[One of my filters just hit this on comp.os.linux.misc
I think the guy has a point and I thought it was interesting]
Subject: M$'s strategy against Linux: nightmare scenario
From: email@example.com (Louis-David Mitterrand)
Date: 4 Dec 1997 19:06:27 GMT
Organization: Aparima inc.
Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.misc , comp.os.linux.advocacy
Using Linux every day, one never ceases to learn and be amazed at the
creativity and cleverness of Linux contributors worldwide. This platform
is seriously coming of age: some major institutions are starting to rely
on it for production work.
Like Microsoft software at some time, Linux entered the enterprise
through the back door right under the nose of IT staff sometimes. Now
network admins are discovering its reliability, "suits" never had a
chance to veto it because it never was a budget item, engineering likes
to work with it at home. Then one day you wake up and you realize Linux
has become ubiquitously present in your enterprise without having been
officially invited. And everybody learns to like the Penguin: friendly,
never raises a fuss, does its job, doesn't eat much.
OK, now what's next? Linux means business, *is* business. The coming of
age is very real: RedHat 5.0 is winning rave reviews for its ease-of-use
and idiot-proof installation "even easier than NT", the Wine project
(windows emulator) is starting to make serious progress and some major
win32 apps are beginning to work. It won't take much more than another
year to see comprehensive support for Win95/NT apps under Linux. Next
thing, people will ask "why shell out $800 for NT Server, when I can get
the same more reliable services from a $50 RedHat CD? These MS support
people never answer the phone anyway, and I can run Office97 with Wine."
Hmmm.. I see a pattern there. NT 5.0 delayed (again..) and RedHat is
there today. Anyway the next question I have is a major one (two):
- now that Linux is starting to appear on MS's radar screen what is MS
going to do about it?
- How should the Linux community ensure Linux's future, freedom and
copyrights against a big, greedy, powerful corporation whose central
product (NT) is threatened by a free unix clone?
I want to rely on Linux for everything I do in my little consulting
operation. "rely" means I want to be sure nobody will be able to
Bill Gates is not a fool and he is certainly not one to underestimate
the power of grassroots movements. I'm sure he already has a strategy to
deal with Linux at some point. Or he is seriously thinking about one.
The problem is: I bet this strategy doesn't rely on fair competition in
open markets and feature-to-feature comparisons. Why? Simply because it
is impossible to compete against the Linux community's talent pool on
the basis of performance and features. And I'm deeply concerned. What is
the man preparing? Call me a paranoid and I'll answer "only the paranoid
survive" (dixit Andy Grove, 95% market share).
One main concern I have is Transmeta, inc., Linus Torvalds' employer.
This company is more or less controlled by Paul Allen, the Seattle
billionaire and Microsoft founder. Mr Allen is still a MS board member
and 10% (?) shareholder. Mr Allen is also one of Bill Gates' closest
friends (is he has any) and confidants. Weren't they together on Fortune
Magazine's cover less than a year ago? It is of public knowledge that
they consult regularly one a variety of subjects, especially on the
Microsoft Corporation strategy. Now in my nightmares a conversation
between the two of them often recurs:
- B.G: "Hey Paul, this guy Linus Torvalds is finishing his studies out
there in Finland, the stuff he's making - this Linux OS - looks pretty
neat, why don't you make him an offer he can't refuse?"
- P.A: "No problem Bill, I'll park him at Transmeta, they're making hot
stuff and I'll give him plenty of free time to keep developing this
Linux thingy, under our watchful eye."
- B.G: "Right. Then if it gets out of control we can buy you out and put
our stamp on the stuff. After a couple years we can claim all this was
developed on company time. Then we'll just merge it into NT."
- P.A: "I'll give you an option to take over at $xxx,xxx,xxx."
This is a nightmare scenario of course. I have a deep respect for Linus'
work and way of managing the kernel development. But isn't he a bit
young and inexperienced against the West Coast's big guns? Hasen't he
fell into a huge trap?
Imagine Microsoft taking over Transmeta at some point in the (not so
distant) future and saying that Linux code is tainted with MS
copyrighted code because Linus worked on it while at Transmeta (now an
MS affiliate)... Imagine RedHat, Caldera, Debian obliged to take down
their FTP servers because of the legal tangle about Linux... Even if MS
is rebutted in court and Linux comes out clean as *truly free* software
it will take at least two years (or more) to clear out the smoke.
Meanwhile NT will have made major inroads everywhere. And the Linux
threat will be seriously diminished.
I hear people yelling "how about the GNU license you dork?". Hmm.. and I
answer: has anybody challenged the GPL in the courts? Has the FSF ever
had to defend it against a mean, influential and deep-pocketed
corporation? Like Stalin asking "The Pope? How many armored divisions?"
I ask "GNU? How many lawyers, lobbyists, cash-on-hand at the bank? Up to
now nobody cared about GNU software. No software company saw it as a
threat. These bearded, suspender-wearing UN*X idealists didn't bother
anybody. Today GNU software is becoming essential and a competitive
threat. SUN should be even more worried than MS on that count.
Please somebody tell me this nightmare scenario is just plain stupid,
impossible and I'll be happy and go away and sleep better...