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The Register: MS 'Software Choice' Scheme a Clever Fraud

Aug 12, 2002, 13:00 (22 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Perens)

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"Microsoft is worried about Peruvian Congressman Edgar Villanueva's proposal for his nation's government agencies to standardize on Free Software for their own internal use. But Villanueva makes an important point: everybody has to deal with the government. If a government uses proprietary software, its citizens will probably have to use the same software to communicate with it. A government web site that only supports Internet Explorer would lock citizens into that Microsoft product. In contrast, a government site using open standards and avoiding patented software would allow citizens to choose between many different kinds of software to access the site. Free Software, also called Open Source, is itself a kind of open standard - its source code is its own reference. Developers of proprietary software can use that reference to create interoperating programs, without infringing on the actual Open Source code. Thus, when a government uses Open Source, it assures its citizens a choice to purchase both proprietary and Open Source software for communicating with their government. The people's choice will be based on factors like functionality, quality, and convenience, rather than on customer lock-in.

"Villanueva also wants the government and people of Peru to have a software infrastructure that they can afford - to pull themselves out of poverty and bootstrap an e-commerce economy. Free Software's low total-cost-of-ownership is attractive to them, and the ability for Peruvians to support Free Software themselves, because they have source code and the right to redistribute it, means economic independence. This could provide them with the foundation for many e-commerce-enabled businesses based on the labor of the Peruvian people and the natural resources of their nation. But there's one sort of business that Free Software won't facilitate in Peru--lock-in of customers to a proprietary software product..."

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