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Red Herring: Linux's threat to Microsoft

Jun 15, 1999, 09:46 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jason Pontin)

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"Many were dumbfounded when Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's... president, said that the company was 'thinking with great interest' about releasing some, or all, of the Windows OS as open-source software. ... No one really believed Mr. Ballmer... but that Mr. Ballmer said it at all, and that we thought about Red Hat so hard, says a lot about the threat that Linux poses to Microsoft."

"Microsoft's challenge has been to reproduce the strange ecology of Windows on the Internet. ... In order to turn the Internet into one great Microsoft LAN, the company requires a share of the Internet server market similar to its share of LAN servers. Then Internet developers would write server applications that ran only on Windows, and Web developers would design sites that took advantage of specific features in Windows.

But the success of Linux means that this will probably never happen. In Linux, the Internet has found an OS commensurate with its needs. Like Unix, on which it is based, and unlike Windows, Linux is, in the jargon of the industry, scalable and robust. It offers the benefits of open-source development: the nearly continuous improvement of a program by its most enthusiastic users. People want to use it. Together with Unix OSs, Linux means that Windows' share of the server market will never be overwhelming, and developers will write Internet applications, not Windows applications."

"To argue that Microsoft is in trouble may seem perverse. At $429 billion, it is the best-capitalized company in the world. But often, empires are in decline when to contemporaries they seem strongest."

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