This went through the APRIL Ml yesterday, thought you might find it good
From: "Eric S. Raymond" <esr at thyrsus.com>
To: wire-service at thyrsus.com
Subject: Breaking story: Beware the Microsoft shell game
Date: Wed, 2 May 2001 17:40:03 -0400
A few hours ago, a friendly journalist tipped me that Craig Mundie
of Microsoft is going to make a major speech in New York tomorrow
attacking open-source software -- specifically, attacking the GNU
General Public License. This speech is probably intended to define
Microsoft's party line on open source, and to shift the terms of the
debate over it to one that Microsoft thinks it can win.
I haven't seen the speech; the friendly journalist told me it was
embargoed. But I'm expecting it to be a masterpiece of FUD. You
GPL, most open-source developers are supportive of
intellectual-property rights including copyright, and the open-source
community as a whole has historically taken a definite stance against
software piracy. We only give away our own work, not other peoples'.
Nevertheless, expect Mr. Mundie to lump all these phenomena togetber
and hint darkly that Linux is the spearhead of a conspiracy to destroy
trillions of dollars in intellectual-property assets. He probably
won't come right out and accuse us of being Communists; that trial
balloon popped when Jim Allchin floated it a few weeks ago with his
"un-American" crack and got laughed out of town. But he'll let the
implication hang there and hope it sticks.
What he'll hope you don't notice is that the "assets" he's mainly
interested in protecting are Microsoft's -- and not just the $26
billion it has in the bank, but the far more important asset of over 90%
desktop market share and tight control of its customer base through
It's that lock-in, that control of customers, that is what open source
threatens most. With open source, customers can have real choices;
they don't need to be locked into a perpetually more expensive upgrade
treadmill, they can own and inspect and modify the software they
depend on, they can have real security because they can know exactly
running on their machines.
That choice is the fundamental threat to Microsoft's business model,
and it's the reason they're getting clobbered by Linux in the server
market (every month, more Linux installations come up on web servers
alone than in Microsoft's entire Windows 2000 customer base). So it's
not just individual open-source projects like Linux and Apache
Microsoft has to defeat -- it's the open-source way of thinking about
One way to defeat it is by making people afraid of it -- by conning
potential corporate purchasers into believing that using open-source
software on their machine somehow means the GPL will force them to
publish all their software or business secrets. Craig Mundie will try
very hard to make you believe that. It's not true, but a company that
blatantly falsified videotape evidence in a Federal antitrust trial is
not going to balk at lesser falsehoods.
Another way to defeat open source is to co-opt it. After Craig Mundie
gets through trying to make you fear and distrust open source, he will
tout Microsoft's new so-called openness. He will doubtless talk about
how Microsoft is willing to share source code with large customers and
universities. And he'll talk up the "open" services like SOAP that
are part of Microsoft's .NET plans (about which more later).
What Mr. Mundie will hope you don't notice is that Microsoft wants all
the "sharing" to be in one direction. What they're doing is what we
call "source under glass" -- you can see it, but you can't modify or
reuse it in other programs. They want to be able to get the huge
of having thousands of outside people review their code without allowing
any of those people to use what they learn on other projects.
We in the open-source community see this for what it is -- a
counterfeit, a trick, a scam. It's aimed at recruiting free labor for
Microsoft without giving the outside contributors any stake in or
control of the results of their effort. In true open source, all
parties are equal. When I give you my software under an open-source
license, you have exactly the same rights as I do. That's what I
trade you in return for your help in testing and improving the
software. That's the voluntary cooperation that built the Internet.
Mr. Mundie also doesn't want you to notice, or remember, Microsoft's
long history of perverting supposedly "open" standards into customer
lock-in devices, by poisoning them with proprietary extensions that
only closed Microsoft software understands. A notorious recent
example is the games Microsoft played with the Kerberos security
protocol. It would take a really cockeyed optimist to believe that
Microsoft doesn't have similar maneuvers planned for once the .NET
protocols get established, if they do.
Finally, Mr. Mundie will doubtless wind up his exhortations with a
paean to the glories of .NET, Microsoft's attempt to turn itself into
the worlds's biggest application software provider. Stripped to its
essence, under this plan you mostly would give up buying software and
instead rent networked services from Microsoft by the month.
There are two things Mr. Mundie hopes you won't notice about *this*.
One is that .NET is born out of fear. Microsoft's strategists aren't
stupid. They can see the trend curves, that falling hardware margins
are spelling the doom of any business model based on expensive
packaged-software licenses. They know the revenues from their
own software business have actually been declining for three quarters
covered only by creative accounting practices for which Microsoft is
under a federal fraud investigation separate from the antitrust trial.
More fundamentally, those strategists have read Clayton Christensen's
"The Innovator's Dilemma"; they can see that open-source software in
general and Linux in particular are an unstoppable technology
disruption that will sooner or later reach the heart of Microsoft's
business -- and that the only way for Microsoft to survive is to dodge
the bullet, to be in a different business before that bullet hits
home. Hence the push to become an ASP.
But the more important thing he hopes you won't notice is that in the
brave new .NET world, you would lose even the meager rights you have
now under Microsoft's End-User License Agreement. You would own
nothing. You would instead become ever more dependent on Microsoft to
provide the basic services that your computer and your business rely
on to function. You would have to absolutely trust Microsoft to
neither deliberately violate your privacy for business advantage nor
to leave your vital data exposed to crackers like those who break into
Microsoft's own servers every few weeks.
Keep your eye on the pea, gentlemen and ladies. Because that is what
Microsoft is really after -- a fast exit out of the packaged-software
business, a lock on your critical data and network services, and an
indefinite extension of the coercive monopoly position described in
Judge Jackson's findings of fact. Higher prices, fewer choices, worse
lock-in, and Microsoft uber alles for ever and ever, amen.
 "A Kinder, Gentler Gorilla?"
Email sent with Redhat 7.1 kernel 244ac2 reiserfs
"Never underestimate the true power of ChAoS"
Mailto:stephane at antefacto.com
Ph : +353 1 858 6009
Maintained by the ILUG website team. The aim of Linux.ie is to
support and help commercial and private users of Linux in Ireland. You can
display ILUG news in your own webpages, read backend
information to find out how. Networking services kindly provided by HEAnet, server kindly donated by
Dell. Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds,
used with permission. No penguins were harmed in the production or maintenance
of this highly praised website. Looking for the
Indian Linux Users' Group? Try here. If you've read all this and aren't a lawyer: you should be!