June 1, 2001

Microsoft and the big lie

Author: JT Smith

Eric Raymond writes: "A senior Microsoft executive is telling lies in public. In other
startling news, the sky is blue and water has been seen flowing
downhill."
At http://www.suntimes.com/output/tech/cst-fin-micro01.html, Steve Ballmer
of Microsoft answered this question:

Q: Do you view Linux and the open-source movement as a threat to Microsoft?

A: "Yeah. It's good competition. It will force us to be innovative. It
will force us to justify the prices and value that we deliver. And
that's only healthy. The only thing we have a problem with is when the
government funds open-source work. Government funding should be for
work that is available to everybody.  Open source is not available to
commercial companies. The way the license is written, if you use any
open-source software, you have to make the rest of your software open
source. If the government wants to put something in the public domain,
it should. Linux is not in the public domain. Linux is a cancer that
attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it
touches. That's the way that the license works."

Let's examine the key sentences:

* Open source is not available to commercial companies.

The last I checked, Red Hat Software, VA Linux Systems, IBM, SGI, and
Hewlett-Packard were all "commercial companies".

I wonder what the developers at Microsoft who based the Internet
protocol code of Windows on the open-source Berkeley TCP/IP stack
think of this assertion?

* The way the license is written, if you use any open-source software, you
  have to make the rest of your software open source.

60% of the world uses the open-source Apache program to serve their web
pages.  The next time you hear of Apache use forcing anybody's software open
will be the first.

* If the government wants to put something in the public domain, it should.
  Linux is not in the public domain.

True.  Of course, "the government" doesn't own Linux and has very
little to do with Linux development, so it's hard to see what Ballmer
is recommending here.

* Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense
  to everything it touches.

Lots of people have proprietary software and data on their Linux machines.
The next time you hear of Linux "attaching" itself to any of this data
and forcing it open will be the first.

*  That's the way that the license works.

The GPL infects only derivative works of GPLed software -- you have to 
include part of the source code of a GPLed program in your program, or
choose to link to a GPLed library, before the GPL applies to your code.
You can use a Linux kernel and Linux-hosted programs all you like with
never a worry about your intellectual property.

Other open-source licenses -- such as the BSD license in the TCP/IP
stack that Microsoft adapted for Windows -- will never infect
anybody's code or data, because they're designed not to.  But Ballmer
wants businesspeople and the public to fear them all, because only if
open source is general is discredited will Microsoft maintain its
monopoly.

The Big Lie is a term originally coined to describe a characteristic
form of Nazi (and later Soviet) propaganda.  The essence of the Big
Lie propaganda technique is that if you repeat the lie often enough
over enough channels, people will soak it up through their pores and
come to believe it as something "everybody knows".

In the last three months, Jim Allchin and Craig Mundie and Steve Ballmer
have launched a classic Big Lie campaign against open source.  They 
have described it as "un-American", "a destroyer", and "a cancer".  They
have deliberately confused the GPL with non-infectious open-source licenses,
and they have deliberately confused active combination of code with
passive aggregation of data.  They have lied, and lied, and lied again.

Why?  Because the most truthful thing Ballmer admitted in that
interview is that yeah, Linux *is* a threat to Microsoft.  It
threatens to break Microsoft's 91% monopoly on personal-computer
operaing systems.  It threatens to free consumers from proprietary
lock-in, and to deliver better software and more choices at lower
cost.

Two years ago, the Halloween Documents observed that in order to
defeat the threat of open source, Microsoft must attack "a process,
not a company".  That is exactly what Allchin and Mundie and Ballmer
are doing now, attacking with a Big Lie software they know they cannot
match in reliability, sophistication, security, and overall
cost/benefit ratio.  

In the open-source community, we have a favorite quote from Mohandas
Gandhi: "First they ignore you.  Then they laugh at you.  Then they
fight you.  Then you win."

Evidently, we're getting close to winning.
-- 
                 http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/">Eric S. Raymond

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing 
which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety, 
is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made 
and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. 
         -- John Stuart Mill, writing on the U.S. Civil War in 1862

Category:

  • Migration
Click Here!