Do Linux advocates have anything to fear from Microsoft?May 27, 1999, 20:50 (109 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tom Adelstein)
"the Redmond based company has declared war on Linux and the Open Source Software movement." - Tom Adelstein
Why an enemy?
Microsoft considers Linux and the entire Open Source Software (OSS) community a competitive menace. Consider a quote from Vinod Valloppillil of Microsoft as presented in the now famous Halloween Papers (http://www.opensource.org/halloween.html). He writes:
... OSS poses a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft -- particularly in server space. Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mindshare threat.
In his writing Valloppillil expresses what many of us have known for a long time. Linux can behave like an NT server and perform NT functions for free. People can install Linux on the same Intel based computer that runs Microsoft operating systems and provide security, print and file services and host an intranet and no one pays license fees. That cuts into Microsoft's revenue stream. That's a threat.
No one in the Open Source community should take Microsoft lightly. Redmond has squashed competition regularly on its way to domination of the operating system market. Consider how Windows 95 destroyed IBM's O/S Warp operating system. Many of us remember the famous "Get Warped" advertising campaign that generated sales of approximately 4 million copies of OS/2. On August 31, 1995, Microsoft Released Windows 95 in history's largest media blitz and OS/2 became a footnote.
Consider Microsoft's conquests of previous monopolies in the market. Lotus 1-2-3 once owned the spreadsheet market. Lotus took out VisiCalc and SuperCalc in 1982 while gaining a 90% market share for over a decade. WordPerfect emerged as the market leader for wordprocessing in the mid-1980's while flattening WordStar and grabbing a good 90% market share. In the total number of nodes deployed in PC networks Novell's NetWare had an astounding 80% of the market in 1993, the year Microsoft released Windows NT 3.1. Finally, consider Netscape Navigator with its 90% share of the Browser market.
In less than a decade, Microsoft has replaced every one of those once dominant companies with its own products. Microsoft has a history of annihilating its competition. While the Redmond Company went about its business, the popular press of the time took humorous shots at Microsoft even scoffing at their aims. In the background, many of us rooted for the underdog Microsoft.
Anyone who thinks of Bill Gates as a stranger to free software forgets about the tactics that Microsoft used to bend Netscape in halves. Remember that Netscape charged for its Navigator Browser. Microsoft gave its Browser away for free. Microsoft also populated its Web site with numerous free downloads such as free web servers, scripting languages, editors, graphics programs, SDK's (Software Development Kits) and new web technologies such as Active X.
Microsoft is a monopoly
Once Microsoft took market leadership in what seems like every possible application area, they became monolithic. With control of the market came control of market channels. If you sell computers and you want an operating system for those computers you do what the only supplier says. In the meantime, the Microsoft culture blossomed.
Microsoft employees can only achieve their goals of wealth if their stock options have worth. They have no incentive if the stock price falls. They center all their activities around increasing the stock value, which has made Bill Gates the richest man on earth. Why would they stop now? They have to take on a challenge, win and see those stock prices roar. That gets the Microsoft juices going!
Microsoft denied that Vinod Valloppillil's report held offical status. That led Eric S. Raymond to write:
Ironically, if we take Microsoft at its word, the memos are far more damning -- because that would imply a milieu in which FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) and monopolistic dirty tricks are not merely the province of a few top executives, but a pervasive part of the culture clear down to the level of staff engineers.
"Linux advocates need to understand their vulnerability." - Tom Adelstein
Linux advocates should consider Microsoft's fear of Open Source Software. Microsoft's fears of competition motivate it into action. Once motivated, fear becomes the most important factor in what will push the Company into annihilation mode.
The recent article by Lee Gomes in " The Wall Street Journal" says volumes about Microsoft. Consider the following quote:
In what amounts to a case of "The Empire Strikes Back," the software giant in recent weeks has deployed a team of engineers and marketers to keep tabs on Linux...The Linux effort mirrors Microsoft 's response to other marketplace threats, such as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java programming language... "Getting inside the head of our competitors is one of our best practices here at Microsoft," says Jim Ewel, a director of marketing in the company's Windows 2000 organization, who is in charge of the effort.
Upstart Linux Draws a Microsoft Attack Team
By Lee Gomes in " The Wall Street Journal" Page B1
(Copyright (c) 1999, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
Following the euphoria of another Linux Expo last week in Raleigh, North Carolina, Linux advocates need to understand their vulnerability. Microsoft is a veteran outfit with two decades of bloody campaigns. Idealists and advocates populate the ranks of OSS teams. Vinod Valloppillil's report should remind us that they know how to kill us while we sleep:
Generally, Microsoft wins by attacking the core weaknesses of OSS projects. (Vinod suggests that Microsoft) de-commoditize protocols & applications...OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized simple protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry into the market. David Stutz makes a very good point: in competing with Microsoft's level of desktop integration, "commodity protocols actually become the means of integration" for OSS projects. There is a large amount of IQ being expended in various IETF working groups, which are quickly creating the architectural model for integration for these OSS projects.
Be prepared for a blow
Microsoft does not fear the Justice Department, the US Government or anyone else for that matter. Expect Gates to release a free "Windows 2000 Lite" operating system in the near future. Expect a browser like Internet Explorer 5.0 and all its accessories such as Outlook Express and FrontPage Express. This little O/S would live along the lines of Windows CE and feature the basics casual users want. They want a web browser, email and a word processor.
Also, anticipate legal actions once Microsoft settles the Justice Department case. At the moment, Microsoft rests on a natural stronghold - its dominance with operating systems and the cash flow that results from proprietary office suite licensing. But Linux has hurt Microsoft. The next move Microsoft would take is to provoke hostilities. They'll want to get the leadership of the OSS movement occupied with lawyers, document production and hearings. But, if Microsoft considers embracing OSS, then Redmond has figured out a way to take advantage of the Linux community and that would pose an unclear and insidious danger.
For example, I remember when people considered IBM as the evil empire. Today, IBM advocates Linux. Such a turn about would seem completely unthinkable a decade ago. As the song goes, "funny how time slips away."
More grist for the mill from the "Halloween Papers", Vinod Valloppillil's suggestions for wiping out Linux: