Talk about a study in contrasts: While Apple is openly endorsing and embracing open source software in many aspects of its own operating system development, Microsoft Corp. is using its influence at the Department of Defense to lobby against open source code use. So reports the Washington Post in a recent article entitled Open source fight flares at Pentagon.
According to the report, officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency and even the offices of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have been “barraged” with contacts from Microsoft. The company insists that open source software is a security risk and threatens its own intellectual property.
Reporter Jonathan Krim said that Microsoft’s assertions are contrary to a report released earlier this month that suggests that open source software can, in fact, be more secure and less expensive that proprietary counterparts. The report was penned by The Mitre Corp., a not-for-profit systems engineering, research and development and information technology support organization that works with government agencies including the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service.
Mitre contended that any ban on the use of open source software by government agencies would have “immediate, broad and strongly negative impacts” on the Department of Defense. The Mitre report specified 249 different uses of open source software in defense-related work, including Web portals, network security and the development of a more secure version of the Linux operating system.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defense said that Microsoft contends that using free software with commercial software may violate the company’s intellectual property rights, and that government funding “subsidizes” open source software development efforts.