Redmond’s FOSS-Friendly Mask Slips Again

“The truth will out,” as the Bard once wrote, and Microsoft just proved it again.

Certainly, Redmond makes regular attempts to appear a friend to open source — the latest, in fact, was not long ago. But, just as Lady Macbeth’s imaginary “spot” can’t be washed away, nor can Microsoft keep its true sentiments about FOSS from slipping out.

First, we have Tivanka Ellawala, a Microsoft CFO, warning that legal risks associated with Android mean that the technology should not be considered truly “free.”

Then, even worse, we have Hernan Rincon, president of Microsoft Latin America, equating open source with “incompetence.”

You just can’t help yourself, can you, Microsoft?

‘Not Long for His Job’

Did Linux bloggers have anything to say about the latest round of slips? You bet your angry-mob-with-torches they did.

“If anyone knows a little something about incompetence, it’s an executive from the company that produced Windows Vista (and 95, and 98, and ME, and . . .),” shot back Jon Renaut among scores of comments on TechDirt, for example.

On the other hand: “Open does mean incompetent,” wrote click2005 on Slashdot. “Microsoft are trying to hide that by keeping it closed.

“I’d rather trust the people saying ‘its not perfect so help us make it better’ than the ones saying ‘we make perfect software’ and being proved wrong time after time,” click2005 added.

Then again, “not long for his job” was the prediction from Slashdot blogger yagu. “Even microsoft will distance themselves from this thesis. They’ve come too far ’embracing’ open.

“My guess, this guy gets cut loose, and if microsoft can make a PR coup of it at the same time, they will,” yagu added.

‘He Is Trying to Save His Job’

Similar sentiments could be heard at all the popular watering holes in the Linux blogosphere’s main downtown.

“I think that Microsoft conclusively proves that incompetence does not live in the Open Source world; it’s a general problem which transcends development models,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza opined.

“He is trying to save his job in the face of a societal change by desperately launching any argument he can think of, whether it’s baseless or not,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack suggested. “The downside for him is that the more shrill he is now, the less welcome he will be when the dust settles.”

‘Sure Sounds Incompetent to Me’

Alternatively, “Microsoft is right — at least when it comes to their products,” asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

“They produced the open standard Word format ‘Office Open XML’ — misnamed on purpose to confuse it with ‘ XML’ — and five years later they still haven’t been able to fully implement their own ‘open’ standard,” Hudson explained. “Sure sounds incompetent to me.”

The real issue, however, “is do abandoned open source projects have value, and the answer is yes,” she added. “For one, they are useful to demonstrate prior art against patent trolls down the road.

“Also, as Thomas Edison said, a failure is never a failure if you’re not a quitter; it shows you one more thing that doesn’t work,” Hudson said. “Every successful product made throughout history was preceded by failures.”

Take heart transplants as an example, she suggested. “For two decades, most patients died within the first three weeks. It was only with the invention of immuno-suppressors that heart transplants became viable.

“Do we count all the previous attempts as failures,” Hudson noted, “or part of the learning curve?”

‘Open’ = ‘Wasteful’?

The term “open” may not mean “incompetent,” but it does mean “wasteful,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet charged.

“Look at how many times the wheel gets reinvented in FOSS,” he explained. “How many text editors are they up to now, 100,000? How many distros?”

Part of the reason corporations “don’t support FOSS with their software is unless you give away your code, it is too much of an incompatible mess,” hairyfeet asserted. “Most of my apps from the Win9x era STILL run on Windows 7 X64, even after going from 32 to 64 bit.

“Can you even run apps from 5 years ago on the latest Ubuntu without a recompile?” hairyfeet asked. “Probably not.”

‘Not Fearing to Reveal the Inner Workings’

Nevertheless, “only a fool willing to buy a pig in a poke would accept that ‘not open’ is better by default,” countered blogger Robert Pogson.

“Open means not fearing to reveal the inner workings of IT because you take care of all the details,” he explained. “Open means using open standards.

“Governments and large organizations are much better off to hire programmers to maintain FLOSS rather than to pay $billions to M$ and other large software houses,” he concluded. “It keeps jobs in-country and promotes self-sufficiency.”

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