IT execs unmoved by Microsoft's open-source threats

Microsoft’s claims that open-source technologies infringe on 235 of its patents has annoyed some IT managers this week, while others said they viewed the patent offensive as nothing more than a standard corporate business tactic.

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Microsoft’s claims that open-source technologies infringe on 235 of its patents has annoyed some IT managers this week, while others said they viewed the patent offensive as nothing more than a standard corporate business tactic.

But none of the half-dozen IT executives who were interviewed for Computerworld in the US about Microsoft's infringement assertions plan to change their open-source adoption strategies -- at least, not unless and until there's a good reason for them to do so.

Among the users in the irritated camp was Darryl Lemecha, CIO at data aggregator ChoicePoint . The patent claims sounded like "more sabre-rattling on Microsoft's part," Lemecha said.

"To throw out broad statements to the marketplace doesn't help anyone. It creates uncertainty for the open-source community and causes animosity toward Microsoft. No one wins."

ChoicePoint isn't a major user of open-source technology, but it runs Linux servers as well as Unix, Windows and mainframe systems. The A company respects Microsoft's desire to defend its intellectual property, Lemecha said. But, he added, the software vendor's claims weren't specific enough to be worrisome at this point. "Nor have they been clear on their planned actions," Lemecha said. "We will not change our plans, but we will watch where this goes."

Joe Lindsay, CIO at Secured Funding, said Microsoft's manoeuvring may scare some users away from Linux and other open-source software in the short term. "It's like saying, 'I have a big baseball bat, and I'm going to hit somebody’," Lindsay said. "Everyone runs away."

But he predicted that in the long run, Microsoft will suffer the most damage, because it should be focusing more on developing innovative products than on threatening other vendors that have outsmarted it. "Their business model is fundamentally changing, and Microsoft is using [the spectre of] the courthouse to extend their old way of doing business," Lindsay said.

’Just business'

On the other hand, Beach Clark Jr., vice president of IT at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, described Microsoft's patent tactic as "just business." The software vendor has a right to protect its patents against infringement, Clark said, although he added that comments implying that Microsoft would like open-source users to pay it royalties weren't "a good PR move".

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