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.comment: Can Microsoft Hurt Linux? In a Word, No. - page 4

Appeal Not, Lest Ye Be Appealed

  • February 28, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

An additional way to triumph in the oncoming assault is beautifully simple. People who are using Linux servers are unlikely to go elsewhere. Distributions want to capitalize on the server market, and Microsoft is going to make that more difficult for a little while. Don't stop chasing server installations, but recognize the opportunity, then, to hit Microsoft on the desktop. How?

For a start, go for preloads. Distributions can enter into preload agreements that cost the OEM next to nothing, maybe nothing at all. Spend a few bucks and optimize the distributions for the particular machines. OEM's are hurting -- have you followed Dell's share prices lately? -- and would be happy to save money wherever they can. If users want Windows, spend development money not on this week's network configurator but instead on the apps that Windows has but Linux doesn't. And let it all out for free.

Offer tech support for free, but make money on it anyway. This one's a slam-dunk. Distributions and others are offering Linux training. People are paying for it. So make part of the training regime, the last part, picking up those tech support phones and providing answers. Talk about where the rubber meets the road! Cook up an intensive training program the last couple of weeks are doing tech support, one week among the clueless callers and one among those who know their way around. Supervise it, of course, with some real hotdog Linux hands, because there is too much for any one person to know. In that everybody will probably not be studying the same areas, there will be places to send the more specialized calls. This would work.

There's a sign on the wall of an auto repair shop in the Bronx, auto repair shops being a leading locus of pithy signs. It says, "Good - Fast - Cheap -- Pick Two." With Linux, the user can have all three, and it's about time distributions got over their delusions of IPO grandeur and started capitalizing on it. If Microsoft goes after Linux on the server, hit 'em on the desktop. If Microsoft goes after the desktop, hit 'em as a Web server platform. If Microsoft goes after the Web server platform, go after the database server. And so on. Play whack-a-mole. Microsoft is as bloated as its codebase. Linux companies are, or ought to be, fast and agile. They can stop chasing and start leading. Microsoft is coming after Linux -- let's make 'em chase us all over the place. If Linux is any good -- and it is -- then Microsoft will lose market share at every stop.

And Linux, and its user base, will be better for the exercise.

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