Wednesday 20 June 2007

Has Microsoft Gone Linux-Crazy?

First, Microsoft launched the famous “Get the Facts” advertising campaign. Back in 2004, Microsoft was sweating over Linux’s surprising domination of the server market, so they decided to try to paint their Windows Server System as the more prudent choice. That campaign is still running.

Next in November of 2006 came the absolutely shattering news that Microsoft was enterring into a partnership with Novell, makers of the commercial Suse Linux distribution which they had acquired in 2003. The Linux community is still reeling in shock from that one, and the Windows community was even a little surprised. Amongst other things, this move prompted a re-write of the Linux license to GPL version 3, which amounts to saying “No more Linux-Microsoft partnerships”. The feathers are still flying over that one.

Microsoft has continued to make noises to the effect that Linux violates a bunch of Microsoft’s patents. But are they going to sue? No… they’re just pointing out that they could sue if they really wanted to, but Linux distributions selling out to them could help them to decide they don’t want to. The response to this has been mostly unanimous, with various Linux spokespeople saying “Put up or shut up!”

But no, not everyone is unafraid of the Big Bad Redmond Wolf: Xandros was the next one to run up and buy some protection action. The reaction has been as hot for Xandros as it was for Suse: Linux forums cried “Traitor!” and “Judas!” and said they’d never run Suse or Xandros again. Let it never be said that loyalty comes easy in the Linux world.

So a week doesn’t even pass, and Microsoft hires a new “Director of Linux Interoperability”. And the head they hunted is Tom Hanrahan, director of engineering at none other than the Linux Foundation. Hopefully I get this blogged before the next development.

This is all happening too fast and without enough explanation. It is becoming obvious that either Microsoft is saying “We can’t beat them, so we’ll join them.”, or else they figure that all they have to do is keep buying Linux until there isn’t any Linux left, then shut it all down for good at once.

The love-hate relationship that Microsoft has been showing Linux is kind of starting to remind people of that one psychotic girlfriend/boyfriend that everybody has to go through before they get enough experience to pick a winner. Microsoft blows hot one week and cold the next. Could it be that they simply have no idea how to deal with their chief competitor, so they are just acting at random?

Before anybody says “Maybe Microsoft wants to go into the Unix business themselves.” - remember, they already tried that. Xenix was the Microsoft Unix, leveraged through them to eventually become SCO Unix. And we all know how that turned out, don’t we?

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