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Editor's Note: Interesting Week, Interesting Future

May 13, 2005, 23:30 (14 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Well! That was certainly an interesting week.

Monday we watched in dismay as unethical journalism tried to bring down a community resource. Fortunately, a little common sense prevailed, and said journalist has lost a big outlet for her work. But, while many in the community cheered, the real culprits almost got away clean.

Almost. As Don Marti, Editor in Chief of Linux Journal pointed out in a comment over at James Turner's blog, how did Maureen O'Gara know that phone calls from that NY apartment to the Canopy Group? Kind of an obvious answer, if you think about it. No wonder it's been so quiet out of Linden lately.

I'm sorry, but it would be nice to deal with some villains that weren't so ridiculously inept, for a change. I mean, I don't think we want to face off with Dr. Doom, but do we have to keep squaring off with Leapfrog? (Obscure comic book reference, sorry.)

On the same day, Linux Today readers were mulling over a weekend report about the Y2038 bug. While I think everyone would agree that all bugs must die, having a lead-time of 33 years will be just enough time. Heck, even OpenSolaris might be out by then. Or Longhorn! Regardless, I will be 71 by then, and if I'm not wired to one big earth-spanning mega-computer or retired in Fiji, who cares?

Tuesday saw an interesting spin on a Veritest study of TCO--even though the study was sponsored by Microsoft, the study revealed that Linux was still the better operating system. Actually, that Veritest study was released some time ago, and a lot of media outlets reported it as a Microsoft victory, at least until they noticed that the study paired up Windows Server 2003 against a Red Hat Advanced 2.1 machine. Chagrined, the media outlets clammed up. Except for Tuesday's CXOtoday story, which ingenously played it straight and said (and here I paraphrase a smidge) "even though Microsoft had better numbers, the Linux machine was still close. Gee, just think what a current installation of Red Hat would do!"

Good for you, plucky CXOtoday.

The other big story that reared up was the continuing debate over the use of Java in OpenOffice.org. Some developers decided to take off and make a non-caffinated version of OO.o. But, fearing a big brouhaha right before the release of OO.o 2.0, the parties involved announced today that they're on the way to mending fences.

Wednesday saw the release of the story that would churn out the most copy of the week, save for the Groklaw incident. That was the revelation of a March dinner meeting between Steve Ballmer and Red Hat's Matthew Szulik in Manhattan. The timing of that meeting predates Microsoft Counsel Brad Smith's invitation for a sit-down with various members of the open source community, which made me wonder, whose idea was it for the powwow? Szulik, as a way to ease general tensions against Redmond? Or Ballmer, who saw his meeting with Szulik as a success he wanted to repeat?

A lot of speculation came out about that meeting, including Thursday's notion of the possible acquistion of Red Hat by Microsoft from Doc Searls. That was the big story on Thursday, and it seems that the Linux community has a bit of a grudge with that Redmond company. Gee, can't imagine why.

But, while I regard Doc Searls with highest esteem, I think he might have been thinking too big for this one, though he almost touched on what I think may be a possibility in his blog entry.

Remember: Microsoft does not make much money selling Windows. It makes money with licensing other products, partcularly Office. So, if I were Microsoft, would I see a bigger threat in Linux or OpenOffice.org? Right now, I would have to say OpenOffice.org, because it's cross-platform and growing fast in capabilities and deployments. So, try this idea on for size: what if Ballmer was talking to Szulik about an exclusive Red Hat distribution of Office for Linux?

Weird, yes, but not as weird as Microsoft buying Red Hat outright. It seems a plus for both sides, at least in my initial analysis. Red Hat gets the rights to distribute Office with its desktop products and differentiate itself from the other distros, and Office makes it onto one more platform. And as for the "why legitimize Linux with such a visible product?" argument, just look at OS X for the answer. Microsoft has released Office for Macs for a long time, and it didn't cut too much into its Windows market share, did it?

Ballmer may have pitched this idea to Red Hat as part of a broader plan to port Office to the *nix class of operating systems. Port Office to Linux, and (if and when it gets working) OpenSolaris' Janus could open another platform for Office.

And, Office might not be the application in question. It could be something else. But my, would Office be the big announcement that would blow people away. Especially timed with Longhorn. Linux would be seen as benefiting from this play. But OpenOffice.org, possibly a greater threat, would quietly be marginalized.

Like I said, an interesting week. And it looks like interesting times are coming soon.

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