Microsoft: Open source 'not reliable or dependable'

Executive tells BBC it's mainly of interest to community projects, lacks benefits of commercial model.

Ingrid Marson
2 min read
A senior Microsoft executive told a BBC documentary that people should use commercial software if they're looking for stability.

"I don't think (open source) is anti-Microsoft in the sense that it's giving people choices in the technologies that they use," Jonathan Murray, the vice president and chief technology officer of Microsoft Europe, told BBC World in the first part of the documentary "The Code Breakers," which aired this week.

Jonathan Murray Jonathan Murray

"Some people want to use community-based software, and they get value out of sharing with other people in the community. Other people want the reliability and the dependability that comes from a commercial software model. And again, at the end of the day, you make the choice based on what has the highest value to you," Murray continued.

It isn't clear from Murray's statement which category he believes commercial open-source companies such as Red Hat and MySQL fit into.

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the One Laptop Per Child project, was also interviewed in the documentary, and he disagreed with Microsoft's claim that open source is inferior.

"We've chosen free and open software because it's better, and because it means the children can participate in making the software better over time," Negroponte said.

Kenneth Cukier, a technology correspondent for The Economist, weighed in halfway between the two by claiming that open source offers similar functionality to proprietary software.

"One can consider open-source software a lot like generic drugs. The analogy fits," Cukier said in the documentary. "Open-source software...is essentially the same product--it does the same thing on a computer--but it costs less," Cukier told BBC World.

The documentary also included footage of Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, giving a speech, and interviews with people working on open-source projects in developing countries, such as the SchoolNet Namibia project and the Digital Doorway project in South Africa.

Part 2 of "The Code Breakers" is due to be screened next week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Program times can be found on the BBC World Web site.

Currently, the documentary is only available on BBC World, which isn't broadcast in the United Kingdom.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.