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Linux a 'waste of money', says top MS exec

The latest approach in a campaign of misinformation in Asia.

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Microsoft has come out fighting in Asia, telling governments in the region that adopting open-source software will damage their own economies and is a "waste of money".

Chris Sharp, director for platform strategy for Microsoft in Asia-Pacific, said governments that standardise on open-source software are hurting their local software vendors as they can't make the money needed to invest in their own software products.

Sharp, who used to work for Red Hat before joining Microsoft, said building open-source software is a "waste of money" and that a company was in effect giving away its intellectual property, preventing it from getting future benefits. "If you are compelled to give back to the community, then you don't have the opportunity to benefit from that knowledge," he stressed.

Sharp added that there are several myths surrounding open source. People tend to believe it is free, he said, but even companies that support open source are just as motivated by commercial interests as any other commercial software vendor. Apparently undermining his initial assertion about open-source ruining local software efforts, he pointed out that open source giants such as Red Hat and IBM are still after a return on their investments. "They are not for the greater good of the community; they are also after the money," he said.

He then contradicted himself again, adding that without getting back any commercial returns, a software company will find it difficult to invest in developing new software products. Intellectual property rights fuel sustained innovation, was his point. "With open source, there is no way to make more software."

This aggressive if confused approach comes after months of determined effort by the software giant to prevent Linux taking over as the de facto operating system in the world's largest expanding software market.

Two months ago, Microsoft's Asia-Pacific CTO Paul Moore told a bemused audience that no Asian governments were going with Linux. "I believe there is no government that has a policy going beyond recommending open source," he said, immediately contradicting himself with, "If so, I believe that is not to their best interest."

Sharp tried the same thing, saying that announcements that certain governments are deploying open source software are untrue. In many cases, he said, it's just one branch or agency of the government making the announcement, and it is not a government-wide purchasing policy.

An earlier, also failed, tactic in September, saw Microsoft's director of government affairs in Asia, Tom Robertson, explain that a deal by the Japanese, Chinese and South Korean governments to build their own open-source software was anti-competitive. Bizarre in the extreme you would think for a company investigated across the globe for abusing its monopoly.

So, Microsoft is not at all worried about open-source software destroying its market control because they are damaging themselves and no one is using open source anyway. It is so unconcerned in fact that the software giant has produced two cut-down versions of XP in very specific local languages and attempted to charge less than Linux, and failed to do so.

It is so unconcerned that it has rewritten its cardinal rule about one price for Windows across the globe. And is so unconcerned that its execs have been touring the region's governments non-stop for three months telling them why they should buy Microsoft. Yep, Microsoft is very relaxed about open source in Asia.



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