May 29, 2003 12:12 PM PDT

India leader advocates open source

The president of India added to a growing foreign-relations headache for Microsoft with a speech in which he advocated broader adoption of open-source software.

In a speech during dedication ceremonies Wednesday for the country's new International Institute of Information Technology in the university city of Pune, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam recounted a conversation earlier this year with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

"We were discussing the future challenges in information technology, including the issues related to software security," Kalam said, according to a transcript of the speech. "I made a point that we look for open-source codes so that we can easily introduce the users built security algorithms. Our discussions became difficult, since our views were different."

Microsoft has become an increasingly harsh critic of the open-source model, in which the underlying code for software is freely shared for users to modify and distribute, saying the approach is risky and undermines innovation. The open-source Linux operating system has become a growing threat to the dominance of Microsoft's Windows.

Kalam said open-source software offers developing nations such as India the best opportunity to modernize.

"The most unfortunate thing is that India still seems to believe in proprietary solutions," he said in the speech. "Further spread of IT, which is influencing the daily life of individuals, would have a devastating effect on the lives of society due to any small shift in the business practice involving these proprietary solutions. It is precisely for these reasons open-source software needs to be built, which would be cost-effective for the entire society. In India, open-source code software will have to come and stay in a big way for the benefit of our billion people."

The president's speech comes just after another international embarrassment for Microsoft, with the government of Munich, Germany, announcing this week that it plans to migrate 14,000 PCs from Windows to Linux. The city will also drop Microsoft's Office productivity suite for the free OpenOffice package.

The German government has backed development of Linux software, as have Chinese officials.

 

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