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Linux Lovers Gear Up For Another Year of Chasing Microsoft

Mike wrote in back in December to offer his predictions for 2007: “Let’s see:  Flying cars, teleportation devices (Jaunt Stations for Stephen King fans), and a 25 percent migration to Vista. Why not aim high?” 

Well, Mike, you’ll probably achieve a level of accuracy with those predictions that most analysts could only dream of, even if Vista has been (surprise!) a little slow to penetrate the enterprise so far.

One thing that we can count on, though, is a New Year’s flood of Linux enthusiasts telling us that this is the year that their operating system makes serious headway into breaking the hegemony of Windows -- or at least that Microsoft is shaking in its boots over the open source OS. Hey, here’s one now! And for those who are into reading long, esoteric, rambling -- but certainly not uninteresting -- blog entries (and no, we didn’t read the whole thing, either), here’s another, which is actually the source of much of the material in the first one.

The thing is that they’re not wrong. Microsoft is clearly concerned about Linux and has been for a while. That much is obvious. The Novell SuSE Linux deal and Steve Ballmer’s protests that Linux infringes on Microsoft patents show that Redmond has open source on its mind -- and the blogs linked above suggest that Microsoft is doing all it can to infiltrate the open source community, steal its best talent and bring Linux to its knees. If so, great -- that’s exactly what one competitor should try to do to another. Nothing personal, just business.

But Linux folks aren’t taking this lying down, nor should they. And while their OS -- or, more accurately, the various disparate distributions of it -- might not be a threat to take over Windows’ market share in 2007, it is making inroads in important places. Two of those places are India and China, which represent potentially explosive markets that could eventually make the U.S. look like Belgium. In fact, the government of one Indian state looks ready to go open source now and leave Microsoft out in the cold.  

As India and China continue to grow economically -- and, despite all you’ve already heard about them, there’s plenty of room for long-term growth -- Microsoft and the Linuxes (Linii? Linuxi?) could potentially be headed for some seriously high-stakes clashes. Many partners and IT people we talk to say that Windows is cheaper to own than Linux in the long run (and maybe it is -- the arguments for that position seem reasonable), but the open source OS sure does have lower start-up costs, and that sort of thing is bound to appeal to companies and governments in developing and rapidly expanding economies, as well as to a small business or two stateside.

So, while 2007 is still more likely to be the year of Vista than the year of Linux, it’s worth keeping an eye on the open source folks and the inroads they make worldwide. If you’re Microsoft, it’s worth continuing to make Vista better and more secure with patches, service packs and the like. And if you’re a Microsoft partner, it’s time to update that pitch on Windows vs. Linux total cost of ownership and ease of administration. The open source headlights (presumably from one of Mike’s flying cars) are just starting to appear in your rear-view mirror.  

How much of a competitive threat has Linux been for you? Do you do a lot of business in India and China? Start the New Year right by telling me at lpender@rcpmag.com

And while we’re on the subject of Linux patents, Dave had these thoughts to share:

“I think it's the height of hubris for Microsoft to claim patent infringement on Linux. Apparently, if you have enough money and lawyers, you can be a 'legal' thief and punish smaller 'thieves' for 'stealing' from you. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! As far as software patents go, I believe they should all be nullified. Patents were made for physical inventions, not intellectual property (at least as I understand it). And who's to say that MS didn't grab someone else's work and patent it because the original author didn't have the wherewithal to do it him/herself or didn't think it necessary? To quote a line from a movie: 'How much is enough?' Just my $0.02 worth. (And while I'm at it, why don't we have a cent sign on our keyboards like we had on typewriters?)”

Have anything to add? Add it at lpender@rcpmag.com

Posted by Lee Pender on January 04, 2007 at 11:54 AM


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