Red Hat exec criticizes software patents, Microsoft

Red Hat exec criticizes software patents, Microsoft

A Red Hat executive speaking at the MySQL Users Conference 2005 event in Santa Clara, California, on Tuesday heaped scorn on the issuance of software patents, saying they stifle innovation.

The executive, Michael Tiemann, vice president of Open Source Affairs at Red Hat, also criticized Microsoft's "Shared Source" approach to open source. The Shared Source program lets users look at code but not modify it, he pointed out.

Panning patents, Tiemann described them as a challenge to enabling massive change.

"Every time a software patent blooms, it's a promise to cease innovation in that space for 20 years," Tiemann said.

An audience member agreed that patents can limit innovation. "I do see it as a big issue," said Cornelius Sybrandy, software engineer at custom development shop Concurrent Technologies.

Criticizing Microsoft, Tiemann cited a dramatic increase in spending on security issues by Microsoft. "This is a failure of the Shared Source model," he said. Microsoft has not fostered participation of a user community that could help make its code secure, he added.

With Shared Source, "You can look but only Microsoft can touch [the code]," Tiemann said.

Tiemann also raised the issue of software licensing, citing the preponderance of license types that have sprung up for open source projects. He noted that the Open Source Initiative (OSI), of which he is president, is looking at the issue but that the recently expanded OSI board does not have the answers.

"I'm not predicting that we are the exclusive agents who can solve it," Tiemann said after his presentation.

Prior to Tiemann's presentation, MySQL founders David Axmark and Monty Widenius talked up improvements planned for the open source database. One is improving ad hoc query support in versions 5.1 and 5.2 of the database, planned for next year, Widenius said. This will be done via new algorithms.

MySQL officials also touted MySQL Workbench, a database design program due later in 2005 that is intended to boost development of databases on a 2D canvas and also to make it easier for users to document their work. Performance tuning advisors also are due at the end of the year.

Axmark rejected the notion that open source does not provide innovation. "I think that's BS. I use open source and open source has always been innovative in the small things," with users-at-large contributing, Axmark said.

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