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Community: Leaked MS Memo: The Danger of Sharing

Jul 25, 2004, 15:00 (27 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Thad Phetteplace)

[ Thanks to Thad Phetteplace for this article. ]

The following internal memo has leaked from the highest levels of Microsoft and found its way to my desk. Sorry, I can't reveal my sources, but I am sharing it so we can all reach a better understanding of Microsoft's thinking regarding free and open source software. Enjoy. ;)

Title: The Danger of Sharing
Author: An Anonymous Microsoft Executive
Date: November 18, 2003

A dangerous plague is sweeping the land... a plague of sharing. It hides under the the seductive name of 'Free Software' or sometimes 'Open Source', but underneath it is just plain and simple sharing. I've warned the world of this threat on many occasions, but I've discovered my warnings were not broad enough. You see, this evil called sharing is not limited to just software.

You can find signs of it everywhere, along with the economic ruin that follows it. Why just the other day I discovered this place called a 'soup kitchen'. It was providing meals... for free! Just image the damage that would be inflicted on the restaurant industry if this soup kitchen thing catches on. The effects could already be seen in that neighborhood; all the other people in the soup line seemed very poor, and there was not a five star restaurant to be found anywhere nearby. I've even seen evidence of this sharing epidemic among our own employees. Just the other day one of the interns brought in muffins and gave them away, you guessed it, for free! Perhaps it would not have been so bad if she had actually purchased them from a bakery, but she actually admitted to baking them herself. She said she enjoyed doing it and was happy to give them away so other people could enjoy them to!

Can you imagine the impact on the bakery industry if this sort of thing catches on! But it doesn't stop there. She went on to thank several of her coworkers for helping her move into her new apartment. Yes, you heard correctly, people actually helped her move, FOR FREE. Image all the work lost to moving companies from this sort of activity.

Perhaps giving away free muffins seems like no big deal to you. After all, the damage that one person can do is limited to the number of muffins that one person can bake. The cost of production puts a cap on the amount of destructive sharing this person can do. But when we enter the realm of software and other forms of intangible 'intellectual property', the cost of production quickly bottoms out. After the first one, the rest are essentially free!

In a free software world, there is no room for Microsoft's 85 to 90 percent profit margin on Windows and Office. The company might be forced to survive on the thin 5 to 9 percent margins that most of the technology industry suffers with. Even worse, it might have to rely on other sources of revenue, like support services.

Imagine the impact to the economy if all that money currently being funneled to Microsoft software was instead left in the hands of our customers. Imagine all the ways in which those companies and home user might squander that money. I realize some of you out there will try and argue that spreading money around is better for the economy than concentrating it in one place, but that argument only holds water if someone besides Microsoft is capable of innovation, and we all know how silly that idea is.

In conclusion, we must all do our part to stop this plague of sharing. Just as surely as mechanized looms threatened the weaving industry of the early 19th century, the cooperative development methods of the so called free and open source software movements threaten our current proprietary software industry. The sharing must be stopped.


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