You know, it really sucks being gullible. I like to think of myself as over-optimistic, but when I really should know better, yet persist in dreaming loftily, only one word comes to mind: sucker.
For years the free open source software (FOSS) community has called upon the Evil Empire Microsoft to work with it in making the world of computing better for all of us. Developers of free programs (who obviously don’t do this for the money) have continually had to beg Microsoft for access to details of their file formats, and have even had to fight them in court as the monopolistic giant drove to crush any opposition. And all this when Microsoft laughed at the idea that FOSS and Linux could ever be serious threats.
Now, all of a sudden, Microsoft is extending hands in welcome to FOSS developers, claiming to want to work with them for the benefit of all, and most people people are greeting this with “Yes! About time!”, rather than “Hmmm… OK… what the hell is going on here? Back away… slowly.”
While it is no longer any secret that Ubuntu has finally forced them to turn their heads towards Linux, the majority of people still see OpenOffice.org (OOo) – the free office suite – as not much of a threat to MS Office. But Microsoft are taking note of the increasing number of Windows-based PCs running OOo and are obviously alarmed, because they’ve set up a strike force and are recruiting heavily.
Previously, Linux was a minor pain to Microsoft, less so than Mac, and businesses using it for their servers still usually had Windows machines connected to them. But now, not only are more “home” users switching to Linux distros like Ubuntu, and using the FOSS that comes on them, but more Windows users are opting to try out free alternatives rather than keep paying to upgrade their Microsoft programs.
Even more frightening for Microsoft is the decline in those lucrative contracts from businesses and government departments around the world. Not only are they seeing their expensive products like Office replaced by OOo (as well as free products like Internet Explorer and Outlook Express being replaced by Mozilla‘s Firefox and Thunderbird), but schools, corporations, institutions and government agencies are now turning their Windows-based workstations into Linux boxes.
While Ubuntu’s success has certainly had something to do with this (since many people hadn’t even heard to word “Linux” until they came across Ubuntu), it’s also due to the fact that great programs from the FOSS world, like OOo, are gaining popularity in the Windows world. When people see that these programs are as good as (if not better than) Microsoft’s, then get exposed to user-friendly distros like Ubuntu (which usually come with heaps of programs installed, including the full OOo suite), the step away from dependence on Microsoft suddenly seems not so scary.
And now that this is happening at a rate that is causing palpitations at Redmond, all of a sudden Microsoft is ready for dialogue and a working partnership with the FOSS world. And while most should be worried about this, it seems the prospect of this unprecedented opportunity is dazzling the caution out of many. It really isn’t that strange though, just human nature: even an avid anti-monarchist would feel at least a small thrill meeting the Queen (though probably wouldn’t admit it). But the trouble with this is that Microsoft isn’t human; while it has the legal rights of one, its obligation is to increasing profits for its shareholders, not worry about moral or legal issues, so is in fact a monster (or perhaps psychopath is more apt – watch the documentary “The Corporation” and be enlightened!).
So, while smiling and shaking hands with FOSS developers, Microsoft’s henchmen aren’t there to help usher in a glorious new era, they’re there to infiltrate. The plan to get as much inside knowledge as possible, with only one purpose in mind: to use it against the FOSS world. Microsoft have finally realised two things – that the FOSS/Linux threat is real, and that they need a new approach to dealing with it – so have sued for peace while quietly readying for war.
Rather than just undermine open source (quite loudly) at conferences, or send out misinformation to the media, Microsoft HQ has gotten clever and sent out its wolves in sheep’s clothing. Under the guise of mutually-beneficial co-operation, Microsoft’s henchmen will be gathering as much inside info as possible, in order to help defeat the enemies they pretend to embrace.
If you’re thinking this is just a paranoid conspiracy theory, then you’ve obviously forgotten all the previous ones that ended up being true, landing Microsoft in court on numerous occasions. But go to Google and choose a few choice words to search for (like “Linux and Open Office Compete”), and you’ll see more and more on this. Or why not just check out Microsoft’s recruitment department, perhaps searching for “Linux Compete”? It won’t take long before you see Microsoft is very serious about this silent but deadly war of theirs; they’re so serious, they don’t even seem to care about hiding the fact!
Here is a copy of Microsoft’s recruitment ad for a “Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary” position (note the position is no longer available, but the link for it is currently right at the top of a Google search for “Linux and Open Office Compete”).
Job Category: Marketing
Location: United States, WA, Bellevue
Job ID: 700901 9914
Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary (CSI Lead)
If you’re looking for a new role where you’ll focus on one of the biggest issues that is top of mind for KT and Steve B in “Compete”, build a complete left to right understanding of the subsidiary, have a large amount of executive exposure, build and manage the activities of a v-team of 13 district Linux & Open Office Compete Leads, and develop a broad set of marketing skills and report to a management team committed to development and recognized for high WHI this is the position for you!
The Commercial Software Initiative (CSI) Lead plays a pivotal role for the Subsidiary GM, the BG leads and the BMO by building a discipline within the US that is focused on competing against. The core mission of CSI is to win share against Linux and OpenOffice.org by designing and driving marketing programs, changing perceptions, engaging with Open Source communities and organizations, and drive internal readiness on how to compete with Commercial Linux and participate with Open Source Communities.
While any emphasis above was my doing, to highlight certain points, the words are all theirs, including mention of how worried CEO Steve Ballmer is about open source software and operating systems!
If you want to read more about this, you can also check out this summary of the impending war with OOo, as well this search page for “Linux” at Microsoft’s recruitment page.
And if you’re still a loyal Microsoft customer but feel like having some fun throwing rocks at a giant, download OpenOffice.org now and give it a go! And when you finally get sick of Windows, then it’s time to give a Linux distro like Ubuntu a try!