Pick a Free OS

Why Microsoft is wary of open source?

In the mid 1980s, Microsoft licensed its TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol) networking stack from another company that used open-source code. “You could say it had its genesis in FreeBSD, but it’s now absolutely Windows,” Miller said. The code first appeared in Windows NT and also was used in Windows 2000.

Critical of change


Microsoft has also criticized the General Public License (GPL) that governs the heart of Linux. Under this license, changes to the Linux core, or kernel, must also be governed by the GPL. The license means that if a company changes the kernel, it must publish the changes and can’t keep them proprietary if it plans to distribute the code externally.


Other open-source projects, such as FreeBSD,allow changes that are kept proprietary. That provision was one reason FreeBSD proved appealing to Wind River Systems, the dominant seller of operating systems for non-PC “embedded” computing devices such as network routers.


Microsoft’s open-source attacks come at a time when the company has been putting the pricing squeeze on customers. In early May, Microsoft revamped software licensing, raising upgrades between 33 percent and 107 percent, according to Gartner. A large percentage of Microsoft business customers could in fact be compelled to upgrade to Office XP before October 1 or pay a heftier purchase price later on.


The action “will encourage (‘force’ may be a more accurate term) customers to upgrade much sooner than they had otherwise planned,” Gillen noted in the IDC report. “Once the honeymoon period runs out in October 2001, the only way to ‘upgrade’ from a product that is not considered to be current technology is to buy a brand-new full license.”


This could make open-source Linux’s GPL more attractive to some customers feeling trapped by the price hike, Gillen said.


“Offering this form of ‘upgrade protection’ may motivate some users to seriously consider alternatives to Microsoft technology.”