TOP>Bill Totten (Founder)>Papers


What Went Wrong With Japan's Economy (January, 2012)

  - Part I
  - Part II
  - Part III

Open-source shift also occurring in our company (March 12, 2007)

According to press reports, the customs service of the government of Cuba is already using LINUX, the open-source operating system, and other Cuban government agencies also plan to shift to open-source software in the near future. The source code of open-source software is available to the public over the Internet and can be modified and re-distributed free of charge by anyone. In contrast, the source code of proprietary software typically is not open to the public and customers must pay a fee to use it.

Looking only at the actions of the Cuban government, one might think that the Cubans are simply making a choice that epitomizes the stance of an anti-American socialist country. The shift to open-source software, however, is not limited to Cuba. The governments of Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Venezuela, and China are also planning to wean PC users away from Microsoft's Windows toward open-source software. At the local government level, European cities such as Bristol, Amsterdam, and Munich have already started making the transition.

Open-source has also been making inroads in Japan's public institutions. And in France, the French Assembly will convert to LINUX operating systems in its PCs after June, and will install OpenOffice for spread-sheet and word-processing tasks. By making such changes, governments have been demonstrating that they no longer rely solely on the the products of one company, and that they can effectively use tax revenue to manage information technology.

In January of this year, the European Commission announced that according to results of a study it conducted, use of open-source software could cut costs. The report was based on a detailed analysis of open-source projects in six EU countries. Of course Microsoft contested the report, insisting that its Windows operating system was more straight-forward and cheaper to use than open-source.

Considering these trends, we at Ashisuto decided last year to switch the PC office software used in our company completely from Microsoft proprietary packages to open-source software. There was a certain irony in the timing of the deletion of all Microsoft office products from PCs in our company: the deadline for deletion was the day after Microsoft's much-anticipated announcement of VISTA, the newest version of its PC operating system. Of course we continued some Microsoft license agreements that we judged to be absolutely indispensable for responding to the needs of our customers, but on a company-wide basis, OpenOffice is now our office software standard. As a rule, our employees now use only freely-available open-source software for creating documents, spread-sheets, and presentation materials.

Interestingly, according to press reports issued in January, Microsoft acknowledged that the National Security Agency of the US government evaluated the product and gave Microsoft feedback concerning its security prior to the general public release of VISTA. With disclosure of this news, some experts worried that NSA may have used the opportunity to create back-door holes in VISTA. Indeed, there is no guarantee that the NSA did not in fact add secret features to the software.

When one considers the possibility that the National Security Agency can now possibly open up every Windows user's computer to intelligence gathering through access to Microsoft's proprietary source code, it is not surprising that countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and China are shying away from using Microsoft products. While it is conjecture whether or not Microsoft made its source code available for secret investigation, one thing is certain: such a relationship would be mutually beneficial primarily to the US government and Microsoft. In such a scenario, the US government could have provided free appraisal of the security status of a private company's products and its agent, the NSA, then would have future access to many kinds of users' information through a secret back-door.

It should be stated clearly that our company has not shifted to open source because we are anti-American or because we are anti-Microsoft. Rather, this shift has more to do with the issue of "intellectual property rights". I have always been opposed to the use of intellectual property rights by the powerful to monopolize profits for themselves. I also predicted that a sea change would occur related to this issue, and property monopolized by companies or individuals would eventually be made public and become common property. Moreover, I believed the value of such property would decrease generally, and in the software industry such a development would take the form of a trend toward wider adoption of open-source software. Thus, the shift by our company now is in expectation of further changes in this direction.

A few years ago it was reported that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said of those advocating reform or elimination of the intellectual property concept: "There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and movie-makers and software makers under various guises."[1] Considering that the personal assets accumulated by Bill Gates through application of intellectual property protections by his company are now in excess of fifty billion dollars, I have no objection if others wish to label me an anti-Microsoft communist.

[1] Bill Gates calls free culture advocates communists

Company Management for Happiness of Japan's Citizens (January 2000)

I believe the goal of society is the happiness of citizens. The best society is one that achieves the greatest happiness for the largest number of citizens. The roles of businesses in society are to provide products and services contributing to the happiness of citizens, and to provide jobs. Pursuit of profit, revenues, or market share are not appropriate goals for businesses. A business should seek only enough profit to stay viable - that is, to cover the investments in research, development, plant and facilities necessary to enable it to continue providing products and services contributing to the happiness of customers, and to continue providing jobs for its employees.

A Computer on Every Lap (January 27, 1991)

Computers the size of a notebook are changing Japan's economy and the way its citizens work and live. These amazing little notebook computers soon will revolutionize the entire world's computer industry and the way all of us think about and use computers. They will impact the way we work and live more than the fax did, and faster.

Red Paper: Are We Abandoning Our Computer Industry to Japan? (May 6, 1990)

I call this a "red" paper because red is the color I most associate with danger. I believe that the United States is in danger of abandoning another vital industry to Japan. This is its computer industry, both computer hardware and computer software. Abandon. Surrender. Thrown away, not taken away. Not stolen. Not elbowed aside by artificial means, simply surrendered.