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Truth and consequences

The resolution of the Microsoft trial should have little effect on Linux. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s recent decision largely in favor of Microsoft will have little effect on Linux. As with the previous federal antitrust action against Microsoft, little resulted from all the work.

In her decision, Kollar-Kotelly endorsed most of the proposed settlement between the Microsoft and the U.S. Dept. of Justice, along with nine of the states in the original action. Nine other states rejected the settlement and asked for stronger sanctions, nearly all of which were denied.

This leaves the situation with Microsoft for Linux users nearly the same as it was prior to the decision. Microsoft still holds a dominant position in many markets and the whole legal action appears to have had little impact.

Microsoft, though, clearly considers Linux a threat. Taking aim at the top perceived advantage for Linux, a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) Microsoft Europe recently claimed that Windows systems have a lower TCO than Linux systems.

On the face of it, Microsoft’s claim seems odd. After all, you can get Linux systems without paying any license fees. Microsoft, though, claims that licensing fees account for only five percent of the total lifetime cost. Furthermore, Microsoft claims that Windows integrates better with software and hardware, leading to cost savings.

Not only does this seem too vague to verify, but it appears to be the first salvo in Microsoft’s renewed attacks on Linux. A document claiming to be a Microsoft memo and leaked to Eric Raymond, of open source fame, purports to present the results of a survey on open source software and Linux in particular. The survey showed that the total cost of ownership was considered one of the top reasons to use Linux instead of Windows.

Among the key results are that Microsoft’s campaign against the GNU Public License, or GPL, have not just failed but backfired. The GPL is one of many open-source software licenses. Also listed as failing are direct attacks on Linux and the movement for open-source software in general. Microsoft’s attempt to tie strong intellectual-property restrictions to a strong technical economy also failed.

To replace the failed campaigns of the past, the memo advocates new strategies, including going after the TCO argument. In addition, the memo seems to threaten direct action, such as lawsuits, over intellectual property issues. This could include attempts to use courts to stop Linux software from being compatible with Windows networking protocols and Office file formats.

As always, the memos are interesting but not definitive. We have no way of knowing whether they are legitimate or not, but they have been weirdly in tune with Microsoft’s strategies. In any case, expect more of the same from Microsoft, with a more finely-tuned message.

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