Consider the Source: Microsoft FUD Machine Shifts into Overdrive

16 May Consider the Source: Microsoft FUD Machine Shifts into Overdrive

Source (sôrs) n.
  1. The point at which something originates, comes into being, or is obtained.
  2. One that causes, creates, or initiates.

My friends up in Redmond are in real trouble. If you don’t think so, just read the latest version of their annual “Summer of Fear” tour. Microsoft has once again claimed that Linux infringes on its patents, but for the first time pins the exact patent infringement count at 235. They plan to sue their customers for violating their patents (by exposing the distributor clause in the GPL), but simultaneously offer the false olive leaf of protection from patent infringement if the customer chooses a specific flavor of linux (“theirs” – after the Novell/SUSE sellout). What this does, as Eben Moglen argues, is expose the individual developer to all the risk of patent infringement while protecting the corporate customers who enjoy the fruits of the developers labor. In the ecology of open source, it is akin to burning the rainforest that is supplying the oxygen you are breath.

Most of the luminaries within open source are appropriately outraged regarding Microsoft’s latest FUD missives and have posted en mass (Linus Torvalds (Linux creator), Jonathan Schwartz (CEO Sun), PJ (Groklaw), Matt Asay (Alfresco), Dave Rosen (Mulesource), etc. etc). So I will take a different tack based on my personal interests in open source health information technology. I need to write a letter to Bill Crounse, MD, Microsoft’s Worldwide Health Director.

Microsoft has obviously taken a very big interest in healthcare. In fact, their acquisition of Azzyxi and some recent customer wins, indicate that Microsoft is playing for keeps in the healthcare information technology space. Do they plan to bully their way with patients, physicians, provider organizations, and health plans like they are doing in every other industry? Do they plan to be openly innovative, transparent in their practices, and seek interoperability of information given their penchant for preserving the monopoly at all costs? Is Microsoft healthcare division willing to compete with newly ONCHIT certified open source software or will the healthcare industry soon be flooded with the latest FUDery regarding open source within healthcare?

Will Bill deny that the long held medical tradition of collaboration, peer review, transparency, meritocracy, evidence-based, and outcomes driven practices are also the same things that make open source the force that it is today? Would he deny that these characteristics have pushed medicine to the forefront of human knowledge? Is it not a logical conclusion that open source can also be a force of innovation within the healthcare industry by developing software out in a collaborative, open environment, based on standards, and with the collective intelligence of a very smart community? Seriously, how do the business practices of the company engender the trust or create the confidences required to allow my sensitive healthcare information to be handled by Microsoft?

I just find the whole Microsoft positioning to be untenable and so unpalatable in general, and then when it is applied within the healthcare context, it becomes just plain unbearable. Considering the “source”, and the complete lack of corporate trust, I’ll be looking for an open source alternatives to manage my personal health information.

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