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Opinion: A summer Microsoft won’t forget

Aug 31, 2001 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

A column by David Berlind, Editorial Director of ZDNet's Tech Update . . .

This month may mark birthdays for Windows 95 and XP, but cake and champagne are in short supply over in Redmond. The past summer has been nothing but turmoil for Microsoft, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

All you need to do is scan the headlines for the last 30 days to see that that Linux and open source have gained significant momentum, beautifully leveraging the turmoil in which Microsoft now finds itself. In all its life, IBM OS/2 never achieved the popularity Linux has in just the past month. Fortunately, for IBM, the company couldn't have picked a more precise moment to announce its big customer wins that include Linux running on a range of systems that span low-end servers to big iron. Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig couldn't have timed the delivery of his rallying cry for the open source movement any better.

In the same month, a few more key events happened to bury MS: HP took a page out of IBM's book, announcing it would launch its own version of Linux; Intel released programming tools to ease access to Pentium 4's instruction set for developers working with the operating system; and Red Hat worked a deal with Compaq to get its distribution preloaded on that company's server.

Backed into a corner, Microsoft has been fighting back. Amidst rumors that the company is fearful of government reprisals that could derail the company's future, the company rushed Windows XP out the door. One of XP chief architect Jim Allchin's main selling points for the OS is that it will pull the industry out of its slump. Imagine that point on the slide that lists the reasons XP is good; that would be a first.

Passport and Hailstorm, two lynchpins to Microsoft's .NET strategy, have been viciously slammed by privacy advocates, users, and now, an analyst from Utah. Though there's probably no connection, bear in mind that Utah is a state with a chip on its shoulder. The original home state to Novell and WordPerfect has suffered tremendously at the hands of Microsoft.

The hits continue for MS. The worm, Trojan horse, and virus underground had a field day this summer with Microsoft products and services. Internet Information Server looked like Swiss cheese and Hotmail wasn't exactly a poster child for Microsoft security. If privacy advocates and the government don't slow Microsoft down, lack of confidence in its products and services just might.

To add injury to insult, the gov't is closing in on MS and a punishment appears inevitable. Meanwhile, Microsoft is warring in another theatre across the pond. Its opponent, the EU, appears determined to dig deeper into a possible MS monopoly.

Already, Microsoft is admitting that it can learn a thing or two from Linux and the open source movement. But is it too late?

What do you think? Will this month go down in history as the one Microsoft and the IT industry will never forget? Share your opinion with your fellow readers using ZDNet TechUpdate's Talkback, or write to David directly at [email protected].

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