Open-Source Advocates: Microsofts Development Model Is Failing

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-04-05 Print this article Print

Proponents of the free and open-source software development model claim the delay in shipping Windows Vista and Office 2007 is an example of how the company's software engineering process simply does not work well.

BOSTON—Proponents of the free and open-source software development model are using the recently announced delays in the shipping of Microsofts Windows Vista and Office 2007 products as an example of how the companys software engineering process simply does not work well. They are also pointing to how it stands in direct contrast with the way software gets developed in the free and open-source community, and using the delays to explain why theirs is the better choice. Click here to read about the shake-up at Microsofts Windows unit.
Eben Moglen, general counsel for the Free Software Foundation, points to the fact that the free and open-source software community is on track to complete the process of rewriting the current GNU GPL (General Public License) by early 2007.
"My position that the best time to rewrite the GPL was when Microsoft was busy trying to meet its endless product development cycles has been vindicated," he told eWEEK here at the LinuxWorld Conference. "Microsoft is really the only party who truly had no stake in ensuring that a better GPL emerged from this process, so it is better to be updating the license while they are so distracted with product development that we are barely a blip on their radar screen," he said. Moglen is also confident that once GPL 3.0 is released and customers and developers on the Windows platform see how the community came together to create a license that benefits all of them, Microsoft will come under pressure to do the same and to be more transparent and inclusive about the terms of its Software Assurance and volume licensing plans. But Mike Neil, Microsofts product unit manager for virtualization technologies, could not disagree more, telling eWEEK that Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., does not produce GPLd software and certainly does not have to follow those rules. "Our licensing model is not a social model but a business one. We are not trying to make a social comment through licensing as the FSF appears to be doing with GPL 3.0," he said. "It was gratifying to see even Linus Torvalds come out and took a stand against some of the provisions of GPL 3.0 and essentially said that the Linux operating system would not be used as a soapbox for social change." Click here to read more about what Linus Torvalds had to say about GPL 3.0. All Moglen would say about Torvalds public criticisms of some GPL 3.0 provisions was that "he is doing a reasonable job leading his project in the direction he wants it to go. That doesnt always mean we see eye to eye, but a better GPL is a better license for him as well." The message Moglen intends to spread is that all the Microsoft product delays simply underscore how flawed the companys software development model actually is. "By comparison, the free and open-source software community is one that pretty much always gets the work done that it needs to. The public commentary around the first draft of GPL Version 3 is a good example of this," he said. "We have also worked hard to create a supportive environment for those software developers, by offering them financial, legal and administrative services at little or no cost. By putting this structure in place, we free them up to do what they do best: develop software," Moglen said. He was referring to the formation of the Software Freedom Law Center last year, which he heads, as well as the recent establishment of a Software Freedom Conservancy to provide free financial and administrative services to free and open-source software projects. In addition, the Open Source Development Labs is setting up of a fund that will provide financial support to software developers working on Linux and open-source community projects. Next Page: 700 comments about GPL 3.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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