Microsoft again takes aim at open-source

Microsoft last week renewed its offensive against open-source software development, a move that the software vendor said was made in response to repeated queries from corporate users about how it's responding to the open-source movement.

The latest salvo against open-source efforts the third by Microsoft since January came during a speech in New York by Craig Mundie, the company's senior vice president of advanced strategies. Speaking at New York University's Stern School of Business, Mundie claimed that the open-source movement could result in "product instability" and "inherent security risks" for software users.

Open-source development "leads to a strong possibility of unhealthy 'forking' of a code base," potentially producing incompatible versions of programs, Mundie said. More disruptive, he added, is the GNU general public license (GPL) under which much open-source software is created.

When a developer alters software covered under the GPL, the new code is also deemed subject to the license, meaning that it's not owned by any individual company. The problem, Mundie argued, is that the GPL does away with intellectual property rights, making open-source development an unhealthy business model.

Open-source approaches "ask software developers to give away for free the very thing they create that is of greatest value, in the hope that somehow they'll make money selling something else," Mundie said.

Mundie couldn't be reached for comment about his speech. But David Coburn, a program manager in Microsoft's platforms group, said Mundie's remarks were a response to questions from customers who want to know the software vendor's position on open-source programming.

Some parts of the open-source world are seen positively by Microsoft, Coburn said. Earlier this year, Microsoft expanded a program for sharing its Windows source code with users, although no changes can be made in the code.

Al Gillen, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said Microsoft apparently feels that it can no longer remain idle while corporate users eye open-source development.

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