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Community Column: An Open Letter to Craig Mundie

May 04, 2001, 03:03 (24 Talkback[s])

By Tom Adelstein

Craig, before your speech today, I've prepared a few notes to help you set a context. First let's start with a statement from a lengthy US Justice Department Legal Action and the resulting Judge's Opinion:

"412. Most harmful of all is the message that Microsoft's actions have conveyed to every enterprise with the potential to innovate in the computer industry. Through its conduct toward Netscape, IBM, Compaq, Intel, and others, Microsoft has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense profits to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Microsoft's core products. Microsoft's past success in hurting such companies and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and businesses that exhibit the potential to threaten Microsoft. The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft's self-interest."

From "Findings of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, Nov. 5, 1999"

Perhaps we should consider the above segment from Judge Jackson's findings before we pay much to the build-up your speech at New York University received by the New York Times:

"Microsoft is preparing a broad campaign countering the movement to give away and share software code, arguing that it potentially undermines the intellectual property of countries and companies. At the same time, the company is acknowledging that it is feeling pressure from the freely shared alternatives to its commercial software."

"In a speech defending Microsoft's business model, to be given on Thursday at the Stern School of Business at New York University, Craig Mundie, a senior vice president at Microsoft and one of its software strategists, will argue that the company already follows the best attributes of the open-source model by sharing the original programmer's instructions, or source code, more widely than is generally realized...."

"In his speech, Mr. Mundie will argue that one aspect of the open-source model, known as the General Public License, or G.P.L., is a potential trap that undercuts the commercial software business and mirrors some of the worst practices of dot- com businesses, in which goods were given away in an effort to attract visitors to Web sites. G.P.L. requires that any software using source code already covered by the licensing agreement must become available for free distribution."

Let us not forget the vibration of the findings, "The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft's self-interest."

In this context, some people may find it difficult to take seriously any open forum defense of Microsoft's position by a spokesman from Microsoft. As one of my friends often says about similar situations, "How dumb to they think we are?

Obviously, very dumb.

We need to take some care in how we present the viewpoint on GPL, don't you think?

Why we have copyright and patent law

Congress passed the original Copyright Law of the United States and President George Washington signed it on May 31, 1790. The law in its entirety took up one and three-quarters columns in "Columbian Sentinel", printed on Wednesdays and Saturdays by Benjamin Russell in State Street, Boston Massachusetts.

President Washington and Congress agreed on the law's intent in the opening paragraph where they say, "An Act for the Encouragement of learning by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of Such Copies during the Times therein mentioned".

The law arranged for the author to hold title for 14 years with an additional 14 years upon proper renewal. Additionally, it only covered works by United States citizens for works produced in the United States.

Given its context, Congress passed this law to protect the "little man" against the tyranny of unjust governments and Royalty. No matter how the law has evolved, we cannot ignore its intent.

I doubt that Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State would have wanted to provide a safe harbor for any Company making billions of dollars annually with gross profits of 50% with the Copyright Law of 1790.

The implicitly of Jeffersonian philosophy toward governments and organizations seems at odds with an empire built by a mamoth company off its publication share. People still have to give you credit for knowing how to make money a la "buy low and sell high".

Too Much Precedence for Whining

Having had the opportunity to program and administer various Microsoft programs and then compare them to Linux, the amusement level reaches significant heights for me. It appears to me that some developers spend the vast majority of their time finding ways to confuse other developers than they do improving Big DOS.

Is Microsoft Coming Down?

Bynari has been very, very good to me. With the opportunity to visit with the major OEMs in either the capacity of an alliance or the due diligence process, I gained significant information.

The OEM's ask us the same question continuously: What is your strategy in the event Microsoft is broken up this year?

I ask myself what would cause these close alliance partners of Microsoft to ask these questions? Why are they straight-faced concerned?

Maybe, they just know something I don't.

Tom Adelstein is a member of the Computer Press Association and is a Certified Public Accountant. He often jokes about having two CPA cards in his wallet. Tom began his writing career with the publication of his first book in 1985 by "Longman Press, Chicago." He writes numerous aticles about Linux for a number of publications. Tom helps administer Project Tradeclient and the open source ezine, Consulting Times. His day job includes the duties of VP Technology for Bynari Inc. who recently released Insight, the Linux client for Exchange.

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