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Editor's Scream of Horror: Booga, Booga Ballmer!

Oct 29, 2004, 23:30 (18 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Ghoul

First off, some clarifications are in order. Last week, I ran a column partially based on the presumption that Novell was contemplating making SUSE Linux Pro a community-based distribution in the same manner that Red Hat created Fedora.

Well, after an e-mail conversation with Kevan Barney from Novell, I learned that the initial premise, gleaned from an eWeek interview with Ted Haeger from Novell, was incorrect. When Haeger made the comparison to Fedora, he was not making a direct one-to-one association. He was, instead, making a reference to Fedora's customer base. Not the Fedora methodology. Barney must have contacted the eWeek reporter, Steven Vaughan-Nichols, too because Vaughan-Nichols, like the good reporter he is, posted a new story that corrected the earlier misinterpretation.

So, like a game of telephone, a simple statement gets repeated slightly incorrectly, and then it was off to the races. For my own contribution to this error, I apologize. It changes the motivation for last week's column, and some of the particulars, as well. But, I am still worried that there is a duality of motivations where the Linux desktop is concerned. But I made that point last week. Time for something new.

Halloween is coming this weekend, so it's a scary, scary time. Steve Ballmer got the ball rolling early with his booga-booga memo to his customers. Linux is bad, bad, bad (I paraphrase) and it will steal your children and give you IT cooties, the message said. I read the missive, penned by Wagg-Ed--er, Ballmer, and thought to myself "does Pepsi ever do this to Coke?"

I mean, seriously, if Pepsi wants to increase market share, do they write big, weighty memos to their customers detailing all the things that are wrong with Coke? No, they hire a celebrity and run a commercial. Or put some coupons in the mail. Coke would do the same thing.

But Microsoft has done none of these things. Instead, they have strut out bought-and-paid-for analysts reports, made vague accusations about TCO and security, and written big, long, scary missives that tell their own customers (their own customers!) how bad Linux is.

Is this working for them? I am beginning to suspect not. If you have to try to convince your own customers not to try another product, I really wonder how strong a hand they think they have.

It is probably not a coincidence that Ballmer's message was sent one day before the announcement from the United Kingdom's Office of Government Commerce that identified open source software as a better, cheaper alternative for public use. A company with the resources of Microsoft surely knew that report was about to be released. I wonder if they knew that it was a report that was toned-down from its original form.

Regardless, Ballmer's message was a preemptive strike to keep more customers from bolting when they heard that Microsoft's No. 1 non-US customer was strongly questioning the value of the US company's products.

There may be a lot of these sorts of messages coming out of Redmond soon. It won't be just a scary Halloween thing. It'll be response after response to governments, major corporations, and small businesses coming to the conclusion that this Linux thing might be a better deal than filling Microsoft's coffers.

And that, my friends, will be the most scary thing Microsoft can think of.

Booga booga, Steve.

Even more scary this coming week--no, not the US elections--is the debut of the ProSCO.net Web site. Some of you have asked if we plan to cover it or even link to it. My pat answer is, I'd have to wait and see what they put up, just like I do with any article that appears on Linux Today. This is, no doubt, disquieting to some readers, as they liken SCO to the next coming of the Plague. Whatever they say on their site is no doubt going to be biased towards SCO and thus should not be printed here, is one argument I hear.

That is certainly true, but if we're not linking to biased SCO stories, then I suppose I would have to stop linking to Groklaw, too. While I think Groklaw is a great site, it is very evident that by the editorial choice of its webmaster, Pamela Jones, the information provided and analyzed is definitely pro-Linux. That's certainly cool with me, because that's her site. I link to articles there because they offer an alternative to SCO's press releases and public statements.

So, if ProSCO.net has something interesting to say, will I link to it? It seems likely. I have just this week pointed to Microsoft.com to show Ballmer's e-mail, undiluted by press analysis. Does this mean I agree with Ballmer or endorse Microsoft? Hello? Did you not read the first half of this column? Linking to ProSCO.net seems no less fair--if they have something interesting to say.

Several times this week, readers have asked me in public and private not to link to articles from certain sites or containing comments from certain analysts. I don't see that happening. I am fully aware of the fallacies in some of these articles, even as I post them. But just because I disagree with them does not mean they don't get posted. An article gets posted if it deals with Linux and/or open source in a unique and coherent way.

Have I made mistakes with this policy? You bet. Last week I posted an article from ONLamp that discussed open-source gaming... on Windows. If I had been paying more attention, that one might not have gone up. I chalk it up to being human, admit the error, and resolve to do better.

To me, censoring content just because it is not pro-Linux is a scary proposition. Where does it stop? Should I start deleting talkbacks because I don't agree with them? Posting only happy, happy stories? Ignore all those big, bad proprietary software companies?

Thanks, but that's a nightmare I'd rather not have.

Booga booga.