Linux and open source
ZDNet -- Can you clarify Microsoft's position on Linux and open source? There
has been a lot written about it in the last week. What's Microsoft's objection
to open source and Linux?
BillG -- I don't want to dwell on this. Craig Mundie (Microsoft's senior vice
president of advanced strategies) is the expert. There is this whole history
that free software is developed often in the academic environment, where
basically government money funded that work. And then commercial work is done.
TCP/IP came out of the university environment. Now, 90 percent of the
implementations you buy are commercially tuned and supported. And then the
companies that do that commercial work pay taxes, create jobs, so the
government keeps funding more research, primarily in universities. So that
ecosystem where you have free software and commercial software, and customers
always get to decide which they use, that's a very important and healthy
ZDNet -- How does the GPL (GNU General Public License) factor in?
BillG -- There is a part of open source called GPL that breaks that
cycle--that is, it makes it impossible for a commercial company to use any of
that work or build on any of that work. So what you saw with TCP/IP or (e-mail
technology) Sendmail or the browser could never happen. We believe there
should be free software and commercial software; there should be a rich
ecosystem that works around that. There are people who believe that commercial
software should not exist at all--that there should be no jobs or taxes around
commercial software at all. And that's a small group, but the GPL was created
with that goal in mind.
And so people should understand the GPL. When people say open source they
often mean the GPL. When someone asks a question, "So what about open source?"
do they mean open source or do they mean the GPL? We believe in that ecosystem
and having the mix of free and commercial software.
ZDNet -- What's your position on publishing source code?
BillG -- We have no objection to people publishing source codes. We do that
ourselves under certain terms. Some of our source codes are out there and very
available, like Windows CE. Some generally require a license, like Windows
itself. We have no objection to free software, which has been around forever.
But we do think there are problems for commercial users relative to the GPL,
and we are just making sure people understand the GPL.
Unfortunately, that has been misconstrued in many ways. It's a topic that you
can leap on and say, "Microsoft doesn't make free software." Hey, we have free
software; the world will always have free software. I mean, if you
characterize it that way, that's not right. But if you say to people, "Do you
understand the GPL?" And they'll say, "Huh?" And they're pretty stunned when
the Pac-Man-like nature of it is described to them.
ZDNet -- Does Microsoft plan to make more of its source code available to
customers? You already do that with Windows; do you plan to expand that in any
way to the applications?
BillG -- We keep making it easier and easier, and anything people want source
code for, we'll figure out a way to get it to them. It's kind of a strange
thing in a way because most commercial customers don't want to recompile
kernels or things like that. But they want to be able to know that things can
We have some very cool tools now where we don't have to ship you the source.
You can debug online, through the Internet. So it means you don't have to get
a bunch of CDs. If you really want it for debugging and patching things, we
can do that through the Internet. That's a real breakthrough in terms of
simple source access. I don't know that anyone has ever asked for the source
code for Word. If they did, we would give it to them. But it's not a typical
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Jun 23 2001 - 21:00:30 EST