In the firing line

Microsoft has just settled yet another antitrust case out of court. This time it was with Be, the authors of BeOS, to which it paid $US23,250,000 without ever having to admit it was guilty of the 16 pages of complaints laid against it.

Microsoft has just settled yet another antitrust case out of court. This time it was with Be, the authors of BeOS, to which it paid $US23,250,000 without ever having to admit it was guilty of the 16 pages of complaints laid against it.

Reading the complaint on the Be website, I have to suggest that Be was living in a dream world when it comes to the chances of its product competing with Windows.

Still, it makes for an interesting read. If you’re interested in the business practices of the largest single supplier of software to our government, you should take a look. Wasn’t it Paul Swain who said, "Monopolies are bad; oh, but not yours, Mr Gates, sir"?

It's enough to make one wonder if some in government aren’t being encouraged by large industry players to turn a blind eye to all this graft. Oh hang on, isn’t that almost exactly why the north Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea are likely to announce this week an alliance to develop Linux as an operating system with which their governments may replace Windows. This agreement has been in development since March when over 100 government, commercial and academic developers from the three countries met to discuss the issues. Perhaps some of their neighbours should consider joining them. Australia is already on its way (except in Canberra, but then, have you ever been to Canberra?). With a little bit of foresight we, as a country, could leap to the front of the new wave of open source software and actually get this "Knowledge Economy" thing started (joking aside, the time for procrastination is over).

Whilst our government leaders are still giving us rather pathetic guidance concerning the use of proprietary operating systems and software, there is a growing use of open source software at a grass roots level. Although it’s only a small step, the development team I’m coaching at The Correspondence School uses Mandrake 9.1with KDE 3.1 exclusively for its software development environment and, of course, we’re developing in Java. I’m having some difficulties convincing them that we should move away from Sybase on to MySQL -- but I have plenty of time (cue maniacal laughter).

I should mention that I know that up until recently Linux hasn’t really been that strong a contender, especially on the desktop. However, things have changed. Server-side Linux has been viable for a number of years now and desktop Linux has been acceptable for at least two years. IBM is convincing large organisations around the world to move to a Linux platform, but our government refuses to even consider it a major issue.

Some people may say that Linux is currently a risky platform given the SCO piracy claims. I seem to recall Microsoft being sued frequently on similar issues such as piracy, patent infringement -- oh, and running an illegal monopoly. The main difference here is that SCO doesn’t seem to have any evidence to back its claims and the industry is, in general, ignoring it.

Matsushita Electric, Sony, Hitachi, NEC, Philips, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba founded the Consumer Electronics Linux Forum (CELF) back in July. Their aim is to adapt and advance Linux for use in your toaster (and other miscellaneous equipment). Japan, Korea, China, India, Peru and a whole host of other countries are saying things like, "insecure", "costly" and "undemocratic" when talking about Microsoft software. Why is our government mute? Even the US Library of Congress is running Linux.

Someone once told me that you shouldn’t assume malicious intent where stupidity is an adequate explanation, but sometimes I just can’t help it.

On another note, one that might annoy the project coordinator on my current project, I’ve got a new motorcycle, which my lovely daughters have just helped me polish. You see, half the development team have bikes, and it seems to be THE topic of conversation at the moment. I’ve never ridden a motorbike before, but I’m learning fast. If you see me riding it round Wellington, give me a wave.

Dollery is a partner at GreenPulse in Wellington. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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