Microsoft Struggle Against Linux Heats Up

By Bill Claybrook

July 9, 2003

A couple of years ago, Microsoft was not taking Linux seriously. Now it is — and it’s doing so in a big way. During the past few months Microsoft has lowered the licensing cost for one of its Windows offerings specifically to counteract Linux. Now, in another attempt to counteract Linux, it is giving small and medium enterprises (SMEs) discounts on desktop software licensing that it normally gives only to larger customers.

Two years ago, Microsoft made a tour telling analysts that GPL was a danger to proprietary software. The reason was due to the potential of proprietary software being infected by GPL licensed code when they come in close contact, thereby turning proprietary code into GPL code, and on and on. Now, Microsoft is telling its sales folks that they should not talk about open source software unless questions come from their customers. And if they do get questions, they’re to talk about the merits of Microsoft’s Shared Source program (which is a very good program).

There is no question that Microsoft has curtailed much of its flailing against Linux and open source in the past year. Linux is now considered by Microsoft to be serious competition and the competition will heat up considerably over the next two to three years.

Most users that I speak to say that the primary reason they like Linux — in addition to its high reliability — is that they are not locked in to any single vendor for the Linux distribution or for their hardware. Linux can be purchased from Red Hat or SuSE or other Linux distributors, and industry-standard hardware to run Linux can be purchased from many hardware vendors. This freedom to choose creates competition resulting in lower costs to the end user and higher ROI. When Linux reaches a sufficient degree of maturity in the next couple of years, then Microsoft should really begin to worry. I expect maturity to come sooner rather than later for Linux, primarily because of the new emphasis on leadership that the OSDL is taking with respect to developing Linux kernels.

4:02 ET

Copyright 2003