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Rant Mode Equals One: The Linux Reality Versus the Microsoft Dream

Feb 16, 2001, 09:08 (147 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

By Paul Ferris

Well, we're finally getting down to brass tacks with Microsoft.

Jim Allchin, in an interview with CNET.com comes right out and proclaims that "Open source is an intellectual-property destroyer." He then goes on to equate Linux-like operations with Napster-like operations. The two things aren't the same and Allchin knows it. But possibly a lot of people looking in will think the two are inseparable. Possibly the witch hunt can begin if you throw enough mud at the competition.

The threats are not comical anymore. I was laughing at Steve Ballmers' characterization of Linux as "crummy". I have to admit that when I read that I thought "If that's the best he can do, then we're in the home stretch." What was baffling was why he didn't go all out and say it was "Ugly", or "Butt-ugly"? I don't know -- but crummy? Well!

These sound-bites from Allchin, however, aren't so funny. You get the feeling that possibly he wants to begin legislating something in Microsoft's favor (like UCITA wasn't already enough). This from a company that has been screaming mighty loud about preventing the government from meddling in their affairs.

It's different, I guess, when it comes to Linux and Open Source, eh? The government might begin supporting Linux more, I guess is the worry. The government should support Microsoft more -- why? Because Allchin hints that Microsoft is where the real innovation is taking place.

When has Microsoft been innovative? It's no secret that the single most innovative thing in recent years (the Internet) is running mostly non-Microsoft products. Some of us will even go so far as to say that the Internet wouldn't have happened had it not been for Open Source. Why? Because that's where the real innovation is happening.

Anywhere but Microsoft

Microsoft has been a close follower, picking up technologies developed elsewhere and rolling them into their own. That's not innovation.

Jim, I understand that you want to innovate -- please start sometime soon, and maybe we'll all listen closer to your demands. In the mean time, what about my right to innovate? Where is my right to innovation when you have the rights to the source code locked up tight in a safe in the Redmond castle?

Where is all this talk about "The American Way" when the rights of the people who use a product are compromised -- when there is taxation without representation? When you charge for something that many (inside and outside of the United States) believe should be the property of the people who use it?

Microsoft did not invent the operating system. Microsoft came along and packaged it, branded it and made it as proprietary as they could while at the same time yanking as many ideas from competitors as possible.

Jim -- that's not innovation. That's integration. That's marketing. You are now and always will be free to do that.

And Linux isn't a threat to Microsoft's ability to innovate either. Not only do you now have a cool source of new ideas to patch into Windows -- you have the source code to go along with it as an example (Not that Microsoft would ever use Open Source code in any Windows product, mind you).

Linux is a threat, however, to Microsoft operating system revenue. Possibly the same way that the American revolution was a threat to Englands' tax revenue. For the same reasons, the Linux and Open Source revolution is going to continue to happen.

So Jim, what do you suggest? Legislate usage of Windows? Look around -- Linux is a global phenomenon. The global revolution is going to happen, regardless of the legislation passed in America. You want to import more programmers from around the globe, but at the same time you don't think that their ideas will make it in too? You want to import talent from around the globe, but you think you will keep out something like Linux?

It's amazing the way that Microsoft plays the game. The rules only apply when things happen in their favor.

Taxation without representation? Only if it helps Microsoft.

Legislation? Only if it helps Microsoft maintain their monopoly.

Innovation? Only if it can happen in one place -- Redmond Washington.

It's time for Microsoft to give up the FUD -- and start innovating like they claim they want to.

The cat is out of the bag. The GNU General Public License is no more anti-American than the United States Constitution. True, honest to God innovation is happening with Linux right now, and the party is open to everyone -- including Microsoft if they want to get in on it. It's a growing phenomena that is creating intellectual property and true new innovations. The only thing that can possibly upset Jim Allchin is that Microsoft can't own that intellectual property. They aren't free to repackage it and drive out competitors with the same tricks they've always depended upon in the past.

What a sham. It's un-American all of a sudden if Microsoft can't own it.

Go ahead, squeeze harder. Lobby like crazy. That's the American way, right? Get the government to help support the Microsoft-Party line. Get that threat of competition extinguished right away. Go on importing programmers from around the globe so that you can maintain your precious locked-in intellectual property and tax the whole world for items that are available otherwise for free from a user-supported code base.

Keep the American dream alive, Jim.

Yours, that is. In the mean time, I'll live with my Linux realities.

Paul Ferris is the Director of Technology for the Linux and Open Source Channel at internet.com, and has been covering Linux and Open Source news for over 3 years.