As the CEO of Sweden-based open source database vendor MySQL, Marten Mickos knows about the role open source software can play in business and personal computing.
Despite a growing acceptance of open-source software, Mickos said Monday in a keynote speech at the first-ever Ubuntu Live Conference in the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon, that there are also ongoing threats to open source development. Those threats, he told attendees, come from proprietary software companies such as Microsoft, which can spread criticism and doubt -- backed by their legal and economic might -- to push proprietary products.
Microsoft has even signed up several open-source vendors, including Novell, Linspire and Xandros, to license Microsoft intellectual property and indemnify customers from future patent infringement claims by the software company.
Many open-source advocates have argued that such agreements are unnecessary, and Mickos said Microsoft's threats don't worry him. "I've never seen money create innovation," he said. "I've seen innovation create money, but never the other way around."
In fact, he said, "it's good news that [Microsoft has] money. It makes them complacent. I don't think that money is a threat to anyone here."
Mickos said he believes that the open-source community will actually see companies like Microsoft spending less money to fight them.
"Microsoft can use [its] money in other ways to threaten free and open-source software, and I'm sure that they have," Mickos said. "But I think we will see less of that in the future because they've done it and it hasn't helped them." Many Microsoft customers use open-source products and find it challenging when the company makes it harder to integrate Microsoft products and open-source software, he said.
"...I'm not too worried," Mickos said. "This open source movement is so strong that nothing can stop it anymore."
Mickos pointed out that even Microsoft is getting more involved in open-source software through efforts such as its Port 25 Web site, which describes Microsoft's internal open-source laboratory and initiatives. Microsoft is also a Diamond sponsor of the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, which is running simultaneously here at the Oregon Convention Center.