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M$ 's strategy against Linux: nightmare scenario

To: linux@cthulhu.engr.sgi.com (SGI/Linux mailing list)
Subject: M$ 's strategy against Linux: nightmare scenario
From: ariel@oz.engr.sgi.com (Ariel Faigon)
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 10:27:22 -0800 (PST)
Organization: Silicon Graphics Inc.
Reply-to: ariel@cthulhu.engr.sgi.com (Ariel Faigon)
Sender: owner-linux@cthulhu.engr.sgi.com
[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: mito@aparima.com (Louis-David Mitterrand) 
  Date: 4 Dec 1997 19:06:27 GMT 
  Message-ID: <slrn68dvpj.s84.mito@shell4.ba.best.com> 
  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
  highjack Linux. 

  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...

  Cheers.

  -- 
                          
  Louis-David Mitterrand  
  mito@m2.sprynet.com


-- 
Peace, Ariel

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