Bill Gates, which we disagree with

Bill Gates clearly misunderstands open source. After so many years of humbugging software the old way, how could he not?

As but one more piece of testamentary evidence that the old guard at Microsoft needs to be shown the door, Bill Gates has demonstrated conclusively that he has exactly zero understanding of open source, or at least zero desire to have an intelligent discussion about it. Speaking to a pharmaceutical industry group, Bill Gates took time out to utter irrelevancies and inaccuracies about the GNU General Public License:

There's free software and then there's open source," he suggested, noting that Microsoft gives away its software in developing countries [largely in response to open source, I might add]. With open source software, on the other hand, "there is this thing called the GPL, which we disagree with." Open source, he said, creates a license "so that nobody can ever improve the software," he claimed, bemoaning the squandered opportunity for jobs and business.

Ahem. It's the exact opposite, Mr. Gates. 100% the exact opposite.

Open source insists upon leaving software open to further improvement. And if you were to read the European Union's report on open source, you'd see that it's actually a massive opportunity for improved GDP growth.

What open source does is ensure that customers share equally in the economic benefits of software, rather than having profits hoarded by one company (i.e., Microsoft's model). The GPL does this perhaps best of all. In another age, Mr. Gates would have found the GPL to be a dear friend to his better capitalist instincts. It's actually a close cousin to a proprietary license in some ways, except that it protects through openness, not closed source.

Clearly, one cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Time to let Mr. Gates get to his charity work. I suspect that he'll discover at some point that open source actually will afford his charitable work far more reach and value than going about it in his old, proprietary ways.

Just give him a few decades to unlearn all of his bad habits.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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