Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Innovation is yet another Microsoft monopoly? 

Following is the text of a letter I sent to the editor of the (Singapore) Straits Times today after reprinting(paid subscription required) a New York Times article, "Making Microsoft share code may prove a bad idea". One must first ask, "bad for whom?" The sub-head, original to the Straits Times, claims that "Restraining big companies can stifle innovation and competition". But, in fact, the history of the software industry, and particularly of the personal-computer software industry, shows that precisely the opposite is true.

With regard to your reprint today, Wednesday, of the New York Times-supplied "Making Microsoft share code may be a bad idea" (main section, page 20):

First, you and other readers may not be aware that the lobbying group "Association for Competitive Technology", whose president was quoted in a prominent sidebar, is a commercial-IT-industry lobbying group. It was rganised in 1998 and largely funded by Microsoft, originally in response to the US and later EU anti-trust proceedings against them. It is now widely known in the IT industry as an "astroturf" (artificial grass-roots) organisation whose mission is to provide PR spin for and to appear as an "independent" group in favour of protecting and extending the Microsoft hegemony over the software industry. It lobbies strenuously, for example, against the current trend by governments and NGOs to reduce or eliminate their use of proprietary Microsoft document formats in favour of open, vendor-neutral formats like the OpenDocument Format ISO standard. By doing so, it helps assure that governments worldwide spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money to support Microsoft rather than, through the use of free alternatives, to lower taxes or fund projects benefitting their citizens.

The New York Times has, within the last decade or so, become very well-known as a "corporate-friendly" newspaper. Supporting columnists and writers such as Thomas Friedman and Judith Miller, it is widely credited in the US as one of the major forces helping the Bush régime drag America and the world into the current Iraq War. For you to reprint such a lengthy, biased article, without any contextual explanation of the source or background of the issues raised, does a serious disservice to your readers. Further, such support on your part can be used as ammunition by local and regional Microsoft-funded or -organised lobbies to undermine efforts to promote open standards and freedom from influence, if not outright control, by an American corporation who has repeatedly shown itself no friend to consumers.

You can do better.

Comments are welcome.

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