"There's plenty of uneasiness in Redmond, Washington, these
days. Microsoft has begun to internalize the recognition that the
next, and quite probably final, period of its existence will be
dominated by competition with free software. That competition
presents challenges the monopoly has never faced before, and
already it has become necessary, at what Microsoft hopes is still
an early stage in the confrontation, to take steps that no other
competitor has ever had the power to force.
"Competing with free software is problematic for Microsoft for
many reasons. There's no company to acquire, in the first place, in
order to incorporate or suppress attractive competing products--a
strategy that the monopoly has pursued so often and so successfully
in the past. Because free software is continually modified and
improved by all its users, there's no 'evolutionary dead end'
argument with which to scare customers: someone choosing to use
free software is never going to be left with an unserviceable
product whose maker has gone out of business, leaving the code
'orphaned' in the face of constantly shifting technology.
Microsoft's implicit message to its customers has been 'We're
always going to exist; our competitors, whose products you are
considering, won't last forever.' But technically sophisticated
corporate and governmental users now realize that the free software
codebase will last indefinitely, capable of renewal and replacement
for as long as its users need it. No matter how long Microsoft
lasts, free software will last longer..."