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Does Microsoft Start Abusing the Word “Free”?

Microsoft: From “People-ready” to “Free the People”

"There's free software and then there’s open source... there is this thing called the GPL, which we disagree with."

--Bill Gates, April 2008



Some time ago we warned that Microsoft was been stealing "Open Source" [1, 2] at least in the sense that, as time goes by, it redefines and 'dilutes' it. Using the term out of context or out of place is a very convenient imposition that sets precedence.

The quote at the top gives you an idea of what Microsoft possibly -- just possibly -- has in store. More information about it you can find here:



The actual news that we approach comes from Mary Jo Foley. Remember that Microsoft is all about marketing (even AstroTrufing) and now comes this preview of things to come.

Microsoft earmarks another $200 million for Windows advertising



[...]

Fortune explains Microsoft’s image makeover plan, codenamed “FTP168 (with FTP being “Free the People”)...


Microsoft? Freeing the people? Need people be reminded of the hugely-DRM-'enabled' Windows Vista, WGA, software lock-ins, forced upgrades and other type of menaces?

It's too early to tell much beyond this, but there might be an obnoxious marketing push on its way -- one that will further confuse those who hear about "Open Source" and "Free software".

Some days ago we complained about the marketing-class 'articles' and inaccurate coverage from the BBC. It was all about Gates and Microsoft [1, 2]. Our criticism of Gates glorification is far from unique. Here is what Sam Varghese has just published:

The BBC, Gates and revisionism



[...]

What was appalling about the programme was the lack of any apparent preparation on the part of the interviewer, Fiona Bruce. Gates was able to paint a wonderful revisionist picture of the past and Ballmer actually got away with describing Microsoft as an ethical company.

It is fitting that the BBC decided to feature Gates on its Money programme and not on its Technology programme; after all, Microsoft is first and foremost a marketing company. Technology comes a distant second.


Speaking of marketing, David Kirkpatrick, who is personally close to Microsoft, seems to be doing yet another Microsoft-sympathetic piece over at Fortune.

"Steve Ballmer was sobbing. He repeatedly tried to speak and couldn't get the words out. Minutes passed as he tried to regain his composure. But the audience of 130 of Microsoft's senior leaders waited patiently, many of them crying too," David Kirkpatrick reports for Fortune.


Make no mistake. Yes, they were crying because leaders of the company essentially abandon the ship (even a director left last week), but the article is a portrayal of a humane Microsoft -- one you can feel bad for.

In another Wall Street-type publication, the Financial Times, Steve Ballmer has just implicitly acknowledged that Microsoft cannot compete with Free (libre) software in terms of cost and maybe even quality. Watch what he said. (highlight in red is ours)

I’ve got to tell you, in every - other than the battle with Open Source, every other competitor, I love being able to come into a room and saying we’re better and we’re cheaper. We’re going to try to say we’re better and we’re cheaper basically. I don’t think this is sort of the end of the story by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it tells you we’re going to do things a little differently.


More memorable words came from CNET back in February. They will fight GNU/Linux at all costs.

"[If I ask you who is Microsoft's biggest competitor now, who would it be?] Open...Linux. I don't want to say open source. Linux, certainly have to go with that."

--Steve Ballmer (CNET Interview)

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