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The War of the Flea

“The guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend; too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with.” - Robert Taber - War of the Flea -The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare

Last week, I mentioned in my Web journal, that Eric Raymond had published his 8th Halloween Document: 'Doing the Damage-Control Dance'. Open source crusader, Eric, has of course been Microsoft’s ‘Nemesis’ for a long time now and the Halloween Documents, are allegedly leaked memos from Microsoft, which invariably make for entertaining reading.

The latest of these Raymond has nicknamed ‘GandhiCon Three’ after a famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi, - “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”,- is of interest because it suggests that Microsoft, in the shape of Orlando Ayala, Group Vice President of the company’s Worldwide Sales, Marketing and Services Group is increasingly worried by a growing perception that governments and “large institutions are deploying OSS (Open Source Software) or Linux, when they are only considering or just piloting the technology”.

- Mahatma Gandhi

In December, I attended a EURIM meeting on Open Standards/Open Source in eGovernment and a second meeting at the European Parliament offices in London, where Open Source was once again discussed. As a consequence, I believe that Microsoft, while it has good reason to be concerned by the growing Open Source movement in government, is also correct, when it suggests that OSS, while it is winning propaganda victories remains very much at the pilot stage of implementation, where government and very often, big business, is concerned.

In my notes I have written two comments The first, is that ‘Open Source is an unstoppable, disruptive technology’ and the second, which is rather more damning of the present climate, simply says; ‘No understanding of Open Standards, how these are put together and how these continue to a (a state of necessary) interoperability’, which is the key to future success'.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the technology spectrum, Microsoft has good reason to be nervous. 2002 ended with the news that Japan's two largest consumer electronics companies, Panasonic, and Sony have begun joint development of a version of the Linux digital consumer electronics devices. This will bring Linux into direct competition with Windows, once again as Microsoft also plans to expand into new niches beyond PDAs and mobile phones into a new generation of .Net. Digital watches.

You may recall my writing about Linux as a curiosity on the Sony Playstation but this latest Japanese electronics alliance represents a much greater boost for the Linux Operating system, because the two giants have reportedly secured basic support from a number of other major consumer electronics makers to make Linux the platform of choice in embedded devices of the future. Motorola is reportedly “trying to adapt the software for consumer-electronics products and devices as disparate as airplane radar and antilock-brake systems for cars”.

This year, I believe, will be one of increasing ‘Linux creep’ across the technology spectrum. Microsoft has good reason to be concerned by the perceptual impact of the low intensity conflict between two very different ideologies, if only because Linux is becoming a shadowy hit and run. ‘Partisan’ success which frequently leaves Microsoft with an uncertain and heavy-handed tactical response to the threat it now faces , one which echoes the carpet-bombing strategy of the Vietnam war. And we know how that ended.


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