pure profit. Distribution cost is a minute fraction of the product's price. Third parties install and support it.

Why sacrifice all that for a business model where if you want to keep making money on a product, you have to keep doing something to earn it? Work is unAmerican, dammit!



[ Parent ]
MS Hardware (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by hardburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 10:45:57 AM EST

I doubt MS wants to be known just for their range of mice and joysticks.

But they should be! Their hardware usualy rocks! I own an MS IntelliEye mouse and a Sidwider Joystick. Best mouse and joystick I've ever owned, and it's not like they don't work under GNU/Linux.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
Open Source and Intellectual Property (4.88 / 9) (#26)
by hugorune on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 06:53:04 PM EST

Am I the only person who noticed that this statement came out around the same time as The Napster ruling? Combine this with the recent announcements that Microsoft are working on a secure digital music format and it looks to me like he isn't talking about Microsoft's own intellectual property at all.

While the press is happily talking about Gnutella and Freenet as possible replacements for Napster, they allways point out that they are more difficult to stop than Napster because they are open source. It could be argued that any method of restricting the copying of digital music files (or movies for that matter) could be undermined by open source software. Are Microsoft hoping to convince legislators tha the main use for open source software is copyright infringement?

If this is the case, maybe it's time for us to start educating our representatives about the Apache, Bind, Sendmail, and all of the other open source software that is currently keeping the Internet running. It would be a shame if legislators only heard the Microsoft version because we were two lazy to write a letter or two.
--
Phil Harrison

I'll compromise if they will (4.00 / 7) (#32)
by bjrubble on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 10:52:45 PM EST

I would fully support a license whereby companies were allowed to use open source software in proprietary products, but the products were effectively copyrighted for only 2 years (or some other reasonable timeframe), after which they would become open.

Somehow, though, I don't think many companies (certainly not Microsoft) would go along with that. At which point I'd give them the finger and walk away.

Open source is at least in part a reaction to ridiculous copyright laws that ensure that the Windows 95 source code will not see the light of day until long after anybody cares. Basically, software companies took the position of "our way or the highway" and now they're realizing that people will take the highway and by making the choice so black-and-white they left themselves no recourse.

My hope is that eventually software companies become desperate enough to compromise, and agree to something closer to the spirit of IP laws -- you build things and are allowed to profit reasonably from them, but ultimately they are supposed to add to the public good. I don't want them all to go out of business, but ultimately I care more about what they do for me than how much money they make.

Whoops, missed this on the first reading... (4.33 / 9) (#34)
by regeya on Sat Feb 17, 2001 at 11:15:49 AM EST

Open source is clearly a threat to this business model. A large scale uptake of open source software would make it very difficult for traditional closed source software manufacturers. Instead of competing based on the quality of the software, companies would be on an equal footing - all with access to the same software and would be required to find other sources of revenue. The failure of open source companies such as VALinux to turn a profit has shown that creating an open source business model is not as easy as ESR makes it out to be. (emphasis mine.)
I would like to point out that there are numerous examples of closed-source ventures that have failed to turn a profit. I'm not sure why you chose to throw this in...I suppose you're also one of the Anonymous Cowards that likes to post the "clever" "Open source is not commercially viable" posts to Slashdot with links to LNUX stocks? All it shows is that VA Linux apparently didn't know how to make a business plan. They forecasted growth (IIRC; someone that works there was telling me about this quite a while ago) of 250% and reality was 200%. It was a difference large enough to make investors nervous. Put on top of that the downward trend of all tech stocks, on top of the fact that the Linux-based companies' stock values were way overinflated, and all you get is that many investors were just being stupid with their money and that things are getting more realistic.

NOTE: Yeah, you may have gathered that I'm no financial whiz from reading that. Feel free to rip me apart if you feel it necessary.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

What did you expect? (2.77 / 9) (#35)
by vb.warrior on Sat Feb 17, 2001 at 11:54:52 AM EST

Ive been following the Linux community for a couple of years now. In that time their was always a feeling of being at war with Microsoft amongst the zealots and to a lesser extent throught the community. On Slashdot there was always comments along the lines of Linux defeating (whatever that means) Windows and the 'Evil' MS Empire.

Well you got what you wanted. Linux has got the attention of Microsoft and now you act in amazement when Microsoft starts fighting back. Did you really expect MS not to publish stuff like this?

You wanted a fight. You've got one. Just make sure you fight back just as hard.

Jon

It's just the initial shock (3.00 / 4) (#45)
by hardburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 10:31:27 AM EST

I think people are just shocked that GNU/Linux has made it to the point where MS is scared of it. Besides, when someone is bashing your OS for the first time, you would do well to respond, even though you knew that they were going to come after you at some point.

As a side thought, those of you who payed much attention to "Babylon 5" might recall the third-season show opener. It sounded like this:

The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed.

That, I believe, was a suitable alagory for last year, with the massive attacks by big corperations on the Internet. Here's season four's opener:

It was a year of sorrow . . . It was a year of great saddness . . . It was a year of hope . . . It was a year of pain . . . It was a year we took back what was ours.

Will life imiatate art once again?


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
Is this really in Micro$oft's best interest? (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by darthaggie on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 07:38:11 PM EST

Well you got what you wanted. Linux has got the attention of Microsoft and now you act in amazement when Microsoft starts fighting back. Did you really expect MS not to publish stuff like this?

This isn't fighting back. Fighting back is saying "here's why Microsludge products are superior to Those Other Guys".

Shall we call a spade a spade? Allchin is guilty of being a whiner. No one likes a whiner. No one likes a sore loser.

Balmer and Gates need to wake up and smell the dead woodchucks. It's going to take more than just whining, and FUD, and fancy-assed media blitzes to get rid of the 800 lb penguin. I might suggest that the think outside the box, but I doubt they'd listen.

Traditional attacks, that work so well against traditional enemies don't work so well against against a decentralized, and perhaps now more than ever, galvanized, base of developers, companies, and users.

James
I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Distinguish between short and long term (4.75 / 8) (#39)
by Paul Johnson on Sun Feb 18, 2001 at 06:35:11 AM EST

To suggest that those at the forefront of Linux and GNU are anti-IP is fairly accurate

Yes and no. It is true that RMS et al are opposed to IP on fundamental ideological grounds. But they have also committed themselves to changing the system by reason and example rather than force.

A lesser man than RMS would have started from the position that "IP is wrong" and set up pirate data havens for warez. But RMS didn't feel that this was a legitimate action. Instead he made his own IP available for free. If GNU / OSS succeeds it will be because it beats closed IP on its own terms and proves itself a better solution, not because it merely ignored copyright law.

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

Most new buissness don't turn a profit (4.87 / 8) (#44)
by hardburn on Mon Feb 19, 2001 at 10:23:16 AM EST

The failure of open source companies such as VALinux to turn a profit has shown that creating an open source business model is not as easy as ESR makes it out to be.

Ask anyone who is involved with new buissnesses, especialy those not involved with .coms or whatever, and they will tell you that nearly all new buissnesses do not turn a profit for quite a few years. For instance, the small newspaper I work at was founded 10 years ago and only first made a profit in the last two years. Now we're finding out that a bazillion dollars in venture capitol doesn't change this basic rule-of-thumb.

Free/Open businesses aren't losing money because there is some fundemental flaw in their model, they're just too new. Same with the .coms. It's actualy a good thing that .coms and some of the lesser players in Free/Open businesses are dieing out. It's destroying businesses that were just "riding the wave" and keeping those who really know what they're doing.

Incidently, have you ever heard of Cygnus? They were a Free Software business that was around long before the Open Source hype. Before being swallowed by Red Hat, they did turn a profit on just such a business model.

Furthermore, people need to stop thinking in terms of money all the time (although I'm probably guilty of that in this post up until here!). Succsess != Profit.


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Reprise: Open Source is not the same as Free (2.66 / 3) (#52)
by mjs on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 10:02:26 AM EST

If I spend a million dollars (US) on a midrange or mainframe enterprise requirements planning software package, I'll get the source. This has been true for half a century at least; I cut my programming teeth on crufty old software like that, digging through mounds of modifications from prior generations of programmers. If I spend $99 on a mail client for my PC, however, I'll never see the source. Why is that? Am I somehow inherently more trustworthy if I can borrow a million than if I can write a check for $99? If there's an economic model which supports that principle, I'd love to hear about it.

It's no great feat of legal engineering to craft an agreement which lets the customer have the source to your software yet still protects the author's intellectual property rights; like I said, midrange and mainframe environments have been doing that for at least the past 50 years. That's not the problem.

Why can't I get the source to my 50% functional mail client? Because the vendor assumes that if I have the source, I'm going to rip them off. Frankly, this attitude pisses me off from several directions at once:

  • I am not a thief and I do not appreciate being lumped into that category by default. In fact, I dislike that so much that I'll probably avoid doing business with you in the same way as I do not do business with gas stations which insist that I pay before pumping the gas. If you don't trust me, why should I trust you?
  • I am not an idiot: if I muck up my mail client to which you've given me the source, I am not going to plaster juvenile talk rooms with profane comments about how lousy your code is. I'm going to assume that you are cleverer than I am, and go figure out what I did wrong.
  • I am not a pirate. I don't want your source so I can compete with you, I want your source so I can make my computer work the way I want it to without having to write every fiddly little piece of code myself. Life is too short for that and, frankly, the last thing the world needs is Yet Another e-mail client. Or word processor. Or spreadsheet.
  • After careful review of all the factors which my tiny little mind can hold at once, I conclude that the problem is that most software vendors display the least charming behaviour of frightened six year olds in a thunderstorm. "Oh, they're going to steal from me!" "Oh, I can't trust them." "Oh, if even one copy of my software is stolen, I'll go out of business and my children will starve." Get a grip, people! Is it a cooincidence that one of the first software authors to whine about people ripping him off is now the richest man in the world? (Well, yeah, I think that it is. The point is that a few 'unauthorized copies' don't seem to have hurt him very much, have they?) If I buy your software and sign an agreement promising that I won't give your code (which represents your intellectual property) away to every Tom, Dick, and Harry I know, why shouldn't I be able to modify your program so that it works the way I want it to on my computer? There's no anonymity on the web: if I post it to some moronic warez site, you can figure out where it came from and sue me. And put me on a list so that no software vendor will ever give me source again. Take my firstborn (please! Just kidding, dear: Daddy loves you. Get a job.)

    I'd love to hear some comments from actual software vendors describing exactly why they don't ship the source code to their products. I tend to think it would be vastly entertaining, but I'm willing to suspend judgement until I have at least a couple of facts to go on. Any takers?

    mjs

    points (5.00 / 3) (#54)
    by cpt kangarooski on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:13:42 PM EST

    Allchin claims that "Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer". Is this FUD? Hardly, GNU/Linux was founded on the idea that software should have no owners. To suggest that those at the forefront of Linux and GNU are anti-IP is fairly accurate (unless you are talking about their own IP).

    Well, you're right on one part. RMS is pretty much against copyrights. (for software at the very least) But he's against copyrights in general, and one of the points of the GPL is to use copyright as a weapon against itself. Were he given the choice between no copyrights whatsoever, and copyrights only for the FSF, I have no doubt that he'd take the former option. The GPL is only useful in a world with copyrights. Should his dream come true and there is no copyright on software, it's really pointless. Overall you're trying to characterize Free Software proponents as blackguards, but virtually any actual study reveals that this is untrue.

    Many in the US and the wider world feel that they should be able to use their creations (whether tangible or intellectual) to make money. They feel they should be able to own intellectual property like any other property. And why shouldn't they? The effort required to create a CD or a novel is no less worthy than the effort required to build a house or sculpt a statue. The fact that music, books and software can easily be duplicated is no reason to suggest that these things can't be owned.

    Ah? You believe that it's possible to own content, or that it can be considered property?

    Well, as I'm fond of pointing out, the best (and incidentally legal) definition of property is that it is anything which meets three criteria. That it first, must be capable of being used and enjoyed by the owner. That it second, must be capable of being used by others only at the sufferance of the owner. And that third it must be capable of being disposed of by the owner.

    The first is true of content. If you write a book, you can read the book, rewrite it, incorporate it in whole or in part in other works. You can go wild.

    The second is not true. When I read the book, the words in the book do not get transferred into my brain. Rather, a copy is made, much in the same way that a computer program stored on disk is copied into various other memories (RAM, VM, cache, CPU registers...) on the computer. The trick is, the copy that's in my head is entirely seperate from the book. If you own the book, it's a tangible thing regardless of the information in it, and you do own it. But you don't own my memories, regardless of what they're of. And you don't get to get them back. I can make full use of these memories as well; remember passages, the overall plot, bits of characterization. Certainly enough to be considered infringement if I printed and sold it. And there are people, like one of my grandfathers, who have photographic memories and get the whole thing.

    The third is not true either. Because not only can you not sell or destroy other people's copies of the work (which you'd have to be able to do for this to qualify), the master copy is in your head. You copied it out to paper, because of the permanence and ability to show it to others. But nevertheless you did indeed copy it, and you're stuck with the original again keeping it out of the realm of property.

    Furthermore, because of the nature of information, and that it's not property and can never be, there is no natural copyright either. Consider copyright's opposite, free speech. Nature endows us with free speech. If the governments of the world vanished overnight, people could say what they wanted to say. No inherent force of the universe prevents them. Unfortunately, you could still get assaulted for it, and that's one of the reasons that we bother with governments anyway; to prevent the assault yet not infringe on our God-given right to free speech. (and I mean that as literally God-given, btw)

    If copyright were a natural right, people would be inexplicably unable to infringe on it. People would truly own words. They don't. Copyright clearly doesn't exist unless we make it exist. It's a positive right, regardless of whether or not it would be desirable for it to be a natural right. This means that unless the government both has the power to grant copyright and finds it desirable to do so, there isn't any. Congress could turn around tomorrow and say, "Sorry Microsoft, you don't get your copyrights, patents or trademarks anymore." It's probably even doubtful as to whether it would even qualify as a Fifth Amendment taking. It was a government-granted right after all, and not a limitless one.

    Also, here in the US anyway, the limits on the Copyright power of Congress (which is the only one there is here; state copyrights were abolished as they ratified or became subject to the Constitution) are utilitarian in nature. We have copyright to achieve certain goals. These goals are clearly stated: to promote progress of the sciences and the useful arts. Copyright laws that are enacted and serve, by accident or design, other purposes, no matter how benign, are unconstitutional. There are futher limits as well: copyrights must exist only for a limited time; copyrights must be assigned to the author. These limits are conspiciously absent in the realm of real property. You can own a book forever. You cannot hold a copyright on the contents of the book forever. Again, copyright is an entirely different animal from property. There are all kinds of ways in which this is true. The doctrines of Fair Use, First Sale, copyright abuse, refusal of a grant of copyright on unpublished works.... It's not an insignificant list.

    While you should be able to use and enjoy the fruits of your labors, and use them to make money, it's just not property, never has been, never can be. That things can not only be duplicated so easily, but are of no use unless duplicated by the process of a human interacting with them is a very good reason why they can't be property.

    (Copyrights themselves, however, are property. This I think is what causes a lot of confusion.)

    While many would argue that it is possible to make money from open source software, it's certainly true to say that most of the more successful software companies have been solely or mostly based on proprietary software. If you consider that part of "the American Way" is "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", certainly success in business would be part of that. And if you want success in business, why not emulate the business model used by America's richest man?

    I agree. Most of the more successful (in a monetary sense) software houses rely on proprietary software. This does not mean that they are necessarily worth emulating. Every successful nation by the end of the 18th century had been ruled by kings, with the exception of the Roman Republic. (Democratic Athens didn't last all that long, though it has had great effect comparatively recently) This did not prevent a shift away from kings en masse by the peoples of the world, which is still ongoing. Also, in case you hadn't heard, Microsoft is in serious trouble for having acquired their power and wealth illegally. Do you suggest that in order to achieve Life, Liberty and Happiness (notably changed from Property by Jefferson, who wasn't confident about that one) that we all adopt criminal behavior?

    Open source is clearly a threat to this business model.

    Business models are not protected by the government. They may rely on other things which are (e.g. newspapers: the guarantee that they have freedom of the press; builders: the guarantee that their property will not be taken without due compensation) but the models themselves are not. The government is perfectly free to regulate commerce, provided that it does not represent an infringement on more fundemental rights.

    Whether a large scale uptake of open source would threaten innovation is another story. There certainly have been innovations in the open source arena. However it would certainly reduce the incentive for software companies to invest in research, it is more likely that any innovation in open source would have to come from academia.

    This is already true. A very large number of innovations have stemmed from pure research and applied but undirected research. Many large companies are known for funding laboratories which are effectively academic in nature. (e.g. PARC, Bell Labs) Furthermore, it would be a highly unconstitutional* act for government to prohibit research into virtually any field, especially in order to permit businesses the luxury of researching it independently.

    And it's also probably unhealthy to assume that corporations just are. They, like copyright, are created by government fiat. And IIRC must serve specific purposes as well to avoid being dechartered and nonexistant. Even if that penalty is not employed as often as it probably should be, and even though we lately have allowed businesses freer reign than in the past, that doesn't mean that they have natural rights to exist.

    *(Unconstitutional under the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and copyright clause is my instantaneous impression. I'll bet that at least that many more could be added to the list with a bit of thought)

    Anyway, Allchin's comments were very ill-conceived. If not even on the above flaws, than that it promotes the idea that government should be able to closely regulate software itself. Which would put MS and the commercial software industry into just as precarious a position as it aims to place Free Software into, not to mention our natural freedoms in general. Remember why we protect the freedom of speech as much as we do: to protect not only popular opinions but unpopular ones. Regulation or prohibition of Free Software would be letting the camel in, nose, hump and tail.

    --
    All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

    The "American Way" is competition (4.33 / 3) (#55)
    by tmoertel on Tue Feb 20, 2001 at 04:35:17 PM EST

    What Allchin seems to miss (or withhold) is that the American Way does not protect the rights of corporations to make a profit. Rather, it protects the right to compete in a free marketplace, to scrap it out with other entrants, and, perhaps, to profit from it. The American Way isn't a hand out; it's a fight.

    In this particular fight, Microsoft is up against the competing business models of Open Source and Free Software. Both of the competing models offer better value propositions to buyers than the closed-software model that Microsoft promotes: Open/Free software is less expensive, subject to public scrutiny, and most importantly devoid of the restrictions and licensing shackles that "closed" software mandates.

    That "Open Source is an intellectual-property destroyer" isn't a problem. It's just a fact. What is a problem, at least to Allchin, is that lots of companies like Microsoft have built their business models upon exploiting proprietary intellectual property, and these companies will suffer when open and free replacements for their offerings become widely accepted in the marketplace. Allchin casts this probably inevitable process as doom and gloom for the economy in an attempt to get Washington's attention, but the reality is that this process is just the marketplace at work, perpetually bettering itself by slowly starving inefficient businesses that find their food consumed more efficient competitors.

    Consider the following series of events:

    1. The marketplace begins to understand that free and open software offers similar value to closed software but costs less (i.e., requires less resources to obtain). It learns that in many cases the open versions may provide greater value than their closed counterparts by virtue of their openness and lack of licensing shackles.
    2. More and more software consumers choose open software instead of closed.
    3. As a result, companies that rely on closed software for their revenue are diminished or leave the marketplace altogether.
    4. These companies free up resources (e.g., software professionals) that can then be used to produce goods and services that the market values more highly than closed software.
    The end result is that the marketplace is better off: It produces more-highly valued goods and services with the same amount of resources as before.

    This is what Allchin fears. He's one of those poor fellows making horse-drawn carriages who can now see that the car isn't the passing fad he once thought it was. The market has tried cars, and it likes them. He's afraid. He's crying out for government protection -- he's asking the government to step in the way of the marketplace -- all so that he can maintain his comfortable economic advantage. And, with our government's present corporatism, he may get what he wants.

    For a while.

    But in the end, the marketplace will have its way. It's wheels will turn, the slow will be replaced by the quick, and closed software fade away.

    --
    My blog | LectroTest

    [ Disagree? Reply. ]


    This is how the software industry came in ... (5.00 / 2) (#57)
    by lpontiac on Wed Feb 21, 2001 at 08:54:28 AM EST

    ... and it's how they'll go out.

    For a sector of the computing industry to complain about themselves being threatened by change is probably one of the most hypocritical things I've ever heard. Every single time the word 'unemployment' is mentioned around someone over the age of 60 (all the older people I know, anyway) they express astonishment at the way technology has swept through society. These days you have less secretaries, less switchboard operators, you don't have filing clerks in banks anymore... entire professions have been made redundant by software and the hardware it runs on.

    Microsoft weren't whinging about "giving established models a fair go" (or legislative protection) when correcting your own mistakes in Word started getting cheaper than hiring someone who could use a typewriter well. So there is no way they have any grounds to complain here.

    Methods become obsoleted. Individuals, corporations, even government bodies find themselves devoid of a purpose, and a target audience, because of this fact. It may be your turn, and the only decent way to take it is on the chin.

    Jim Allchin and the Linux threat | 57 comments (39 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
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