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Microsoft's 'Linux Threat Level': Down to Green or Redder Than Ever?

Microsoft's 'Linux Threat Level': Down to Green or Redder Than Ever?

"Those tablets and smartphones and web-based apps and ChromeOS laptops with their Google DNA and Linux underpinnings are all direct threats to the Windows OS, so I wouldn't say this is a downgrading of Linux, but an acceptance that Google is going to be the primary way that most people will adopt Linux without realizing it," said Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson.

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
08/15/11 5:00 AM PT

Now that Microsoft wants to be Linux's new best friend, there's bound to be no end of sweet nothings and touching gestures emanating out of Redmond.

After all, we're pals now, right?

Lo and behold! For all you skeptics who doubted the software behemoth's amorous words, consider a few phrasing changes it recently made in its last two annual financial filings.

'So Much for All Those Predictions'

Whereas said documents used to include Linux as a primary threat to Windows -- alongside Apple and Google -- Redmond's documents now reportedly don't mention any competitive threat from desktop Linux at all, according to a recent article on Business Insider, which cites a tweet by Directions on Microsoft's Wes Miller.

Rather, the documents list only Apple and Google as Windows' primary threats on the desktop.

Of course, embedded Linux is still acknowledged as a problem in that arena -- not to mention servers, of course -- but author Matt Rosoff (formerly with Directions on Microsoft as well, it most certainly should be noted) comes to a very happy conclusion anyway: "So much for all those predictions that Linux would kill Windows," he writes.

Awww, isn't that nice? We really *are* friends now!

'MS Is Very Afraid of Linux'

Then again, maybe not.

"The actions 'speak' louder than the words," wrote SAL-e in the comments on Business Insider.

"Microsoft is acting like patent troll and filing law-suits left and right," SAL-e explained. "MS is very afraid of Linux, especially in the mobile arena."

Similar sentiments could be heard down at the blogosphere's Broken Windows Lounge.

"They only downgraded Linux as a threat on the desktop, so the underhanded FUD and legal attacks are likely to continue," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

'The Reality Distortion Field'

Indeed, "the last time I looked, the threats Google represents to both Microsoft and Apple all carried 'Powered by Linux' stickers," noted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

"Those tablets and smartphones and web-based apps and ChromeOS laptops with their Google DNA and Linux underpinnings are all direct threats to the Windows OS, so I wouldn't say this is a downgrading of Linux, but an acceptance that Google is going to be the primary way that most people will adopt Linux without realizing it," Hudson explained.

"Of course, it would take a Microsoftie to tweet that this means 'Linux isn't a threat to the Windows desktop any longer,' she added, quoting Miller's words. "This proves two things: Apple and Steve Jobs don't have a monopoly on the Reality Distortion Field, and Twitter -- with its 140-character limit -- is never going to be the source of any serious analysis."

'Threat Level Is Red'

Linux is "not an operating system but a component of many operating systems, all of which are taking a slice of M$'s pie: GNU/Linux, Android/Linux, Meego and WebOS," agreed blogger Robert Pogson. "Whereas M$ used to have weak competition from GNU/Linux and MacOS, they are now surrounded and holed at the water-line."

Microsoft is "still dishonest," Pogson added. "A 'PC' is a personal computer and not necessarily one with M$'s OS. There is not much indication that demand for PCs will reduce, but PCs running M$'s OS certainly are being replaced with more functional units at lower prices.

"M$, after decades, is now having to compete on price/performance," he concluded.

Bottom line? "Threat level is Red," Pogson added.

'The Year the Desktop All But Goes Away'

Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza took a similar view.

"It looks like there won't be any year of the Linux desktop, mostly because it's going to be the year the desktop all but goes away," Espinoza told Linux Girl.

"Pundits have long predicted the virtual disappearance of the computer as we know it, and the broad acceptance of powerful smartphones seems to be putting the truth to that once seemingly ridiculous proclamation," he added.

'Filled to the Brim with Zealots'

Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet saw it differently.

In fact, Linux really isn't a threat to Microsoft, hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

"For little shops like mine it would be really nice if it was, but it really isn't," hairyfeet said.

Linux also hasn't improved in the past two years, he added: "Drivers are just as buggy, upgrades still kill hardware, waaaay too many things are tied to what kernel version you have, and the whole thing is filled to the brim with zealots that act like you kicked a puppy if you dare to point out what is wrong.

"It has been 20 years since Linus released the Linux kernel, and it still hasn't gotten above the margin of error," he concluded. "Why? Simple -- Linux is BY geeks and FOR geeks, and not a single one with any power will listen to the users."

'Linux Will Continue to Make Inroads'

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, wasn't convinced that Microsoft's changed wording had much significance.

"It does represent a developing understanding that Windows is deeply entrenched in some markets and Linux as a general operating system is not really able to unseat it at the present moment," Travers said. "I think that Linux will continue to make inroads into these areas slowly, however."

In the long run, though, the real threats to Microsoft and Windows may have nothing to do with operating systems, Hudson suggested.

'The Tech Elephant Graveyard'

"It's become an ingrained truth that Microsoft cannot take the initiative; its actions are knee-jerk responses to products and services from Apple and Google," she explained.

"Nobody believes that Microsoft is capable of planning and executing anything really new and innovative, or even buying successful technology and integrating it," Hudson added. "Rather, it is the tech Elephant Graveyard, the place where other companies (Danger, Nokia, etc.) go to die.

"Of course, a more up-front appraisal would have listed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as the biggest threat to Microsoft," she added. "But that's a whole other story."


Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


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