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LinuxJournal: Why is Microsoft Attacking the GPL?

Jun 28, 2001, 13:23 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bryan Pfaffenberger)

This column discusses FUD. Specifically, it discusses Microsoft FUD as directed against the GPL. Along the way, it looks at the classic pre-Microsoft example: IBM's campaign against Amdahl:

"Business history teaches the following lesson: When a market-dominating firm engages in a FUD campaign of this magnitude, it's not merely because they're scared of competition from a new market entrant. Often, it's because the new market entrant is seen to challenge the business model that has enabled the market-dominant firm to make huge gobs of money. I believe the GPL does pose a threat to Microsoft's business model, and that's why the free software licensing scheme is under such concerted attack. Specifically, the GPL threatens Microsoft's ability to preserve what economists and legal scholars (as well as the judge in the Microsoft antitrust case) call the "application barrier to entry"--the primary means by which Microsoft has been able to establish and preserve commanding dominance in its core markets.

I'll make this argument by recounting the story of the archetypical FUD campaign, IBM's 1970s-era effort to discredit the upstart Amdahl Corporation. I'll also examine some of the evidence that's come to light--some of it from the lips of none other than Gates himself--since Microsoft's FUD campaign started. Let me apologize in advance for the length of this essay; the issues are too important to be glossed over. But I've included lots of subheadings so you can skim around, if you like. To skip the historical stuff entirely, click here to jump to the section titled "Why the GPL Terrifies Microsoft."

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