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The Corrida of Power
Editorial Now that the dust has settled from the latest Microsoft attack on the Open Source movement, it's time to give them a "bravo." That's what the crowd would shout in the Algarve on witnessing such an artistic execution of the essentials of the Portuguese bullfight. In Portugal, the bull is lured into running around the arena until it drops from exhaustion. The bull is never killed.

It's too easy to dismiss Craig Mundie's remarks as a scatter-shot attack. On the contrary, it did exactly what Microsoft wanted it to do.

Redmond's problem remains the Justice Department. As long as the legal struggle continues, the company remains in jeopardy. This complicates upcoming launches of the new versions of Office and Windows, and enraged competitors are again waving the bloody shirt of bundling.

How does a monopoly not look like a monopoly? The easy way is to look like your hands are full dealing with the raging bull of competition. Microsoft needs an aroused but unfocused Open Source movement.

So Microsoft's matador stepped into the corrida to set the stage and define the terms of the marketplace. Then he needed to unleash the bull. What better way than to blather asides about a few sacred cows?

  • Did you know, "OSS development model leads to a strong possibility of unhealthy forking of code base"?
  • Have you heard, "Microsoft has fostered the world's largest community of software developers for over a decade?"
  • By the way, "They ask software developers to give away for free the very thing they create that is of greatest value!"

These well-chosen bits of rhetoric struck the targeted nerves. Off went a flurry of countercharges. The bull was engaged.

Far more important, by the time the dust settled, Microsoft stood unchallenged in defining the arena. What is that arena? Why, nothing less than the world economy and the context is how to create "sustainable business models" in an "IP-based economy." Ole!

In one fell swoop, Mundie commandeered the knowledge economy and turned it into the intellectual property economy. This extraordinary bit of legerdemain equates intellectual capital with intellectual property, analogous to the 19th-century economic policy of tying the supply of money to the physical supply of gold/silver.

In the Microsoft world view, knowledge is intellectual property (IP), and property by definition is a scarce resource to be husbanded. As a result, "IP protection [is] a fundamental engine of economic growth." That elevates copyrights, patents, and trade secrets to being the essential legal foundation for creating sustainable business models.

The challenge for the Open Source community is to take back the definition of the world view. If the economic engine is the spreading of knowledge, the fundamental constructs for sustainable business models are different from those postulated in Redmond.

Jack Fegreus
Editorial Director

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