LinuxUser.co.uk: Microsoft before the earthquake [Eben Moglen on the MS GPL FAQ]
Jun 15, 2001, 15:15 (25 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eben Moglen)
Always good to hear it straight from one of the architects: Eben
Moglen analyzes the GPL FAQ published on Microsoft's site and finds
asking Redmond about the GPL is "like asking Joe Stalin about the
US Constitution" (neatly skirting Godwin's Law, but only barely.)
The point to all the GPL FUD, says Professor Moglen, is a looming
crisis for Microsoft in the embedded space.
"...Microsoft's GPL FAQ isn't going to have much
influence with one of the communities it's aimed at: software
developers. Independent developers are more likely to consult the
GNU Project's GPL FAQ: why ask Napoleon Bonaparte to explain the
First Amendment? But Microsoft is also aiming this phase of its
public relations war on free software at corporate bigshots,
because a large strategic crisis is looming.
The economics of the palmtop market are about to change
drastically, as global consumer electronics firms release palmtop
products that compete with established devices sold at high markups
only possible for proprietary technology. Prices are going to drop
sharply; thus the idea of using free software for all but the top
layer of software in palmtop devices is overwhelmingly attractive.
Microsoft will have trouble remaining in the appliance market once
manufacturers have learned that the GPL doesn't prevent them from
putting a thin proprietary layer on top of a GNU/Linux system and
embedding that combination in their hardware. They will get the
superb reliability of free software, and a global codebase, at zero
marginal cost and low fixed cost. Windows CE and all follow-ons
will be dead, and Microsoft will be excluded from the smallest
computers that do real work, which is where the future of the
industry always lies. Checkmate.
So Microsoft is addressing its FUD about the GPL to the highest
leadership of major global corporations, companies who put their
nameplates on the electronics of daily life. Microsoft is trying to
convince them not to use free software in their appliance products,
by claiming it's murky, risky, difficult, arcane. But freedom is
simple, as the appliance makers are going to see in the end, with
their eyes firmly on the bottom line. An earthquake in the industry
is coming: free software matters."