There they go again...
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I sense that Microsoft has been rather concerned about Linux lately. Why else would their top dog, CEO Steve Ballmer, get so riled up when asked this week (at Microsoft's annual partner conference in Toronto) about Linux? As internetnews.com describes:
Asked during the Q&A portion about open source, Ballmer, who was seated at the time, clenched his fists and sprung to his feet. "It's either the iced tea, or I'm a bit of a caged animal on this," he said. At times pounding his fists or waving his arms, Ballmer criticized open source and faulted it for what it does not offer to partners, compared to Microsoft.
Ballmer went on to claim that IBM can't make money with Linux, except through services business that would compete with IBM partners: "They make no money on software; they make no money on hardware. They make money only in services." (See the related CRN news article.)
While Ballmer may be good at pacing on stage and rallying the pro-Microsoft troops, he might garner a bit more credibility with the broader industry if he employed facts. developerWorks has learned that "IBM drove nearly $100 million of eServer and Middleware direct sales transactions from Linux from IBM's top 400 Linux partners -- with over a third in SMB." This was in the first half of 2004 alone. And it does not include services.
In the coming days, we may reveal additional aspects of these claims that don't reflect the facts. In any case, perhaps instead of creating yet more FUD (fear, uncertainty, and decepti-- er, doubt) with such comments, Microsoft would better serve the industry (and maybe even its own bottom line) by redirecting its energies on minimizing the fearsome -- and real -- vulnerabilities in its own products. For example, here's the lead of a TechNewsWorld report from just this week:
Microsoft has released its monthly round of patches, including two patches for critical vulnerabilities and one that patches a hole that could become the basis of a widespread computer worm attack. At the same time as the patch release, a Danish company announced additional security holes in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which has been beaten by a string of vulnerabilities and attacks in recent weeks.
Perhaps it'll take some sort of near-death experience for this seemingly invincible company to recognize the need to reform, to embrace open industry standards and stop acting as if Microsoft offers the only viable choice. IBM suffered just such an experience not so long ago, and then-CEO Lou Gerstner, who steered IBM back to health, values that experience as a big lesson learned. In his 1995 Keynote Address at Comdex, Gerstner noted:
I think we have two choices.
Microsoft might do well to learn from IBM's experience also. Before it lives the lesson firsthand.
What's your take on Ballmer's claims, as reported in the CRN news article and elsewhere? We encourage you to share your comments (click on the "Comments" link just under this text).