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The Economist: Has Microsoft Changed? A kinder, gentler gorilla?

Apr 28, 2001, 21:17 (42 Talkback[s])

[ Thanks to Gary Edwards for the link and commentary. ]

"To the casual observer, Microsoft seems to have changed its ways. Closer inspection shows that it remains a heavy-handed monopolist.....Inside the software industry's 800-pound gorilla, the heart of an incorrigible monopolist beats still. So speaks the Economist.

Yet, hard core Linux Users and battle-ready cadres of OSS aficionados wonder about the wave of Windows developers and users descending on the fiercely independent shores of their computationally advanced domain. Would these interlopers share the vision, see the light, and determine finally to chase the future in a way that benefits all to the exclusion of none? Will they come to appreciate and love the technology, or are they just victims of their own shortsighted selfishness now fleeing for their lives? And if this is LinuxToday, why are there so many Microsoft stories?

The Economist article cuts to the chase and explains the MS dilemma through the lens of current MS activities. It's simple. They shot the sheriff and are now preparing to ravage the citizenry with heavily disguised .NET temptations. But will anyone ever trust them again?

The article (and background information) concludes that all the M$ open standards and open interoperability posturing is a cynical ruse. The primary motive being to create a .NET developer and user dependency on proprietary distributed web service protocols before the anti trust trial can reach conclusion. M$ can't force the transition to .NET if they're split in two. But once transition momentum has reached critical mass, a Jacksonian remedy wouldn't matter. The Internet would terminally be split into .NET dependant users, and the rest of us.

So what has this to do with LinuxToday? One could righteously argue that up till now the growth of Linux has been based on pure technology prowess and achievement. It also helps that Tux is a "faster, better, cheaper" way of doing almost anything that needs to be done. Open source itself is a most efficient way to solve the unsolvable without compromising objectives, all the while unleashing imaginative innovations from the most unlikely and widely dispersed sources of insight.

But this is a different calling that echoes down the talkback alleys of LinuxToday. A sense that a possible tragedy of enormous proportions is brewing. .NET shadows concerns of unwitting competitors and unknowing users alike. With a growing sense of doom, corporations, systems providers, and users find themselves increasingly interested in Linux, wondering whether the anxiety heavy heart of the matter can be explained in this fiery hot cauldron of community creativity. Sadly the interest comes not because Linux is a technically superior platform or more adaptable solution, but because the community force of Linux/OSS has a critical mass momentum most able and likely to defend against deceitful challenges to open standards, openly shared methods, and open models of collaborative computation.

With each passing day the headlines announce the arrival of another most unlikely corporation to embrace the Tuxmeister. It is not out of love for technology or lust for profit that they come. It's a hidden and oh so damnably primitive instinct for survival that has our collective neck hairs torqued hard in icy cold rigidity. We might not understand the deep growl behind the daily onslaught of happy lucky us .NET announcements, but something within us knows the primordial roar likely to follow. Given the Damoclean invitation of Microsoft extended standards, protocols and schemas, the search for a port before the storm hits is on. So why not go where so many others, including competitors, have gone?

The Economist speaks to a decidedly corporate, business, world finance crowd. They are saying don't buy into the .NET ruse. But they offer no alternative, and for sure one must be found. The world of distributed web services is upon us. The infrastructure players are all struggling for position. I'm a hardened J2EE~J2ME kind of guy myself. So I wonder why the Economist sees the world differently? A more optimistic view would have them directing their readers attention elsewhere, towards likely solutions.

My guess is that they know this is much more than a technology problem. The Internet has ushered in a collaborative world where loosely organized communities of shared interest can find each other, and using open standards, shared methods, and open source solutions, can resolve even the most fiercely complex problems. Linux, Apache, and even the Internet itself are proof enough of that. The great unanswered question might well be, can the Linux/OSS community make the transition from universal problem solving to universal standards setting? The critical mass of passionate network engineers and developers is there, but where goes the heart to welcome and embrace the problems of a world beyond?


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