WASHINGTON—The head of Microsoft Corp.s Shared Source Initiative Tuesday said he foresees a world of coexistence where no one software development and distribution model wins.
“I see a world of coexistence,” said Jason Matusow, program manager for Microsofts Shared Source Initiative (SSI), which is the companys response to the open-source movement where Microsoft allows key customers to access source code for some of its operating systems and other technologies. “There is not going to be a world where one model wins over the other,” he said.
Matusow, who spoke at the Open Standards/Open Source for National and Local eGovernment Programs in the U.S. and EU conference here said, “There is no right way to create software,” noting that open source is no better than commercial, proprietary software development.
In fact, Matusow refuted the whole notion of open source.
“IBMs step into open source is not one of pure benevolence to society,” he said.
Matusow said there is simply a distinction between commercial software and non-commercial software. “There is no longer a sense that there is commercial software and open source.” He said there is the commercial model such as Microsofts, “and then there are those people that are going to take open-source software and commercialize it.”
He mentioned CollabNet Inc., VA Software Corp., Ximian Inc., and SuSE Linux AG, among others following this model.
“There is a broad move to the middle” in terms of business model around open-source software. Companies like Microsoft Corp., IBM, Apple Computer Inc. and Oracle Corp. are moving to open source to appease customers and are making a business model out of it, and the companies listed earlier see an opportunity for a revenue model based on open-source software, he said.
Matusow likened Microsofts model to those of IBM and Red Hat Inc., which charge for support and service on their Linux offerings.
“It is not the same thing at all,” said Michael Tiemann, chief technology officer at Red Hat, who also spoke at the conference. He said Red Hats software is available for download from the company “and you can take our services or buy from others or do your own, but Microsoft doesnt offer its software for free and you have to get the service from Microsoft. We say you can get it from someone else, but dont use our brand.”
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Further, Tiemann said most customers, even most developers, dont want to access source code. “Access to source code is not the primary concern of most people,” he said. “But having the option to work with that code is important.”
Under Microsofts SSI program, users can access but not modify code.
“Shared source is not open source, and we dont try to say that it is,” Matusow said.
He said people want to improve support, strengthen deployments, perform security audits, and augment custom application development, all of which Microsofts SSI enables.
Microsoft technology available under shared source includes Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, CE, as well as C# and the Common Language Infrastructure, ASP.Net sample applications and the Passport Manager.
“Acquiring software based on value for money is far more important than acquiring software based on the way it was made,” Matusow said.
He touted Microsofts Government Security Program, where Microsoft makes its software available to governments “to increase the level of trust with any national government making use of our technology.” To date Microsoft has offered Windows source to 62 governments, with the United Kingdom, NATO, Russia and China having accepted bids.
However, Matusow took hits for this. In particular, audience members said they saw irony in Microsoft offering Windows source to China, which has a reputation for piracy. Matusow said Microsoft has an iron clad contract with China and believes the code is safe with the government.
One attendee said he was curious about how Microsoft could argue that opening up Windows source code was a national security risk during its antitrust trial, and yet the company offers Windows source to foreign governments. Another attendee found irony in Microsofts claims that it could allow no modifications to its source code so as to protect its 750,000 business partners.
“Isnt it ironic that you say the government cant modify your code so as to protect other companies, when there was a time the government was trying to protect them from you!” a questioner said.
Matusow said: “We do have business partners we need to consider. But Im not here to debate the merits of a court decision.”
Others took shots at Microsoft for its stance on the GNU General Public License and government adoption of it. Matusow basically said Microsoft wants to see government software, and innovations that come out of government research “should be available to all.”
Matusow also said he believes there is no connection to be made between the use of open-source software development paradigms and open standards. “Open source and open standards are fundamentally different things,” he said, noting that proprietary software can meet open standards as well.
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