Here published with kind permission by Cybersource Pty. Ltd.

30th April, 2007

On April 19th, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corp., unveiled a plan which seeks to enlist the help of developing nations in a barely-concealed attempt to get the next billion PC users hooked onto Microsoft software. Under the guise of trying to bridge the digital divide, Microsoft will instead aim to extend its desktop monopoly by using the same technique it's used for years through software piracy: platform addiction. An addiction it will milk in future decades. An addiction that governments should reject in favour of free and open source software - the only way to truly bridge the digital divide.

"Microsoft's strategy of getting developing nations hooked on its software was clearly outlined by Bill Gates almost a decade ago," said Con Zymaris, CEO of long-standing open source firm Cybersource.

Specifically, Bill Gates, citing China as an example, said:

"Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software," he said. "Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."1

"From this, we analyse the following strategy. Microsoft would allow users in developing countries to use pirated software, which in turn would lock those users into Microsoft's proprietary data formats, proprietary protocols and proprietary Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Once so tithed to Microsoft, these users would find it almost impossible to move to alternatives, thus providing a captive future revenue stream," explained Zymaris. "And this new strategy is even more insidious, as Microsoft is expecting governments to pay for the hardware, thus paving the way for Microsoft to snare its next billion addicts in a friction-free manner."

"What is equally apparent is that Microsoft would prefer to lose money initially, to prevent competitors from capturing mindshare. Today, Linux and open source software are Microsoft's biggest competitor. And Linux and open source software are capturing huge mindshare in developing nations, thus Microsoft's knee-jerk reaction in offering its $3-meal-deal," Zymaris said. "Instead of accepting the Microsoft deal, governments should push open source software, guaranteeing freedom from vendor lock-in and future price hikes."

And where Microsoft offers a handful of cut-down applications in its $3-meal-deal, open source supplies thousands of complete applications, for no cost at all. Highly functional applications such as Scribus (desktop publishing), Gimp, (photo editing), Blender3D (animation), Inkscape (vector drawing), MySQL (database), Python (programming environment), will help students in their creative endevours. Other landmark applications such as Linux, (office suite) and Firefox (web browser) will help all users.

"By helping to make users aware of open source alternatives, by disseminating that software through CD give-aways and via subsidised, low-cost PCs, governments will be reducing their reliance on proprietary vendors and improve access to 21st century technology. It's the only way to ensure that their citizens will be free to use quality software, without constraints, in perpetuity," concluded Zymaris.