As was widely reported last week, Japan, China and Korea are trying to put together a program to jointly develop an Open Source operating system to stand as a competitor to Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system.
In an interview with Wired, Microsoft spokesperson (and former US trade official) Tom Robertson complains that this potential competition is inappropriate and possibly raises questions about restraint of trade.
At the crux of the problem are two issues: customer choice and security.
The Asian nations are claiming that they are too beholden to one American Company for operating systems that power much of their infrastructure and commerce. They assert the need for diversity and choice in the marketplace and claim that Microsoft's monopoly is a commercial and strategic threat to them.
Microsoft, for its part, claims that choice is an issue too. Mr. Robertson asserted that "governments should not be in the position to decide who the winners are." Understandable from a company that is under anti-trust investigation on multiple continents already.
Second, and probably more annoying to Microsoft, is the complaint by the Asian countries that they just cannot sit idly by while the operating system that runs most of the world's desktops creates a ticking time bomb of a security threat. With recent publicized outbreaks of viruses and worms that target the operating system, the countries complain that Microsoft's software is replete with bugs.
Microsoft counters this claim with the following comment: "Pointing to a particular software vendor and to a particular software (standard) gets you nowhere".
Understandable from a former government trade negotiator, but for those of us in the industry it isn't hard to see that the virus and worm problems of the Microsoft operating system are indeed unique among all of the software world right now. Indeed, it is the most interesting target, but most of the problems that have been seen (the Microsoft Messaging System, security designed only for internal LANs, and many others) point to a careless disregard for security on behalf of the company.
If Microsoft spent less time defending itself in the media and more time creating software that wasn't replete with security holes in the first place, the world might sleep better at night. Besides, they'd get to sell it to you for $250 as an "upgrade" as opposed to handing it out as a bug fix.