The Linux Position

Most companies—especially those in the technology world—are not interested in simple answers to simple questions.
Competitive (necessary for the war and sports stories that write themselves)
  • the fastest-growing OS outside of NT

  • a worthy contender

  • a juggernaut

  • a movement

  • the definitive answer to the small business needs for Internet connectivity, a web server and e-mail services

Flawed (always a good character trait)
  • complicated

  • a good teacher of science-oriented college students, but a rotten teacher for just about everyone else

  • overkill for most home applications

  • simply too hard to use for the average user

  • entrenched in a grass-roots development model

Believe me, you can't buy PR this good. Especially since the default story is about a fight between this Finnish dude and a Schwarzenegger character and it isn't an act. Here's a look at six different “versus” constructions:

  • Linux vs. Microsoft: 57

  • Microsoft vs. Linux: 110

  • Linux vs. NT: 512

  • Linux vs. (Windows, Cisco, BeOS...) 1968

  • Microsoft vs. (DOJ, Justice, Netware...) 2721

A big part of positioning is unconscious, yet revealed by who you list first. Is it Yankees vs. Dodgers or Dodgers vs. Yankees? We tend to list favorites first. So if I had to call a play-by-play on the games here, I'd say Microsoft appears to be the favorite in the company game, while Linux is the favorite in the OS game (which, fortunately, is the one that truly matters).

Even when editors don't use the “versus” construction, they still apply a rule I obtained recently from a Wall Street Journal reporter: “These days you can't write about Microsoft without bringing up Linux.” It's pro forma. Even if they know nothing about Linux, they still cast its character.

And what about Microsoft, really? Does this corporate Terminator truly consider Linux to be a competitor? “This much is clear to them, right to the top of the company.” One cross-platform developer told me this morning, “They can't win the server war. There's no way they can lock it down like they did with the desktop. Linux is now the server of choice. They know they have to cope with that, and they're really not sure how to do it.”

Let's hope they start figuring out how. Microsoft is a problem we don't want to lose.


Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

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