Open source is not Linux which means users should assess them separately, Microsoft's Australia managing director Steve Vamos said on Tuesday.
Stressing that Linux is "not free", Vamos said open source is a development methodology and should not be confused with the commercial, non-free nature of Linux distributions.
"Open source is not (solely) Linux," Vamos said. "That's probably a little bit out there in the sense that Linux has been developed using open source development models. I guess what I'm saying is that when you talk about open source — the way open source is being described — is that people generally talk about it as being Linux and I think you really need to look at the two separately."
Vamos said Linux has a place, and that "it is already doing some good work for customers" but separates it from open source because "the open source debate tends to be one that's about philosophy and views".
"When you talk about Linux versus Windows, you're talking about which operating system is the best value for money and fit for purpose," he said. "That's a very basic decision customers can make if they have the information available to them." Vamos was adamant that Linux is "not free".
"There's a good quote from Red Hat that says, 'yes we are based on open source, but that doesn't mean it's free'," Vamos said. "Quite frankly if we lose to Linux because our customers say it's better value for money, tough luck for us.
"Those that provide open source, like the Red Hat's, need to provide commercial services and extensions. They'll need to invest and that's a commercial activity."
Speaking at Cebit in Sydney this week, Vamos said customers enjoy the luxury of discussing product roadmaps with commercial software vendors.
"The choice between open source and commercial is really about selecting products (and) technology that is the best value for money and best suits the purposes.
"For those of you engrossed in the decision about is it open source or is it commercial software, I'd probably respectfully suggest that you're spending a lot of time on issue number four or five in the pecking order."
On platform security, Vamos said: "I get disturbed when people say open source is the way to go, because it's more secure. It's food for thought that security advisories for Linux- and Unix-based operating systems were greater during 2003 than those for Windows and also Linux vulnerabilities are growing faster than Microsoft vulnerabilities."