Microsoft's OS is an integral part of your PC

Posted by sengan [] on Wednesday October 21, @12:30AM
from the allegedly dept.

Microsoft is not going to wait for the outcome of its trial with the DOJ before attacking Linux. The battle scene is France, where Microsoft's new (expendable?) regional director Marc Chardon [] has just issued an open letter to his clients []. Click below to read the translation of the Linux-section (it's in French) and some commentary.

The new director of Microsoft France (MF) has just issued an open letter to his clients. Most of the letter says essentially "We're right. Critics aren't. Millions of people use our products." and other fascinating insights. However it does contain two interesting revelations: Microsoft's OS is an integral part of your PC, and Linux is of very limited interest to anyone but fringe groups (students and researchers).

As previously reported, it is illegal in the EU to tie the sale of a product with another in the EU. However Microsoft France (MF) argues that because a computer can be argued non-functional without an operating system (or a hard-drive), what is being sold is a single product, not two. A little later, MF's director contradicts himself by stating that "assemblers" (basically small computing shops that will assemble a computer from standard components according to your desires) will sell you a computer without an OS -- is that a broken computer? Indeed, since the same letter claims there are more OS's for PCs than any other computer, we must be dealing with a product tied to another precisely because no other OS is sold (according to the letter) with a computer.

Further down, you'll see a whole section devoted to Linux. While today Microsoft's lawyers declared Linux to be developed by a single person, MF's director claims it to be a movement. I've translated the rest of what he had to say about Linux since it's interesting...

"It would seem that Linux does not satisfy the requirements of most companies, let alone the general public.

Linux presents limits that will slow down its widespread distribution, particularly in companies and the general public

In terms of the system's stability, Linux has problems of general coordination, and one feels strongly the lack of a project leader. Linus Torvald (S: Microsoft can't spell!) left university last year to join a Californian company. The development of Linux has since considerably slowed down. Similarly, the maintenance of Linux' functionality depends on the mobilization of its teams. Thus, certain of its functions have not been updated in the last two years.

The installation of Linux is delicate. For optimal system performance, each version must be tuned on each computer at each installation, by a competent computer-technician. Setting it up and its administration are therefore not within the reach of a computer-technician used to more friendly operating systems, let alone basic users. Using Linux is complex, its programs generally take text commands.

Finally most Linux application software has limited functionality. Word processors rarely have functionality common on today's PC or Macintosh: dynamic spelling correction, graphic input of tables, integration of imported graphics. Most Linux word processors bear more resemblance to Microsoft Write written in 1985.

Linux' advantages of zero-cost and open source are not relevant criteria for most users.

The zero-cost of Linux is a non decisive advantage: the cost of an OS is minor in comparison to the other costs of a company. The price of the OS is only one of the elements of computers in companies. Putting a traditional OS into place costs many times the price of the OS itself, and the same goes for the creation of an application program and its maintenance. So, by installing Linux, one saves the cost of the OS, but one increases the cost of installation, and one takes risks for the maintenance of the applications and the system itself.

If certain people consider the permanent availability of source code to be an absolute guaranty of independence from software editors, we fail to see the benefit for a company or a person to have access to the source of his OS.

However, the distribution of the OS source code is very useful for students and researchers, to understand the inner-workings of the OS and eventually to change it. Linux will therefore probably stay for a long time a good subject of study for computer-scientist, rather than an OS destined for widespread distribution. "

I must apologize for any mistakes in my translation. Use babelfish to get an alternative translation. I'm open to any corrections. update! Linux Weekly News has just published a de-babelfished translation of the whole letter.

S: This letter obviously contains many "inaccuracies":

If I buy a car, is the fuel a separate product or not? What about electricity? Computers are non-functional without it. I hope the EU lawyers will notice this wriggling.

His attacks on Linus stating that Linux development has slowed down are not credible with the inflow of new developers and the number of ports now in the standard kernel. The letter very much ignores the fact that Transmeta lets Linus hack on Linux during office hours and has other employees that contribute, underplays Red Hat employing kernel developers, and completely ignores the current tidal surge of major corporations towards Linux: Intel, Compaq, Oracle, Sun, to name but a few.

Anyone who has had to install Windows from scratch, as I do every 3-6 months when it has corrupted its hard-drive beyond repair at work, knows that installing Windows is a royal pain. It takes over an hour, requires minding (yes... I'm just here to click OK)... Linux takes me 20 minutes on an 100 Mhz system. The only argument here is: when Windows is pre-installed (i.e. when you buy your machine) it's easier than it is to install Linux. Duh!

I, and many others don't view GUI's as necessarily friendly. Until they are a substitute for true understanding, I prefer to have control over my system and to be able to repair it. The usual answer for Windows to reinstall everything, and then try eliminating various components until you've found the "culprit". The same applies for source code. Funny that the latest C'T has devoted 19 pages to "Hacks & Bugs & Workarounds: Large Projects with Word, and how one survives them". To me, and many others, this is an unacceptable hit on my productivity.

Indeed, the whole notion that Linux is too hard for the average user is nonsense to me. I gave my mother a Linux box -- I'm living 8 timezones away so I cannot help her fix an unreliable OS. She cannot rely on computer-savvy neighbours either, since she's in a very rural area. But, with Linux as her first computer, she is happy using it laying ridicule on Microsoft's claims about the difficulties that the average layman will experience.

Complaints about Word processors are unfair since most Windows word-processors are also not very advanced. Percentage-wise (if you count all the free, shareware, and old ones), I expect Windows/DOS have a worse ratio. Only a few products provide the features Marc discusses. Similarly, on Linux, we have WordPerfect 7 (hey Corel, port WordPerfect 8!), Applixware, and StarOffice (which I sometimes use), Angoss, Dtop, and Axene's Xclamation, On the free front we have Emacs which is also used by a very large number of people under NT and which will soon have a WYSIWYG interface, Thot, EZ, Papyrus, Cicero, Doc, Maxwell, and new promising upstarts such as Glue. And let's not forget TeX: I and my fellow PhD students wrote their theses in it because it copes well with 700 page documents. Most academic papers must be written, and many books are written in it. It also accepts any graphics as encapsulated postscript. TeX is still the only format which is guaranteed to come out looking the same on any computer, and still looks better to me and many others than the output of any other product. As to dynamic spell-checking, I turn it off: I think, I write, I reread, I spell-check. Dynamic spell-checking just breaks the flow of my thoughts.

The attack on zero-cost software is a pretty obvious diversion, and tries to draw the reader's attention away from the fact people use Linux because of its stability and features rather than its cost.

Finally, Microsoft's attempt to make academics and students irrelevant is interesting, since they are the ones pushing Linux, but also very dangerous. France values intelligence and high education more than most other societies, as Marc Chardon's own CV shows.

So what do you think of all this?

I'd like to thank A Dark Elf, Jacky Liu, and Linux Weekly News Daily for some of the material I used here.

Copyright 1998