Ballmer Takes Anti-Linux Campaign to IT Executive E-mail List

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the company's anti-Linux campaign to its IT executive e-mail list on Wednesday afternoon, with a 2,600-word message that restated Microsoft's well-worn case against open source software.

In the message, "Comparing Windows with Linux and Unix," Ballmer runs through the standard Microsoft arguments about total cost of ownership versus acquisition cost, security and legal liability. Ballmer also threw in a pitch for migrating ERP systems from Unix to Windows.

Ballmer's message garnered a fair amount of attention on the Slashdot site, which is a rallying point for the open source community. Of about 425 messages posted within 24 hours of Ballmer's e-mail, many messages centered on the fact that Ballmer's e-mail had presented little in the way of new arguments against open source. Other posters took the opportunity to rehash standard pro-Linux arguments in response to Ballmer's recycled anti-Linux points, especially on TCO and security.

It was the first time that Microsoft has used the IT executive e-mail newsletter to overtly attack a competitive threat. In the past, the executive e-mails from Ballmer, chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates and group vice president Jeff Raikes have addressed internal issues, industry challenges or generic IT topics. Previous messages included Gates' famous Trustworthy Computing message and two updates on security progress, messages on spam and preserving and enhancing the value of e-mail, managing IT for business value and Microsoft's commitment to customers.

In his Microsoft Monitor blog, Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox noted that the lack of new arguments bewildered him until he made a connection with the timing of the end of support for Windows NT 4.0. The end of extended support for the eight-year-old server operating system on Dec. 31 is widely viewed as an opportunity for customers to consider switching their Windows servers to Linux.

"The time is right for Microsoft to come out swinging at Linux again. With the NT 4 support respirator about spent and customer holdouts still hanging onto the operating system but looking for a spry replacement, Microsoft has every reason to make sure migration isn't to Linux," Wilcox wrote.

On an unrelated timing issue, Ballmer's message couldn't have come much closer to Halloween. But it hasn't appeared yet on the infamous online collection of Halloween Documents, open source advocate Eric Raymond's annotated collection of Microsoft's internal documents and external communications about Linux and open source.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.