A leaked Microsoft document shows that the company is keenly aware of the threat posed by the Linux freeware operating system to its core Windows business.
The 'Hallowe'en Document' - so called because it went online on 31 October - was posted by Eric Raymond at http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/halloween.html.
It is purportedly written by a Microsoft employee called Vinod Valloppillil, and dated 11 August. While the content is at times embarrassing ? as when the author admits that Linux has certain technical advantages over Windows NT ? the document?s leaking appears well timed to help Microsoft defend itself in its antitrust trial.
As part of its defence, Microsoft is maintaining that it is not a monopoly, despite its market share, because there are no barriers to competitors entering the operating systems market. Already, Microsoft?s legal team has repeatedly referred to Linux as an example of how a new operating system can win market share ? even without any marketing effort, in the traditional sense.
The leaked document?s net effect is to make the Linux threat to Microsoft ? and specifically to Windows NT ? sound far more credible.
The document offers a description of the Open Source Software (OSS) model, of which Linux is the chief proponent, and its dangers to Microsoft?s business. Most of the document discusses open source software in general, with separate sections on Linux and on the Web server Apache.
?OSS poses a direct, short term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft, particularly in the server space,? the document reads, adding that the model ?has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mind share threat?.
?Linux has been deployed in mission critical, commercial environments with an excellent pool of public testimonials,? the author observes.
?The primary threat Microsoft faces from Linux is against NT Server,? the document continues. It goes on to list some advantages Linux holds over NT. These include its ability to run on smaller systems than NT (due to modularity), and the fact that it is easier to switch from an older Unix to Linux than it is to switch to NT. The document even mentions ?perceived scalability, interoperability and manageability advantages? over NT.
On the desktop, Linux will not make much headway against Windows, the author of the document postulates. ?Linux? hacker orientation will never provide the ease of use requirements of the average desktop user,? he observes.
The author also suggests some ways Microsoft could counter Linux. These include extending 'commodity protocols/services' and creating new protocols in the network and server arena, in order to ?raise the bar & change the rules of the game?. Though the thought is not developed much further, it has echo?s of Microsoft?s attempts to 'pollute' Java by adding proprietary technology.
On the other hand, the document also suggests Microsoft might adopt some of the advantages of Open Source Software. For instance, by being ?more liberal? in providing partners with sourcecode licences.
The Hallowe'en document is not the first indication that Microsoft is taking Linux seriously. In its most recent Form 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft mentions the rising success of Linux as a potential threat to its operating systems business.
A Microsoft spokesperson was unavailable for comment. However, Microsoft has reportedly conceded that the leaked document is genuine.
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