Obama Wants Open Source IT Solutions for US

One of the first things the Obama Administration is interested in doing is exploring how the United States government can use open source software rather than rely on proprietary software that is viewed as costing to much money.  So at a time when corporations are cutting jobs left and right and our economy is in jeopardy, one of the first priorities of President Obama is to determine whether it is feasible to stop relying on proprietary software bought from companies like Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.  Much like those who supported Obama only to find out that he would appoint a fiercely pro RIAA attorney to be Deputy Attorney General of the United States, I suspect that there are many in Silicon Valley and beyond who supported President Obama and are now enormously troubled by the fact that his Administration seems ready and willing to proceed with open source, anti-proprietary solutions.  This does not bode well for those concerned by what President Obama’s view of proprietary rights will be.

I know that many governments around the world are turning to open source solutions to cut costs, and according to a recent article by the BBC, the global loss due to proprietary software is $1 trillion a year, with the loss to the US being about $400 billion.  But what exactly does it mean that proprietary software causes a loss?  I guess the thinking is that if you go open source then US companies and governments don’t have to pay $400 billion a year to those companies that develop proprietary solutions.  That isn’t exactly a loss though is it?  Of course not.  If the US were to go open source then take another $400 billion out of the US economy, not a wise thing to do at the moment if you ask me.  Although it would sure go a long way to paying for the pork that is going to be in the next stimulus package.  Killing US high-tech industry in order to pay for stimulus that will have questionable value doesn’t seem like a good trade-off to me.

Open source advocates are going to love the fact that Obama wants to transition the US government away from proprietary solutions.  I don’t have any dislike for open source advocates, and I wish them well.  I do have a different view of the economics though, and of the patent system.  I hear all the time that software patents prohibit innovation, but then when you talk to those who say they cannot create because of patents it is clear that they don’t understand patent law and are saying that not because it is true, but because that is what they belief.  It always comes as a shock to computer programmers when they learn that just because it is in a patent doesn’t mean you can’t take it without infringing.  They just don’t fully understand that for their to be infringement each and every element of a patent claim needs to be taken and residing in the allegedly infringing product.  If you explain it that way then those who are honest realize that most software patents really prevent very little creativity.

I don’t harbor ill will against those who are anti-software patent, I just wish we could really have an open discussion about the issues with the legal reality mattering.  I know there are software patents out there that should never have issued, but when the talk centers on patentable subject matter or myths then I have problems.  Software ought to be patentable subject matter, and stuff that is not specific and enabled ought not to be patented.  But before public sentiment is turned against software innovations shouldn’t we get the facts about infringement straight and ask what is really best for the economy and to foster innovation?

In any event, the fact that President Obama wants to discuss open source is fine, but it does make me wonder what he thinks about patents.  There is just a diametrically opposite view between open source and proprietary innovations, and it is critically important to know whether the man who will appoint the next Director of the USPTO believes in the patent system or believes that patents hurt innovation.  There is simply no proof that patents harm innovation, and the tales that patents do harm innovation are based on inaccurate understandings of the law and faulty economic analysis.  Since the patent system in the US has been strong we have enjoyed tremendous economic growth.  That is not coincidental; it is cause and effect.

President Obama he has turned to Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, to lead his open source charge, a fact that is sure to irritate some supporters in Silicon Valley who do not particularly identify with Sun.  While you might expect many in the tech community to embrace a movement toward open source, here is what Ars Technica had to say, in part, about Obama’sdecision, particularly the decision to turn to McNealy:

Although Obama’s interest in open source looks like a promising sign that the incoming government is serious about reforming federal IT procurement policies, the decision to call on Sun’s eccentric co-founder is an incomprehensible twist. McNealy’s long history of bizarre and contradictory positions on open source software make him a less than ideal candidate for helping to shape national policy on the subject. Asking Scott McNealy to write a paper about open source software is a bit like asking Dick Cheney to write a paper about government transparency.

And here is what CNET had to say, in part:

While I agree with those benefits [of open source], I’m not a supporter of mandates. I wouldn’t want the government mandating Microsoft software–why would I therefore seek an open-source mandate? Open source has done remarkably well in the U.S. federal government without mandates, and will continue to do so because of the benefits identified by McNealy.

The trouble I have is that once again the US government seems to be interested in picking the winners and losers rather than letting the marketplace do that.  As some industries get bailed out and other do not, and as some companies within industries get bailed out and others in the same industry do not, this is just more evidence of the government putting its finger on the scales.  It is naive to think that if the federal government goes open source that it will not cause many companies that deal with the federal government to go open source.  As the tidal wave continues it will be good for the open source community and service companies, and a whole lot of high paying, high-tech jobs will be lost.  That is simply not a good trade, not right now at a time when our economy is so fragile.


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Join the Discussion

26 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Paul Spuria]
    Paul Spuria
    August 25, 2010 11:41 am

    i think opensource and proprietary should be intertwined together as one

    microsoft has made both server and client OSes as well as all the apps used on both of them
    i think that company is monopolizing the economy so why not just implement 50/50?

  • [Avatar for Gerard]
    March 26, 2009 06:04 pm

    To increase the rate of introduction of innovation into the marketplace – let’s consider using the provisional patent application process to electronically register trade secrets. Inform the patent examiners that a publication of trade secrets that have been registered via the provisional patent application process is not a ‘publication’ as defined in the regulations. Encourage those who register trade secrets in the database of registered trade secrets to negotiate a license agreement with interested parties, who may wish to use ‘not-invented-here’ innovations in their own product portfolio. Notify potential infringers, who may wish to exploit the sweat and equity of a developer without providing just compensation, that the use of innovations that have been registered in the disignated trade secret database is a crime. Allow those who are interested in using software trade secrets in their own products as well as those who are interested in infringing software trade secrets to query the database of registered trade secrets in order to determine whether the trade secret exists, the nature of the secrets and the holder of any trade secret property rights. Such a process could reduce the macro-economic cost of redundant research and development of ideas and leave other issues such as rights to use trade secrets to negotiations between interested parties and the inventor/developer. Under this scenario, the database of registered trade secrets serves interested parties in a manner similar to the Registrar of Copyrights and allows a developer to immediately generate revenues from the market prior to the commencement of an unprovisional patent application process. Revenues from sales of the software products or services that have incorporated the software technology described by the trade secrets could be used to provide compensation to an attorney who may be interested in helping the developer complete the nonprovisional patent process.

  • [Avatar for Max]
    March 17, 2009 01:45 am

    I think what you’re trying to get at here is the broken window fallacy:

    The fallacy states that, “just because breaking windows causes the glassmaker to get paid, doesn’t mean the money would not have been spent on something else.” In other words, “breaking things so that the repair costs will stimulate the economy is a really dumb idea.”

  • [Avatar for Marcin Jakubowski]
    Marcin Jakubowski
    March 15, 2009 08:56 am

    You seem to miss one point. Open source does not always equal to free (as in beer) software. Just switching to open source software does not mean you will not spend a penny on it. In open source business model, you do not pay for the software but it comes with no guaranty. Customers like, say, US government will buy the support, want some software written for the new systems, code checked, staff trained, market will become less monopolized. Some jobs may be lost here and there and some new may be introduced somewhere else.

    Now, if we followed your reasoning – everyone should buy the most expensive solution just to support the economy. No matter what the quality of the product is, just buy it so you boost put money into the economy? It’s a bit flawed, don’t you think? If you’re a business owner, you estimate quality vs cost and decide based on that factor. And can you honestly say that proprietary software is of better quality than open source?

    I, for one, am concerned that systems that run governments across the world, including US, are based on proprietary software. This in fact means that companies producing said software have control over their customers. Who has ever seen Windows source code and can say what does it do? Or what will the next update do? With open source software you may, if you wish to, analyze the sources, fix them if needed, do whatever you wish. If a security flaw is discovered, you may fix it on your own. What can you do with proprietary software? Nothing.

    There are pros and cons as with any other solution and worrying about $400 billion disappearing from US economy is not something you should be concerned with in my opinion. That’s because that money will be spent on other things and, again in my opinion, will do more good than harm.

    Also, anyone wanting to make a point regarding my grammar or anything – it’s just stupid to try and counter reasonable arguments with statements like “omg, l2type, wtf!”. Also, I’m Polish so spare me, English is not my native language.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 10, 2009 03:36 pm


    You are entitled to your opinion, and you are correct that patent litigation can be enormously expensive and tie up tech companies, but the fact remains that patents spur innovation historically. Those who chose to ignore the fact that patents and exclusive right spur innovation are simply fooling themselves and are not seriously interested in engaging in meaningful debate. Without patents the investment necessary to move innovation forward is not available.

    Additionally, many software patents are obviously invalid on their face because they should not have issued due to prior art or they are woefully inadequate to disclose the invention. Those who choose not to understand patent law and make assumptions that are incorrect hardly have any rational reason to complain that patents stand in the way of innovation. If you want to let bad patents that are unenforceable stand in your way that is a you problem, not a patent problem.


  • [Avatar for PerlCoder]
    March 10, 2009 03:31 pm

    “when you talk to those who say they cannot create because of patents it is clear that they don’t understand patent law”

    That is just plain nonsense. Software patents have a tangible effect on new product development. Whether you care to admit it or not, patent litigation (or the threat thereof) based on claims against dubious ‘submarine’ patents are routinely used to extort money from companies of all sizes or to stifle competition. The threat of patent litigation is probably the #1 risk factor for a tech start-up company. The costs of defending against a dubious patent lawsuit can easily top a million dollars, an expense which can easily cripple or bankrupt a small company.

  • [Avatar for Brandon]
    March 9, 2009 01:32 am

    I appreciate your response. President Obama’s stated position is that he is going to ask the government to review everything it does to look for more efficient ways to do it. I am paraphrasing of course, but I believe that captures the message.

    While I can’t say that I agree with everything he has done and said, I’m certain that we can both agree that a lot of waste could be cut out of the government. The directive to explore open source solutions seems to be in line with that.

    My real fear is that President Obama may be biting off more than he can chew with health care reform, the economic stimulus, our current foreign policy mess, etc. There is a lot going on. I hope he and his team can pull it all off.

    I do not think that the idea of the government using open source is bad for the economy or the state of patent protection.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 8, 2009 09:36 pm


    I think your position makes a lot of sense, and is probably the position of most folks. I do not have anything against open source software per se, I just wonder whether now is the time for the government to be looking to move into open source software. I use some open source software myself.

    In terms of Republicans being fiscally responsible, obviously they are not and have not been for some time. I think that is why they have lost 2 elections in a row and will continue to lose until such time that they get back to basics and become fiscal conservatives. I think the US wants to be slightly left of center on social issues and somewhere right of center on fiscal matters. With a two party system that seems impossible these days.

    For the record, while it is obvious I am a Republican, I hammered the Bush Administration and particularly Jon Dudas while he was at the Patent Office. I am equal opportunity when it comes to pointing out what I think are bad ideas.

  • [Avatar for Brandon]
    March 8, 2009 09:17 pm

    I am neither a software developer nor am I involved in patent law, but investigating the potential to use open source software seems like a far cry from closing down the patent office to me. Open source solutions are open source because their authors choose to license them as such. They also have the option of patenting and/or copy righting their works.

    Personally, I run windows on my machines, but every other piece of software I use is Open Source. This is not because I don’t believe in patents. This is because it is a much much lower cost alternative for me. Not only is the software itself free to me (though I generally “donate” to the author if they request it), but I find the software is usually more reliable. I also get better support in user forums and the like than I get from the person who answers the tech support hot line of a proprietary product after I’ve been on hold for half an hour.

    In short, I choose open source because it makes the most economic sense for me. I would like to be able to expect the same from my government. It is very rare that I have any hope of that, just look at the no-bid and cost plus contracts the Bush Administration spent the last 8 years handing out.

    And before you blow me off as some liberal, please explain how Republicans can claim to be the fiscally responsible party after the ride they took us on for the last eight years.

  • [Avatar for Max]
    March 7, 2009 04:35 pm

    First of all, I’d like people to shut up about the guy’s grammar, because those comments are just plain embarrassing. On to the main topic of the comment:

    There may be an explanation for why there are so many terrible software patents out there:
    http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/Its-All-About-C,-The-CIA-Interview,–Not-People-Like-You.aspx (last story on the page.)

    Software patents aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re suboptimal. Software is so enormously complex, it’s impossible to make software without doing something that someone else has used as part of a patented work. The problem, as I see it, is that you can be sued for things that don’t violate the law.

    For example, suppose General Electric has a patent on some doohickey that goes in a jet engine. Part of the patent specifies that the doohickey is fastened to the chassis using bolts. If GE were to sue Ford because they fastened some entirely different part to the chassis of a truck, and they also used bolts, that would be completely ridiculous. But GE could still file the lawsuit. The case would be thrown out of court, but GE could still file the lawsuit.

    However, software is a relatively new field, and not everyone is computer literate. If someone were to sue me for writing code that “parsed user input using a series of switch statements that efficiently represent the desired workflow of the program without explicitly using conditional operators,” most judges aren’t going to know what that means, but the concept has been around since the seventies.

    Even if the patent examiners actually have experience in the industry, there are better options for protecting the intellectual property of the programmers. A better option would be to use copyright law instead of patents.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 7, 2009 02:17 pm


    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Obviously, you have not read much of my writing if you think I don’t understand there are a lot of bad software patents. Of course there are a lot of bad software patents out there, but that is hardly a reason to eliminate all software patents. Rather, it is a reason for the Patent Office to do their job properly. It is exceptionally naive of you to think that because the Patent Office issues bad patents then we should prevent an entire category of invention from receiving patent protection. What needs to happen is the patent laws actually need to be applied to prevent ideas from being patented. Vague and hopelessly incomplete software patents should be rejected. That does not mean that all software should not be patented though.

    It would have been more productive if you provided a substantive comment, rather than questioning my honesty and integrity. I am use it by now though. Those who disagree never have the ability to articulate a reason or argument. It must be sad to have to resort to name calling instead of an intellectual debate.


  • [Avatar for Exe]
    March 7, 2009 01:59 pm

    Of course “US Patent Attorney (Reg. No. 44,294)” is going to be spooked by a mass movement to open source.

    And then this…

    “I hear all the time that software patents prohibit innovation, but then when you talk to those who say they cannot create because of patents it is clear that they don’t understand patent law and are saying that not because it is true, but because that is what they belief.(sic)”

    If the author doesn’t see that the appalling numbers of broad, vague software patents that have been granted are detrimental to innovation it brings into question his understanding or honesty on the subject.

    StumbleUpon Thumbs Downed!

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 5, 2009 11:21 pm


    Thank you once again for proving my point. I am not worth the time, yet you keep coming back to my page and now have posted several comments. So for someone not worth the time you are certainly investing time, yet still have no ability to formulate a coherent alternative to my position. Of course it is easier for you to stay above the fray because you would rather not expose to everyone that you have no rational argument to present.

    As far as calling me a “Republican proagandist,” I truly appreciate such a lofty compliment. I am honored that you would bestow such a title onto me, while at the same time not being worthy of enough time to provide an alternative view. You have shown yourself for what you truly are, which is one who has no original thought and seeks only to be dismissive in an arrogant and condescending manner. It is people like you that continue to inspire me and give me the confidence that I am correct. After all, if I were not correct you would be able to articulate a contrary position, or you would simply ignore me, neither of which you are capable of doing.


  • [Avatar for Michael Barrick]
    Michael Barrick
    March 5, 2009 05:53 pm

    I think you’ve missed several points, not the least of which is you aren’t worth the time and effort required in creating a substantive argument. It’s not that such an argument doesn’t exist against your ideas, but rather that no amount of rational argument can dissuade /anyone/ from a passionately-held position arrived at irrationally. A well-placed jibe or two to goad out clichéd responses and tired missives like, “This is amusing,” illustrate well enough what little capacity for genuine reason Republican propagandists like yourself actually have.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 5, 2009 02:48 pm


    Snide and pointless? You are really quite funny. This is amusing. You are merely employing a typical liberal attack. You have nothing substantive to say so you will attack you and make fun of you for something else rather than put any thought into a coherent argument.

    Let me ask you this… do you make fun of Mr. Obama’s lack of command of the English language? Everyone says he is so articulate. When he reads the words of his speech writers that is true. When he answers questions in an unscripted fashion he stutters and stammers in embarrassing ways. So tell me, have you noticed that or are you so ignorant that you think only those who oppose your views should be called out?

    In any event, I do use open source software for my blog. In my business I overwhelmingly use proprietary software. If you think the fact that I use one or two open source software solutions means I have no right to comment on issues you are a sad individual indeed.

    Additionally, your fixation on my use of open source software shows you miss the point. Why would anyone pay for anything if they could get it for free? I pay for software when proprietary software is better, and use open source software when it is better. When I use open source software I just take it and use. So go right ahead and keep creating wonderful open source software that the rest of us can use for free without paying you for your time and energy. Your sweat is my reward, and I really do appreciate that.


  • [Avatar for Michael]
    March 5, 2009 02:30 pm

    Interesting that you have time to make a snide and pointless rebuttal regarding your less than stellar grammar, but have no comment on the fact that your blog runs on open source software.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 3, 2009 04:45 pm


    Thank you so much for agreeing with my points. I absolutely LOVE it when people make fun of the way I speak and write. That shows just how little they should be taken seriously and how they have nothing constructive to add to the debate. Thus, you must agree with me completely. I appreciate you agreeing with my points!

    By the way, you incorrectly capitalized the “i” in “ill will.” Another mistake you make is placing the period outside the quotation marks. I really don’t like to be picky, but consistency is preferred. In some places in your very brief comment you put the period inside the quotation marks, and in other places you put the period outside the quotation marks. Moreover, the word “Lawnglish” does not seem to be a word. That aside, it most certainly should not have been capitalized, and given that it seems to be a combination of words probably should have been within quotations.

    It is quite ironic that in making fun of my post in just a few original lines you made more mistakes than I made in the entire post. Perhaps you need an editor yourself.


  • [Avatar for David]
    March 3, 2009 01:39 pm

    Seriously, do you employ an editor?
    “I guess the thinking is that if you go open source then US companies and governments DOESN’T have to pay $400 billion a year to those companies that develop proprietary solutions. ”
    Should be “don’t”, if I am correct in saying that this language is English.
    “I don’t harbor ill well against those who are anti-software patent, I just wish we could really have an open discussion about the issues with the legal reality mattering.”
    I believe it’s “Ill will”.
    Your sentence structure is ambiguous, convoluted and confusing like most Lawnglish. It’s a surprise that you’re even employed here. Oh, wait, you founded ipwatchdog.com, so I guess it’s a given that you get to write.

  • [Avatar for Max]
    March 1, 2009 03:37 pm

    Your background is in patent law. Open source software advocates usually have a background in the actual software industry. This probably spawns the difference in opinions.

    It is simply a proven fact that open source software is superior. Case in point: the notorious “ping o’ death” bug, which affected almost every operating system that existed at the time (Mac, Windows 9x, Windows NT, Unix, Linux, VMS, DOS, networked printers and scanners, and so on.) Basically, you could crash any of these operating systems at your leisure by sending them a “ping” signal that was larger than a certain size. (Because ping signals are supposed to be extremely small, no one anticipated having to deal with a big one. It’s like sending a forklift in the mail, your mailbox isn’t equipped to handle it.)

    The bug was fixed in Linux in two and a half hours (and this was even before Linux had become “cool.”) Microsoft didn’t have patches out for weeks, and during this time, criminals and pranksters ran amok in Windows-using businesses.

    There’s a website devoted to the ping o’ death here:

    Most of the money that goes into proprietary software is money that pays for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. Microsoft has never been good for the economy. It is downright anti-competitive, and it has in the past broken anti-trust laws (you can read about a lot of this stuff at http://www.groklaw.com.) When one company blocks competition from other companies, everyone looses.

    While its true that Microsoft provides a lot of jobs, just as many jobs are lost every year because of them. Some companies spend too much money on proprietary software and are thus unable to hire as many people. Other startup software companies are sued by Microsoft over software patents that never should have been issued, and these companies go under.

    However, I do agree that open source software does not need a mandate. It should be allowed to compete on its merits (which has already met with a lot of success. The department of defense even set up its own sorceforge-like website at http://disa.mil/forge/. The fact remains that open source software is more secure, more reliable, and more efficient than proprietary software.

  • [Avatar for soubrata]
    February 11, 2009 06:30 am

    “As the tidal wave continues it will be good for the open source community and service companies, and a whole lot of high paying, high-tech jobs will be lost. That is simply not a good trade, not right now at a time when our economy is so fragile.”

    Please stop using WordPress. You are killing US jobs by using this software for your blog.

  • [Avatar for Scott]
    January 27, 2009 08:45 am

    Hi Gene:

    Long time since we spoke. Congrats on the blog and the Professorship. Earlier this year I found your blog and have looked at for a few months. Anyway I’ve been going back and forth on this post and thought I would attempt to convey what I’m thinking and finally make a post.

    First, I believe in the principles that are meant to be protected by the patent system and the value in protecting software through the use of patents. I do believe, however, that many of the software patents and business method patents that have been granted have turned our patent system into a travesty. Second, before we go too far, let me tell you I am no Obama fan and lean strongly in the Libertarian direction…so I did all that I could to back the other horses. But this guy has been getting my attention; though my mind is not made up, I am paying attention and giving my support today.

    In any event, I am not certain that your If-Then Statements in this post really follow one another. For example, you note that “one of the first priorities of President Obama is to determine whether it is feasible to stop relying on proprietary software” and question whether it foretells his policies on innovation. But shortly thereafter you note that many governments are “turning to open source solutions to cut costs” and cite to an article that describes in detail why and how such savings could be substantial. Could it not simply be that Obama is aware of the potential here and that it has nothing to do with his view on protecting innovation? Additionally Obama thus far has made it very clear that he does not care where ideas come from, Democrat or GOP…what he wants is open dialog, and the best solution for the problem. Could it be that he sees open source as a similar concept to his open idea/dialog policy?

    But back to your post… I think you make some very critical statements and it is in these very statements that I believe the real issue can be found:

    “I hear all the time that software patents prohibit innovation, but … when you talk to those [people] … it is clear that they don’t understand patent law…. They just don’t fully understand that for their to be infringement each and every element of a patent claim needs to be taken and residing in the allegedly infringing product. If you explain it … honest [people] realize that most software patents really prevent very little creativity.”

    That Gene is the exact problem that I see. In each company in which I have worked management believes that a patent covers some concept, typically some commercial embodiment, i.e, “Our Widget”. Similarly they believe that their competitors patent protects their Competitor’s “Gizmo”.

    I believe this happens because of how a business approaches IP. First they talk to a patent attorney (in-house or otherwise), they describe the concept, and the patent attorney drafts the patent application. That often is the end of the transaction. The patent attorney does what is necessary to get the patent application granted and the business makes changes as necessary to adapt to the market forces. Too often there is no cross-pollination between the parties after the app is filed.

    Of course in any press releases and on any product or service the business will do its utmost to alert the world that the “Widget” or “Gizmo” is proprietary and protected by a patent (or at least patent pending) further adding to the confusion. This pattern results in the business folk “believing” that the patent or application filed years earlier is an impenetrable fortress covering whatever metamorphosis that the original idea went through. It is not until a patent attorney goes over each claim element that they truly realize what that specific patent does and does not protect. This analysis is a skill that your average layman just cannot master and why we are licensed by the PTO.

    So while it is true that all of this is “based on inaccurate understandings of the law and faulty economic analysis” it has a very real effect on the economy nevertheless. This is complicated even more by the advent of some of the ridiculous business method and software patents that have been granted as well as the very real risks and costs associated with litigating even the most inane patent matters.

    In his post on Obama’s patent reform, Vincent McBurney points to many of the policies recited in his campaign. http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/infosphere/barack-obama-on-patent-reform-29442 . It is my hope that President Obama will take the time to learn how the patent system should work, identify those places where it has failed, target those areas needed for improvement, reform, and even implement new policies if and as appropriate. However, I do not yet believe that his desire to investigate open source or his appointment of Scott McNealy foretells any real direction on his views of the patent system or innovation.

    Scott Garrison
    FPLC 95

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    January 26, 2009 09:26 pm


    I agree with much of what you wrote. I am not sure I agree with the unbalancing the scales. Time will tell. I must confess I am more worried about what this means for other types of intellectual property.

    I also wonder whether open source is the way for the government to go from a security standpoint. I know Microsoft has issues, but if it is truly open source could this result in latent security gaps? I suspect the answer is yes. I would love to hear from someone who can explain what this could mean for security.

    Thanks for contributing your thoughts.


  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    January 26, 2009 09:23 pm


    I agree that the government should not be proping up a failing monopoly, but it seems that is exactly what Bush and Obama are doing with taxpayer dollars.

    I have long said that the Apple operating system from 1985 is better than anything Microsoft has ever created, but I don’t think that this research is only about Microsoft. I like how you characterize the “Microsoft tax.” I am not for that, but I am for proprietary rights when they are justified. It just seems to me that by moving toward open source a winner is being chosen, and becasue the government is going open source that would seem to dictate where the rest of us must go as well.

    Perhaps this is a good thing, I don’t know. I don’t think it is something for the first 48 hours given all the crisis we have in the financial and real estate markets. I also wonder what, if anything, this signals about the Obama stance on intellectual property rights in general. If saving a buck is what he wants to do at the expense of proprietary rights I don’t think that bodes well for the broader economy, particularly when it would save State governments and the US government tons of money to simply ignore pharma patents. That would lead to chaos and no new drugs. We should be encouraging new drug development. This is a top for another day, maybe sometime this week.

    Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments.


  • [Avatar for dnoble]
    January 26, 2009 08:18 pm

    If the government chooses proprietary software over open source software, it should be based on merit rather than just to pump money into the high-tech sector. I’m in the software industry myself, but not looking for handouts. From my perspective, the government is not unbalancing the scales of the market by looking for the best value for its money.

  • [Avatar for redwoodave]
    January 26, 2009 07:39 pm

    Do you think that this open source software grows on trees? Of course not. The government will need to hire programmers to customize and support any solution that they come up with.

    I don’t think that they should be locking themselves in by paying a Microsoft tax on every machine that they own. That has nothing to do with job creation and everything to do with propping up a failing monopoly.

  • [Avatar for zeus32791]
    January 23, 2009 08:32 pm

    I can’t believe that Obama would be looking into open source software at a time when the economy is falling apart. Doesn’t he realize that by doing this many workers in the high-tech sector are going to lose their jobs? Is this really something that needs his immediate attention? I think not!