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9/13/2002
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IT Confidential: How Open Are The Feds To Open Source?

HP's approach to open-source was more 'laid back' than IBM's, Perens says.

Last spring, Mitch Daniels, head of the Office of Management and Budget, met with Ralph "Little Red Corvair" Nader to talk technology. Specifically, Nader was pitching the advantages of Linux over Microsoft's Windows, both in terms of security (or lack thereof) and vendor lock-in (the potential for). Were the feds convinced? "We don't have a policy view in applying open source versus commercial licenses in software," says Mark Foreman, associate director of the OMB and the nation's de facto CIO. But Foreman sees value in open-source computing. "There's a lot of intellectual capital coming out of that community, and we've got a lot of government IT folks helping create that intellectual capital," he says. As for which is more secure, Linux or Windows, he's noncommittal. "I don't make blanket statements," he says.

Speaking of open source, Hewlett-Packard fired Bruce Perens, its "global strategist" for open-source software, last month, apparently for advocating open-source a bit too strongly. HP hired Perens, who worked at Pixar for a dozen years, in December 2000, to advise HP management on how to work with the open-source community. But HP fired Perens for Microsoft-baiting, such as starting an industry initiative called Sincere Choice to counter a Microsoft-backed group, the Initiative For Software Choice. Microsoft wants to check adoption of Linux and other open-source software, which competes with Windows.

My favorite John Landry moment was him dressed in a Spiderman outfit dangling helplessly over an auditorium full of Lotus Notes users, the victim of a "Web-enabled-Notes" publicity stunt gone horribly wrong. Landry, who has a long history as an enterprise software developer, including stints at Cullinet, Dun & Bradstreet, and Lotus, last week was named CEO of ThinkingBytes, a vendor of PC-to-PDA data-synchronization software that Landry says is "truly revolutionary."

Not that I make mistakes, but here are a couple of "clarifications" of previous items: the Stanford professor who founded NonStop Solutions is Hau Lee (not Hua) and Case Western Reserve's new Frank Gehry-designed building houses its Weatherhead School of Management (not Business).

A source at WorldCom confirms that the beleaguered telecom company, while searching for a new CEO now that John Sidgmore has said he plans to step down, is also mulling a name change. Under consideration: MCI, which WorldCom acquired in 1998, and UUnet, its Internet backbone subsidiary, which WorldCom bought in 1996.


WorldBomb? Too obvious. Bye-bye-net? Too mean. Got a name, or an industry tip? Send it to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about the merits of open source versus Microsoft, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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