OSS: Europe vs. The United States

by Doug.Roberts

Neelie Kroes is IT Chief for Europe and a staunch proponent of Open Source Software. A previous Linux Journal article made mention of her recent
comments on OSS vs. proprietary software:

She blasted proprietary software, saying that choosing it over Open Source alternatives can leave nations "unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades", and went on to note that even if Open Source options are later implemented, they "risk being systematically ignored."

Reading this prompted me to wonder if the United States had an equivalently highly-placed official with sufficient power to influence the US Government's decision process regarding OSS solutions. The closest I could find was Howard A. Schmidt, our current US DHS "Cybersecurity Czar". It didn't take much digging to begin to understand where Schmidt's priorities are likely to fall regarding OSS. From WhoRunsGov.com, we discover that Schmidt went to work for Microsoft in 1997 as their chief security officer. He remained in that position for 5 years, and in 1999 he donated $250 to the Microsoft Political Action Committee.

It comes as no great surprise to me that Microsoft's deep pockets have helped ensure that One Of Their Own is deeply embedded within US Government software decision making bureaucracy. It appears that the software industry in the United States is following the path laid out by the (formerly) Big 3 of the US automotive industry: attempting to eliminate competition by influencing the political process to adopt policies favorable to their industry. US government protectionist policies tailored to support Microsoft will invariably have the same net result of earlier US auto industry protectionist policies. Ultimately the inferior, but protected US product will be displaced in the global marketplace by superior product. In the meantime however, US productivity will suffer due the government's continued support of upgrade after expensive upgrade of the insecure Microsoft product that is in use throughout our national infrastructure.

As a footnote, let us not forget our newest Number One Ruthless Evil Empire. You guessed it: different company, same business model.