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C’mon Guys

On Thursday, May 3rd, 2001, Microsoft senior vice president Craig Mundie gave a speech at New York University in which Microsoft officially declared war on Linux. Or at least, the media made it sound that way. As far as I can tell, they've been at war with Linux for quite some time now. In truth, however, they definitely did turn up the heat to a whole new level, and they came up with some new ways to attack Linux and Open Source on the PR front in the process.

On Thursday, May 3rd, 2001, Microsoft senior vice president Craig Mundie gave a speech at New York University in which Microsoft officially declared war on Linux. Or at least, the media made it sound that way. As far as I can tell, they’ve been at war with Linux for quite some time now. In truth, however, they definitely did turn up the heat to a whole new level, and they came up with some new ways to attack Linux and Open Source on the PR front in the process.

First things first — you won’t find me saying Microsoft technology stinks and that Linux and Open Source are so much better, or any of that garbage. I still have a lot of respect for Microsoft as a competitor, and I think the truth is that both Microsoft and open source technologies have their respective strengths and weaknesses.

That said — c’mon guys…trying to conflate the failure of stupid dot-com business models with the open source software development model? Can’t you do better than that? For those who didn’t read what Craig Mundie actually had to say, here are some excerpts:

“[Supporters of the GPL] ask software developers to give away for free the very thing they create that is of greatest value, in the hope that, somehow, they’ll make money selling something else.”

[snip]

“The Internet…was full of sites producing content for free, in the hope that somehow they’d generate revenue from sources that never materialized, whether it was advertising, subscriptions, or a wing and a prayer.”

[snip]

“As we’ve learned — or really re-learned — one can’t build a business or our economic future on that type of flimsy foundation.”

So Microsoft is trying to make people believe that if they develop or use GPLed software, they’re going to go the way of the dot-coms. While this is a ridiculous notion, how can you blame Microsoft for trying? It seems that they are unhappily coming to the realization that just as PC hardware is a commodity, so are PC operating systems, and that isn’t too good for Windows. Linux and the GPL are driving that point home.

But why are you so afraid of the GPL, Microsoft? If the software that is produced under its auspices is really as inferior as you claim, then what’s the problem? Are you afraid that you’ll produce superior technology, but your customers won’t be smart enough to recognize this and they’ll all blindly use and buy GPLed products?

If your technology and methodology are really as good as you claim, then stop attacking the GPL. Just produce superior products and let the market sort this out.

To be fair, Microsoft does acknowledge some of the strengths of the open source model, but concludes that the weaknesses outweigh them. Luckily for everyone, however, they are creating a new model that they call “Shared Source,” whereby they will share some of their source code with their best customers, while still retaining strict control over the intellectual property.

I guess if your customers are happy with the idea of being eternally beholden to you, that’s their prerogative.

In any case, I do have one request for Microsoft — Please avoid the “Open Source is anti-American” rhetoric. After all, in the age of the Internet, freedom of source code = freedom of communication = freedom of speech, and there’s nothing more American than that.

See you next month,

Adam Signature

Adam M. Goodman

Editor & Publisher

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