Microsofts Linux Message

By Scot Petersen  |  Posted 2001-02-12

Working in the press room of Linuxworld in New York this month, I found myself checking e-mail on, of all things, a desktop PC running Windows 98. Actually, there were a couple of Linux stations in there. But most of the desktops ran Windows, and the Linux machines were always occupied. And I was so looking forward to Red Hat. All of which makes one wonder why anything related to Microsoft was near the Javits Center. I couldnt imagine a more hostile environment for a Redmondite this side of a DOJ courtroom. But there they were. Officials were seen lurking around the press area, trying to spread a message that didnt hide the fact they are very worried about Linux, a message that also tried to obscure the real reasons why. In fact, it was Microsoft misinformation in its purest form.

"Its the business model around free software that concerns us, where people get sucked in to not paying for software," Doug Miller, group product manager for the Windows Server Group, told eWeeks Peter Galli. "This will be a disservice for them, as they need established, well-funded companies to offer innovation."

Lets break this down. First, I wont belabor the fact that it was precisely "free software" that got Microsoft in trouble with the DOJ in the first place. Second, the message implies that Linux is free. The source code is free, but any Linux platform that provides value to a corporate user is not and never will be. Distributions and services are what are guiding Linux into the enterprise.

Which leads us to the real threat. Microsoft indeed doesnt have to worry about Linux on the desktop—thats probably never going to happen. But Linux is taking Microsofts business in the server and embedded space.

Finally, the implication that software users need a company like Microsoft to provide innovation is just so much leftover spin from the DOJ trial. The fact is that a completely decentralized, noncorporate coalition delivered Linux as it stands today. Now thats innovation.

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