Microsoft Has Stopped Competing with Linux

Posted by tadelste on Mar 21, 2006 9:59 AM EDT
LXer Research; By Tom Adelstein
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Microsoft has ceased its obsession with Linux. Someone finally convinced the boss that Linux poses little threat to Redmond. Someone came out of the Linux lab and said that It's about time that they starting focusing on their real threat: IBM.

Several recent articles indicate that Microsoft has finally absorbed the GNU/Linux and so-called Open Source threat. Budgeting $500 million for marketing its next iterations of Windows and Office shows that they have little concern about the adoption of their new platforms.

Unlike the UNIX threat in the early to late 1990's, Linux represents what Microsoft now sees as a "me too" platform with little innovation. The worries about costs in the executive suites in the industrialized countries have now given way to implementing solutions.

Sun represented the major problem for Microsoft during the build out of the Internet. Today, Sun has evolved into a shadow of its former self. With Sun no longer a threat, Microsoft has started a push toward Enterprise Resource Solutions while leveraging its monopoly on the desktop.

In a recent article by Martin Lamonica, he observers:

The company has for years marketed its products to the tech elite within big companies. Now Microsoft is making concerted effort to speak the language of top executives.

Why? Because business managers, marketing executives and other non-techies are increasingly involved in technology purchasing decisions, Microsoft argues. Another reason for the shift is IBM. Microsoft's chief rival in the business software area has been pitching to CEOs for years, relying on its business-savvy consultants to help win deals. In essence, Microsoft needs to speak Big Blue's language.

Martin didn't make this up. He got the information for the basis of his article from Steve Ballmer. At a press conference on March 16th in New York, Ballmer spoke to 500 corporate executives about an overarching plan for business computing.

Ballmer has changed his emphasis from developers to business and people with an emphasis on end-user productivity. Ballmer told LaMonica:

We're not anticonsulting (referring to IBM). I just came off the board of Accenture recently. I've been on the board four or five years. This is not about being against consulting. This is about being for empowering people, so they can they can empower their company.

That's a completely different tune for Microsoft. Knowing they have already won the platform wars, Microsoft has started competing for the ERP market space with its Microsoft Dynamics line of integrated business solutions aimed at financial, customer relationship, and supply chain management.

Microsoft says that their business is about peopleā€”helping staff across an organization be more productive, make better decisions, and pursue business goals with confidence.

Good reasons to cease its Open Source rhetoric

Linux advocates have focused on getting the desktop on par with Windows. That's a "me too" strategy. In a perfect world free software should win the hearts and minds of computer users. Unfortunately, secular minded consumers do not understand that technologists need collaboration to evolve. That costs money and Linux doesn't have it.

The money spent by VC's on open source companies won't help Linux. It also won't make a superior productivity suite or Firefox the preferred browser. Linux plays in a niche market when it comes to the desktop.

Microsoft doesn't have to worry about Linux catching up like they did when NT 4.0 dominated the corporate landscape. Instead, they have created partnerships with Sugar CRM, JBoss, Apache and other open source stalwarts.

What's Next for Linux then?

Bob Dylan once sang "wasted words proves to warn that he not busy being born Is busy dying." Written in 1965, those lyrics proved prophetic. Without innovation, Linux remains and will remain a "me too" technology effort outside the server domain.

Sun Microsystems proved that a significant business existed in delivering workstations to enterprises. They differentiated themselves by making proprietary hardware platforms that could do what Microsoft and IBM could not.

Linux has shown it can dominate markets for devices. It can dominate where UNIX once ruled. It has a cost benefit and a technology benefit for people who do not want to use Microsoft's limited development tools. That's something Microsoft developers will never understand.

Apple has shown that it has a significant market for consumer devices and entertainment. Even with its new relationship with Intel, it has managed to maintain a distance from the Wintel business model.

One solution for Linux builds off the Negroponte model of the $100 laptop. Linux could leverage itself beyond the device market with open hardware architecture.

That's a place VC's could invest and see significant leverage. With an open hardware architecture Linux could scale farther than existing platforms and combine existing devices into a robust platform unlike those running Windows.

The Closer Look

Sun Microsystems' open source specifications for the Sparc chip has little appeal. Consider than one more attempt for McNeally to find a niche. Unfortunately for Sun shareholders, it's too little and way too late.

Intel or AMD could engineer an innovative platform with solid state components to give Linux users everything they want including multi-media. That would also provide a stable environment for Independent Software Vendors such as Adobe, Intuit and others to invest in Linux.

Is it time for Linux to innovate and move out of its attempt to provide a "me too" Windows machine? With the rapid innovation in wireless telephones, it might prove useful to create a docking station that turns into a PC with Linux running both devices.

While that might not wind up as the principal differentiator, for free software to have a long-term future we need innovation in the Linux market. Perhaps it's time for you to "make somethng up eh".

» Read more about: Story Type: Editorial, LXer Features; Groups: GNU, IBM, Intel, JBoss, LXer, Microsoft, Sun

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
a little miss there maggrand 19 2,605 Mar 30, 2006 9:26 AM
I could see this jsusanka 18 2,517 Mar 23, 2006 5:07 AM
Linux will always be here dschaefer79 1 1,824 Mar 22, 2006 7:03 PM
Is the sky really falling? cubrewer 17 2,484 Mar 22, 2006 2:02 PM
Is the sky really falling? - Too early to tell trueash 1 1,725 Mar 22, 2006 4:39 AM
Who is the real me-too? mcinsand 1 1,985 Mar 22, 2006 4:36 AM
SOA and Eclipse Dietrich 0 1,909 Mar 21, 2006 11:57 AM

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