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Microsoft dirty tactics



Summary: A look at GNU/Linux as a competitive threat today compared to 10 years ago

A few days ago we wrote about the Halloween Documents, noting that not much has changed since those days, particularly when it comes to Microsoft's anti-competitive behaviour. Microsoft is now admitting very openly that GNU/Linux is a threat with slightly newer reports that include:

1. Microsoft Admits That Linux Desktop Elephant Exists

It's no secret that Linux has had a major impact on Microsoft's server business, but Microsoft hasn't said much about the potential effects of desktop Linux. That changed recently when Microsoft admitted that Linux on desktops and notebooks poses competitive threats to its Windows client business.


2. Microsoft blames open source for revenue fall

Microsoft has listed companies such as Red Hat and Canonical, both sellers of GNU/Linux, among the reasons for the 17 percent fall in revenue for the fourth quarter, year on year.


“Forty percent of servers run Windows, 60 percent run Linux...”

--Steve Ballmer (September 2008)



Going back to the days of the Halloween Documents, Microsoft's Ed Muth openly denied that GNU/Linux was a substantial threat (see this antitrust exhibit from around 1999 [PDF] because it mentions "TCO"). Contrary to his claim, however, Ed Muth also confirmed the authenticity of the Halloween Documents and despite the fact that Gates is seen distributing this material across the board, Muth was indeed stressing that Vinod Valloppillil was "not an official company spokesperson." Well, duh. Either way, that page is now a broken link, but there is a copy on archive.org:

Q: Who is Vinod Valloppillil and what is his role at Microsoft?

A: Vinod is a staff engineer who, from time to time, is chartered with the responsibility of monitoring and analyzing market conditions and competitive offerings. His analyses are intended to spur internal discussion about industry trends and market dynamics. He is not an official company spokesperson.

Q: How did these documents get leaked to the press?

A: At this point we cannot confirm how the documents were distributed outside the company or who is responsible for the action.

Q: Does Microsoft consider Linux a competitor?

A: Yes. Linux is a competitor on the client and the server. My analysis is that Linux is a material competitor in the lower-performance end of the general purpose server industry and the small to medium-sized ISP industry. It is important to recognize that Linux, beyond competing with Microsoft, is also, and perhaps even more frequently, an alternative or competitor to other versions of UNIX.


That was about 10 years ago. 5 years later Microsoft was "scared" of GNU/Linux and nowadays Microsoft uses retaliation tactics and lawsuits to hinder GNU/Linux adoption. Microsoft is really fighting.

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

--(Usually attributed to) Mahatma Gandhi

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