Dave, I'm sort of curious. You're sort of closer to the hacker level inside Microsoft. What did you think of Michael's comments about a war within Microsoft over the license thing?
Well, I don't think there's a war going on. I definitely think that we're trying to internalize a lot of good things from this community, though. There's a lot of people who have paid a lot of attention to the open source community and to all of the issues that surround sharing source code, and as you all know, sharing source code the whole process of sharing source code is an entirely different beast than sharing binaries that have been tested to work together and packaged up on a disk and sort of sold as a unit. And we're in the process of internalizing that right now.
We've shared source with developers for many, many, many years. We have a huge developer community. The samples and MSDN programs and that kind of thing have been out there for a long time and have been heavily utilized and helpful, I hope. But people do ask for more and more access to source code. It is becoming much more central to a lot of people who do development on a daily basis, and because of that, we've started developing all these different kinds of licenses. And those licenses are the individual product groups at Microsoft responding to customer needs, basically.
For example, the project that I'm working on is based on a standard, based on the ECMA specs for CLI and C#. It's the same standard that Miguel is working on in Mono. And I have worked to design the license effectively as a long-term investment of the intellectual capital that we've been putting into the work, ongoing work on our CLR. It's a good example of some place where we're really trying to invest in a different way, and it's reflected in our license.
By the way, for those who haven't seen it, the new licenses are one page long [he holds up a copy]. They're definitely worth going up, download the thing, and take a look at it. We're trying to be very clear. It's a document that's trying to be clear and simple. And I'm around. I'd actually like to hear feedback from people here.
By the way, I just want to say among the members of the panel feel free to jump in on each other, because there's nothing worse that everybody kind of waiting. [Laughing on panel]. I just kind of feel like we're getting the conversation going
I feel like Michael wants to talk. [Laughter]
I'd like to move a little bit from the nuance to the substance, and to say that I very much appreciate the analogies that have been brought forward both by Craig and by Dave on the kinds of efforts that they're making, but it sounds to me like the logging companies will be really, really nice guys as long as you let them cut down the trees, or the oil companies will be very sensitive to the environment as long as they can drill for oil. And the way in which this concerns me in the software world is that, in spite of what the shared source license or whatnot may offer, there are some things that are still very concerning to us related to how patents are being used to prevent interpretability and to prevent the open source or free software communities from fully participating in what the future of the Internet will be. And so from my perspective, the substantial important difference here is a question of whether it is acceptable to where it's convenient provides some limited access to some particular resource while still excluding and preventing
I'm going to jump in here, though. I mean... I'm going to speak for Microsoft. As I understand the position of Microsoft, what's wrong with the right of somebody creating something to set the terms on which it's distributed? And if that works for their customers, why is that wrong?
The reason it's wrong is because people can incrementally build up systems that are patently unfair. And we have seen this time and again in the case of civil liberties and human rights, that an incremental divergence between those who make the rules and those who are forced to live under them ultimately becomes untenable and ultimately, the revolution occurs. [applause]
So the point you're making, then, is really that it is not necessarily so deep an opposition between proprietary software and free software as the fact that Microsoft has massive marketing power and that creates distortions.
For me, it's not a question about whether or not one group of people or another are allowed to use the water fountain or wash room. It's whether or not we have full access to everything from education to economics to marital choices and what not. [applause]
Shared Source vs. Open Source Related Links
Actually, I want to address that from the point raised earlier of the effects of an environmental niche, open source software and public policy choices that result. The equilibrium that we have today in the software industry is flawed. It has a critical flaw in it. That flaw is a flaw of choice. Among the choices that were listed on that slide was not included the choice of leadership. And that is one of the things that open source software allows. [applause]
And in our world today, thanks to the very smart and successful people at Microsoft, vast amounts of the data and software and information flow that we rely on as individuals and societies are controlled by one entity. That is not a healthy ecological system. It's not healthy for us as individuals or as a society, and is ultimately not healthy for development of software and related services in the future. Clearly [applause]
Clearly there are many smart and innovative people at Microsoft, and I imagine that within the buildings of Microsoft, that we don't see, there is a massive outpouring of new ideas and creativity. But the issue is that those get filtered through the business plan of a single entity, and what we as a society and a world need, going forward, is software we're not yet sure about is the unexpected and the serendipitous combination of new things combined with a choice of leadership, where we go, who we follow. And that's the core of the open source software world. And that's why the public policy considerations should promote the flourishing of open source and free software, and I'm very concerned that policy implications... that an effort to characterize open source and free software as bad for public policy could be undertaken, and more concerned that it might succeed. [applause]
I'll offer you three thoughts, okay? Some personal and some corporate. First, as I said again and again, there's no attempt on our part to characterize open source per se as bad, or bad from a policy point of view. [sarcastic laughter from audience]
[To audience] Please. Keep it cool.
Secondly, the ecosystem of software in the future will not be strictly about the things we call computers.
And so, the system you talk about retrospectively has largely been one where we knew what the computers were.
I can tell you in the first six years that I was at Microsoft, my job was essentially the non-PC world, and I can tell you that Microsoft has little sway with the world's telephone companies, consumer electronics companies, etcetera. In fact, arguably, we've had limited success in trying to get any of our technologies adopted in those other regimes. [one person applauding] That's great. I mean it's your opportunity. I mean, with or without government intervention, okay, I can speak personally that there are plenty of people who say, "Boy, you know, we have hegemony in our markets already. We have customer relationships. We have technologists. We have choice." All right? And I can attest to the fact that they've been able to effect those choices. So I think you have to really be thoughtful about what you think the future world is and where the intersection between government oversight, public policy, and the evolution of computing is.