I don't want you to talk, Mr. Gates

Summary:Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith says the company wants a sit-down with the open source community. That kind of talk brings out the Blofeld in me.

Blofeld
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith says the company wants a sit-down with the open source community.

That kind of talk brings out the Blofeld in me. (That's Donald Pleasence as the Bond villain from Jamesbond.com.) Maybe it's because the statement seems like an admission of weakness and unease coming from Redmond and a business culture notorious for ruthlessness. 

 Today the open source application space is far more dynamic than what Microsoft has, and the lead lengthens daily. So what do we have to talk about?

It's partly a question of business models. Proprietary companies sell packages for money and see support as a cost. Open source companies give away packages and see support as the cash cow. Microsoft sees open source as meaning we give away Intellectual Property, while open source advocates call software you can't see a rip-off. There is not a lot of common ground.

There's also the political dimension, only hinted-at in the paragraph above. Microsoft and other closed source advocates have painted open source as somehow anti-capitalist. GPL advocates feel that if you're to use a EULA to create obligations, it should be a mutual obligation, not a one-way trip.

More important, what would we talk about? If Microsoft wants to license code under a new license, it is free to do so. Microsoft changes its EULA terms regularly. They don't need permission, they need market acceptance. Open source advocates can't give them that.

On the other hand, maybe I'm being dismissive, power mad, and absurd, a Blofeldist, as James Menard of The New Yorker might say. What do you think a negotiation between open source advocates and Microsoft should focus on? Let me know in TalkBack.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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