Summary: Many factual errors found in the Microsoft-funded book that belittles “open source” and helps Microsoft lobby governments
The unethical bunch from Redmond is back to bribing professors, as part of a business model so notorious that we thought it had been buried. We already know that the Gates Foundation keeps buying the news to make coverage more favourable towards its goals (and in order to silence the many vocal critics). Microsoft is more or less the same (but more subtle) and just like the Gates Foundation, it funds professors who will become its front men.
To repeat the points made in the previous two posts on this subject [1, 2], Microsoft had paid Josh Lerner and Mark Schankerman, who in turn produced literature which echoes Microsoft lobbyists and gives those lobbyists something academic to cite later. Microsoft’s model might go something like, pay some professors to put their names behind some particular text with particular bias, then assure buying some copies of that text for a considerable price and mail copies to CIOs or whoever needs to be persuaded by a report which only seemingly comes from independent experts. There is nothing that a corrupt monopoly abuser won’t do to secure its monopoly and the evidence of this little abuse is hard to obtain. Dr. Glyn Moody shows why it’s like hiding it behind a paywall:
Since I’ve not read the book – and I’d rather not shell out £25.95 for the dubious pleasure of discovering where the errors originate – I’ll limit myself to addressing the arguments outlined in the Economist review rather than worrying about where they originated.
Microsoft is not a charity that funds books to be more “objective”, it is obliged to serve its shareholders, i.e. to further its agenda with its money. Therefore, Moody’s detailed rebuttal (titled “There’s No FUD Like an Old FUD”) is necessary and to give just a taste of it:
But my main concern here is with the follow section:
Yet the finding that open-source advocates will like least is that free programs are not always cheaper. To be sure, the upfront cost of proprietary software is higher (although open-source programs are not always free). But companies that use such programs spend more on such things as learning to use them and making them work with other software.
Yes, it’s a variant on that old FUD that free software is not actually free (gosh, really?) that Microsoft tried about ten years ago and gave up when it realised that nobody said it was when you took into account all the factors like paying wages. But leaving aside that this, too, is hardly news to anyone, let’s just look at the central claim of the current incarnation of that FUD:
companies that use such programs spend more on such things as learning to use them and making them work with other software
So does the first part mean that learning to use a new piece of open source software is inherently harder than learning to use a new piece of proprietary software? I’ve not seen a single piece of research that suggests that. What I have seen documented is that people who are currently using Microsoft Office, say, find it harder to learn to use OpenOffice, say, than to continue using Microsoft Office. Which is, of course, a piece of wisdom that is once again firmly located at the very heart of the Land of the Bleedin’ Obvious.
So, passing swiftly on in the hope that there might be a more substantive issue here, we have the second claim: that companies spend more on making open source work with “other software”. But wait, what could that “other software” refer to? Since it’s not open source (because it’s “other”, not open source) it is clearly proprietary; so the problem comes down to making open source work with proprietary software. And why might that be?
The good news is that more and more people become aware of what Microsoft did here. “I weep for Slashdot,” wrote Gordon, “when this is considered worthy to report…”
Gordon refers to this item which shows that Slashdot caught this too and did not leave out the connection to Microsoft. As I said in my reply to Gordon, “to be fair to Slashdot, they made it very clear in the title and summary that Microsoft paid for this FUD. It harms their relationship with FOSS.”
Microsoft is trying to tell everyone (by proxy) that “open source” is bad. So why would anyone defend Microsoft’s excursions in “open source”? █
“On the day of the sentencing, the gang members [Microsoft executives] maintained that they had done nothing wrong, saying that the whole case was a conspiracy by the white power structure to destroy them. I am now under no illusions that miscreants will realize that other parts of society view them that way.”