Microsoft tries to hold back the open source tide

Silly Canutes?

Silly Canutes?

By Matthew Broersma A Microsoft-backed group is aiming to stop governments opting for open source technology. The Initiative for Software Choice, which launched quietly in early May, is chaired by an industry body called the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), but its biggest software industry backer is Microsoft. The initiative takes aim squarely at what has become one of the major themes in the software business this year: government use of open source software, best known as the development model behind the Linux operating system. Governments in France, Germany, Peru and other countries have passed or are considering bills that would encourage the use of open source software in the public sector. This week, to coincide with the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, open source advocates will unveil a legislative proposal to prohibit the state of California from buying software from Microsoft or any other company that doesn't open its source code and licensing policies. Software Choice takes aim specifically at these aggressive policies, which would place restrictions on the state purchase of proprietary software. One of the 'neutral principles' advocated by the initiative says: "Policymakers should not make rigid intellectual property licensing choices a precondition for eligibility for procurement, nor should they discriminate between developers that choose to license their intellectual property on commercial terms, and developers that choose not to charge licensing fees." While Software Choice's principles rarely mention open source directly, they include a provision that governments should promote "broad availability" of the results of publicly funded research by steering clear of such open source licences as the GNU General Public License, used by Linux. Supporters of open source argue that the software can free governments from a dependency on proprietary document formats, such as those used by Microsoft. Software Choice, on the other hand, will try to convince legislators that open standards and open source don't necessarily go together. "It is important that government policy recognise that open standards - which are available to any software developers - are not synonymous with, and do not require, open source software either for their adoption or utility," Software Choice stated. A CompTIA representative said that the initiative is building support in the industry and will be increasing its activities gradually. CompTIA, which counts more than 8,000 high-tech and communications companies as members, has recently lobbied against further sanctions against Microsoft in its ongoing antitrust trial. Matthew Broersma writes for ZDNet.co.uk. ZDNet UK's Matt Loney contributed to this report.