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Viva Zapatista

Whether by accident or design, it very much looks as if Microsoft, in its attempts to find a more intelligent way of dealing with the threat that Linux poses to its Server revenues, is now reacting differently to “The War of the Flea”, I described in an earlier column.



Large American corporations frequently represent a cultural reflection of United States foreign policy where unwelcome competition is involved. Where the British dither and the French may use clandestine finesse and well-placed explosives, our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic have an emotional attachment to the B52 bomber, big, noisy, unsubtle and completely useless when it comes to dealing with today’s expanding ‘Zapatista’ protest culture of which Linux is increasingly a part.

You see, if ‘Che Guevara’ was still around today, he’d probably be wearing combat trousers and a t-shirt with a cigar-smoking, machine-gun toting Penguin on it. Linux has become a popular icon that represents everything which Microsoft isn’t. Whether the technology Linux offers is better or worse than anything that Redmond can sell us, is increasingly immaterial to an army of partisan developers. After all, whatever Linux can’t do for you this year, collaboration and a common-purpose will allow the people’s programmers to make work next year.



At last, Microsoft is beginning to comprehend that it’s not fighting the equivalent of a large tank battle purely around a question of technology preference. Mirroring the political situation which surrounds us today, Microsoft is fighting an ideological war for which it is not well equipped and which ultimately could prove more dangerous to its revenues than the creeping risk of a second, so-called ‘Axis of Evil’, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems, promoting the benefits of Linux to their Enterprise customers.

So, this week, I read, that Microsoft is once again, dropping its special forces into a stand at the big LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York in an effort to reach out to the people that matter, the programmers and Unix enthusiasts and convince them that when the time comes to migrate, Windows on Intel is a better decision than Linux on the same platform.



The billion dollar question is whether this kind of activity is too little too late? Microsoft has had a good three years of trying to settle the Linux argument with a baseball bat and in that time, it has arguably been responsible for the creation of the Linux “sub-culture” that could one prove to be its undoing. I’m seeing signs that at last, the company is starting to understand the true shape of the Linux phenomenon and is attempting to define a new strategy, one capable of addressing both the technical and ideological arguments that it must win if it’s to be the dominant player in tomorrow’s Enterprise.

But that’s tomorrow and this is today and while Microsoft, with its back to the wall, decides its next move, I would argue that in a no-man’s land between technology and ideology, the company is still firmly pinned by horns of the dilemma that Linux represents.



One final point before people start predicting the inevitable victory of Open Source Computing over the powers of reactionary capitalism. In real life, Che was a revolutionary failure and the legend was far greater than the man!

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