Its Not ALL About Linux

Let's be real: Not every move Microsoft makes is dictated by its worries over open source.

Theres no denying that Microsoft is worried about Linux — and justifiably so. But, contrary to prevailing "wisdom," this fear is not dictating Microsofts every move.

Wait! Before you burn me in effigy atop a pyre of flaming "Linux for Dummies" books, hear me out.

I am discounting neither the value of Linux, nor the huge impact it has had on Microsoft and its customers. Microsoft watches Linux like a hawk and has folks on the Windows Server team who are dedicated to following every open-source twist and turn. And I, for one, am ecstatic that Redmond has some real competition, thanks to Linux and its backers.

But Microsoft knows there is a whole community of folks out there who are married to the Microsoft mob. For better or for worse. Whether Microsoft makes them richer or poorer. Until bankruptcy do they part.

In many markets where Microsoft competes, Linux and open source dont factor into the equation. Linux doesnt show up on Microsofts desktop OS radar. It doesnt figure when it comes to the market for desktop office suites. Dev tools? Gaming? Open source is just a blip.

Nonetheless, its become chic to use Linux as the yardstick for every move Microsoft makes. But to do so is to gloss over Microsofts real motivations.

Here are three examples of what Im talking about:

  • Exhibit No. 1: "Everyone noticed Microsofts sudden about-face regarding support for Windows 98, making the software giants growing indifference toward the needs of its customers plainly obvious," according to a recent Sun PR pitch sent to me via e-mail. "Perhaps the competitive pressure from Linux desktops such as Suns Java Desktop System, already the leading Linux desktop and the de facto alternative to Windows, has spurred Microsoft to re-evaluate its plan to force customers to upgrade."

Sorry, Sun. Not in your wildest dreams. Microsoft decided to add a measly two years of "extended" (read "paid") support for Windows 98 and ME because its users werent ready to upgrade yet.

I know some industry watchers are claiming that Microsoft extended Windows 98 and Windows MEs life support because of THE LINUX THREAT. But I dont buy it. It doesnt make sense. These users are adverse to change. They are sticking with what works. They arent ready to jump to a whole new platform, where their apps may no longer run at all.

  • Exhibit No. 2: "Microsoft plans to give away (its Services for Unix 3.5) migration software in an attempt to prevent the loss of customers to open-source operating systems," proclaimed a story published on an online news site this week.

I disagree. Microsoft did not make Services for Unix (SFU) free because of Linux. I believe Microsoft decided to make SFU free because the company is preparing to integrate it right into the operating system in the not-so-distant future. Redmond makes a lot of Windows Server add-ons free. Plus, even though SFU includes many Unix utilities, it is not designed to supplant Linux or Unix.


Read the rest of Foleys column

on Microsoft Watch.