Originally Published: Monday, 17 January 2000 Author: Jerry Hatchett
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

I Was On the Edge of My Seat

At first glance, portions of this article might appear to be in rebuttal to a nicely written piece that appeared here several days ago, entitled Microsoft: Who Cares? This is not by design. I got the idea for this article as I was watching Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer perform the Microsoft press conference of a few days ago, and it just so happened that the aforementioned article from Rob Bos appeared the next day. So with all due respect to Rob and with gratitude to Linux.com for providing the opportunity for differing opinions to be heard, let me begin....

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At first glance, portions of this article might appear to be in rebuttal to a nicely written piece that appeared here several days ago, entitled Microsoft: Who Cares? This is not by design. I got the idea for this article as I was watching Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer perform the Microsoft press conference of a few days ago, and it just so happened that the aforementioned article from Rob Bos appeared the next day. So with all due respect to Rob and with gratitude to Linux.com for providing the opportunity for differing opinions to be heard, let me begin.

I do care, and I paid close attention to what Bill and Steve had to say. I watched much of it from the office on CNBC, and later that night at home I watched more of it as it was replayed on ZDTV. I also saw Leo Laporte singing the praises of Windows 2000 a little later, but that's another story and I'll believe it when I see it for myself. Sorry, Leo. Did I follow this story because I like Windows? No. I've lamented in times gone by about how I spend a great deal of time trapped in a Windows world and how much I hate it. Did I follow it because I own Microsoft stock? Nope, I've never owned a single share of it and don't want one. Was I captivated by the charismatic eloquence of the speakers? Surely you jest.

The plain and simple fact is that I watched them because it would not have surprised me in the least for Bill to have announced their latest "revolutionary" innovation, MS-Linux. You see, with each passing day I become a little more convinced that this is a very real possibility. Everything that follows is strictly my own personal opinion, and in that opinion, MS-Linux is the natural next step in the Microsoft model. Sit back. Let someone else test, establish, and prove a market. Then step in with the huge bucks and take that market. Not sounding familiar yet? Ask Netscape.

When viewed from a stone cold financial perspective, one must honestly say that provided this strategy is carried out within the bounds of the law, it's actually a brilliant way to conduct business. Someone else takes the risks and you reap the rewards. Is it fun to be on the other side? Absolutely not. Is it fair? I don?t think so. But it's business, it happens, and it's a sound strategy if you can make it work. Microsoft has made it work to perfection. As everyone on the computer planet knows, it's up in the air right now as to whether they've done it within the bounds of the law, but it's hard to argue the results of the model.

Results or not, however, I don't like the model. To me, it reeks of a callous disregard for the work of others and embraces a belief that money is the only thing that matters, a premise I vigorously refuse to accept. Don't misunderstand, I have no quarrel with people making money from their efforts; I applaud it. But I scoff at the notion that the dollar is supreme. It ain't.

Aside from the above stated disapproval, and given my stated position in the past about the Linux community needing to work harder to accommodate the masses, there is a certain twisted logic that says I should perhaps embrace a Microsoft entry into the village. After all, you may rest assured that MS-Linux would be canned in a nice, simple package for my mother-in-law and Joe. Partitions would never be mentioned, and the little dancing paper clip would make everything oh so simple.

But I'm not excited about the thought. In fact, I don't like the thought at all. I think Microsoft would stink up the whole movement. I think they would quickly find a way to turn their version of Open Source into Closed Source, smooth standards would become fragmented junk, and before long they'd have the masses believing that they created the whole darn thing.

So, the more Bill talked about his new role as "Chief Software Architect," the more I cringed. The more they talked about software going in new directions, the queasier I got. I just knew that at any moment I was about to hear, "We have decided to embrace and help the Open Source movement" or some such malarkey. Thankfully, I never heard anything like that, but there's always tomorrow and always another opportunity for them to ruin my day.

Jerry Hatchett is a 40-year-old entrepreneur who loves the online world and the technology that drives it. He believes that Linux is a key component in the future of that world, and enjoys sharing his meandering thoughts in support of the community that made and makes Linux possible.





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