off the Press - News
Russell Shaw , www.enterprise-windows-it.com
Courtesy of Yahoo News Factor
Linux in the Wind?
Nov 20th, 2003
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT - news) might build a flavor of Linux (news
- web sites) into Windows Server 2003 has been rife since May, when
the company said it was licensing the Unix (news - web sites) source
code and patent from the SCO Group. That action followed SCO's infamous
US$1 billion lawsuit, filed in March, which accuses IBM (NYSE: IBM -
news) of improperly lifting copyrighted Unix technology and building
it into Linux.
The Microsoft-Linux speculation has been fueled by Linux' increasing
prominence on the enterprise server level, largely thanks to IBM, and
Microsoft's historical willingness to react to competitive threats by
creating its own versions of rival products.
Still, despite the speculation, there is considerable doubt that Microsoft
will develop or distribute its own version of Linux anytime soon.
Proprietary by Nature
Perhaps the most compelling reason for skepticism is that such a move
would be against Microsoft's very nature.
"At this point, Microsoft appears to be opposed to both the concept
of open-source software, in general, and Linux, in specific," Dan
Kusnetsky, vice president of system software for IDC, told NewsFactor.
"I'd have to say that the chance of Microsoft offering a Linux
operating system is rather remote."
Even if the software giant were to revise its philosophy, there is the
matter of whether such a move would make sense in financial terms.
"Microsoft's management has a responsibility to maintain and increase
shareholder value," Stacey Quandt, principal analyst, Open Source
Development Lab, told NewsFactor. "At the same time, Microsoft's
survival in its present form depends on maintaining and increasing the
Windows operating system installed base. Hence," she concluded,
"it is highly unlikely that Microsoft will create a Linux operating
That Pesky GPL
Apart from the business and corporate-culture issues, the main barrier
toward Microsoft Linux may be Linux's GPL (General Public License),
which allows developers
access to the source code in order to create their own enhancements and
applications. The GPL would be problematic for Microsoft on several levels.
"The GPL is a
very viral license, and anything it touches has to be given away,"
noted Ted Schadler, principal analyst for Forrester Research. "That
being the case, it would be very hard for a commercial operating-system
provider to distribute a version of Linux without running the risk of
having its own proprietary code touch it," he told NewsFactor.
The openness mandated by GPL is so contrary to Microsoft's technical culture
that the Redmond, Washington, giant would not be able to accept Linux,
says David Smith, vice-president at Gartner Research. "Not everything
will change at Microsoft. Some deeply held beliefs, such as the importance
of the OS and tight integration, will remain set in stone," he told
"Microsoft continues to believe in tight integration between its
OS, middleware and applications," Smith explained. "With Linux,
the General Public License requires that any changes to the code be made
available to the open-source software community. Therefore, the importance
of the OS, and the capability for tight technical integration, is a major
barrier to Microsoft's potential willingness to support Linux."
Gates of Wrath?
One possible alternate strategy might be for Microsoft to develop a version
of Linux that is different enough from available products that it could
be passed off as a somewhat original creation. But would the open-source
community -- which regularly castigates Microsoft on message boards and
Web sites -- accept a Microsoft-influenced Linux product?
"What would be the effect on the market if they developed their own
Linux? Well, one issue is, what does it mean to have your own Linux?"
queried Thomas Murphy, senior program director of research services at
the Meta Group. "[Microsoft] really can't have any secret sauce,
and anything they add to the OS would have to go open source also,"
he told NewsFactor.
"If they did anything that made it their own, then they would be
hammered for trying to break Linux, and open-source advocates would not
trust this," Murphy added.