Is There a Method to Mundies Madness?

 
 
By John Taschek  |  Posted 2001-05-21
 
 
 

What the heck was he doing? Thats what everyone wanted to know when Craig Mundie, Microsofts vice president of advanced technologies, challenged the open-source license earlier this month (go to www.eweek.com/links to see what Mundie had to say). Not much good can possibly come from such a presentation. Then again, nothing good can come of Linus Torvalds ripping into Mundie, proving that Torvalds is really no different from the people hes criticizing.

But my focus is on Mundies presentation, which was on innovation in the industry. Microsoft is frequently attacked for not being innovative. Some give Microsoft credit for stealing ideas, paying cash to avoid lawsuits and then marketing the ideas as its own. No one knows what innovation is anymore because its obvious that everything borrows from something else. Thats how we build things—one piece at a time, based on things that already exist.

Microsoft makes some loose assumptions about innovation, however. Two weeks ago, on a whim, I checked out www.microsoft.com/innovation, a page describing Microsofts ability to integrate computing concepts. Clearly, Microsoft views innovation and integration as interchangeable notions. (Microsoft has since removed the link.)

Ironically, one of Mundies points was about the creation of standards, which are necessary for integration. Mundie said that open-source coders will have a tougher time reaching a standard because of fragmentation and code-forking. The reality is that open-source advocates in the past couldnt get enough cash to pay the standards committees to push many standards through. Now that big companies are behind open source, its advocates can push standards all they want, although with the caveat that big vendors that need to make a lot of money are in fact behind them. Code-forking is never an issue.

This brings me to the GPL, a license that only the idealistic can think will work in our imperialistic, capitalistic world. Somewhere between this capitalistic proprietary world and the GPL is a peaceful coexistence.

So what was Mundie doing? He was trying to galvanize the market, making sure that Microsoft is covering the bases, slowly announcing the opening up of the Windows code base while reassuring the public that Microsoft has been right all along. I also think he was trying to irritate Torvalds.

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