What do Free and Open Source Software Leaders Think of Microsoft?: Page 3

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Asked how Microsoft affects his goals, Stallman replies, "My long-term goal is a world in which all software users are free to share and change the software they use; in other words, a world in which all software is free/libre. To the extent that companies such as Microsoft and Apple are dedicated to distributing software that denies the uses these freedoms, they oppose these goals."

That said, Stallman can imagine that Microsoft might one day contribute to free software, but only if it "moves completely to services such as Hotmail, abandoning proprietary software such as Windows and MS Office. At that point, it might make contributions to free software in a way that advances the community, to whatever greater or lesser extent. However, absent such a fundamental change, I expect that any contributions Microsoft makes will be of marginal value to anyone in the free world."

Meanwhile, Stallman states that "Microsoft is making great efforts to block the adoption of the GNU/Linux system and OpenOffice.org." He gives three examples.

First, he comments on the recent announcement that the One Laptop Per Child project, originally intended to provide computing resources to developing nations, will start shipping with Windows. According to Stallman, with this announcement, "Microsoft suborned the One Laptop Per Child project, converting it into a massive Windows training campaign. The project says it is giving the purchasing governments 'more choice' by supporting Windows as well as GNU/Linux, but those governments will tend to choose Windows by default. In some countries, people will campaign to prevent that. If these campaigns succeed, the OLPC project may yet make a positive contribution to the world. Otherwise, it will do overall harm."

Second, talking about the standards fight in which Microsoft succeeded in having its OOXML format accepted as an open standard in rivalry to the ODF format favored by OpenOffice.org and other free office applications, Stallman notes that "Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony 'open' document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using 'open standards.' The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process."

Stallman goes on to say "Even in less central parts of the field, Microsoft tries to weaken the community. For instance, it contributed a substantial amount of money to one project, SAGE, which thereupon decided not to move to GPL version 3." The only consolation in this case, Stallman says, is that the events show "that Microsoft regards GPL version 3 as an effective defense of the users' freedom."

In addition to these examples, Stallman condemns Microsoft because of the back doors in its security. "Windows Vista allows Microsoft to install software changes without asking the user," he observes. "You can't get nastier than that."

Yet, despite these views, Stallman also warns that, "It is common in the computer field to equate evil with Microsoft, but that is a mistake. It leads people to overlook the nasty things done by other companies, many of which are just as bad. Microsoft is not the only company whose business practices trample users' freedom. Thousands of companies distribute proprietary software, which means keeping the users divided and helpless. That is wrong no matter which company does it."

Linus Torvalds, Project Coordinator, Linux Kernel

Linus Torvalds makes no effort to keep track of Microsoft. Most of his information on the company is "secondhand," from reading general technology sites, or having journalists email him to ask for a comment about a Microsoft announcement or action -- although he confesses that he used to occasionally read the Mini-Microsoft blog "because it was interesting to me to see what a different viewpoint it was on the tech world."

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Tags: open source, Linux, Microsoft, Stallman, Torvalds

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