August 12, 2004

Some advice for SCO/Microsoft ally Rob Enderle

Author: Joe Barr

Dear Rob Enderle,

I want to thank you, a supposedly independent IT analyst, for the keynote speech you gave recently at the SCO Forum. It certainly explains a lot of things about where you are coming from: your bias toward the Microsoft and SCO alliance, for one thing; your bias against Linux and free software for another. No longer do any of us -- at Groklaw, NewsForge, or anywhere else -- need to puzzle over your motivations. You've made them extraordinarily clear.

Oh, sure. I do have a couple of things to quibble about -- and an observation or two to make -- but I commend you sincerely for opening up your heart-of-hearts and letting the world get a peek inside.

My major complaint about your speech is that the level of understanding of free software demonstrated in your talk approximates that which Baud has given an animal cracker. To say "You don't get it" in this case is like saying the known universe is a big place. You don't begin to grok free software, Linux, or the communities involved -- especially Groklaw.

A secondary observation: You must have a blackbelt in the art of FUD. No, please. Don't be modest. Your use of the rarely employed kata -- called "the rodent of pre-emptive denial" by its practitioners -- reveals great skill. After learning of your history with IBM, Gates, and Ballmer, though, I guess your expertise in this area shouldn't really come as a surprise.

After all, it was IBM who invented FUD. A classic example being the sales call made by IBM on a customer considering another vendor. One of the blue suits, sometime during the visit, would remark "I certainly hope the talk about their (the competitor's) financial difficulties is not true." If the customer asked for more details, the salesman could simply apologize for his "slip of the tongue" and change the topic. But whether the customer asked about it or not, a seed of "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" about the possible consequences of doing business with the competitor had been sown.

PJ a marketing exec?
In his speech, Enderle said of Groklaw: "The site is supported by a marketing executive whose future is tied to the future of Linux and has strong political skills." I asked Pamela Jones (PJ to Groklaw regulars) if this were true. She replied:

I'm not a marketing exec. He makes these things up, I guess.
I also, as you know, do not work for or with IBM. I've stated so
publicly, including in a letter to the editor for ZDNet, when they
asked me to do so the last time this came up.

A simple Google search would have cleared up this matter, had he done
one, so I see no excuse for him to say reckless, inaccurate things. I
don't understand why anyone would say untrue things about someone. It's
terribly wrong, in my view, and I feel he should apologize.

I'm just me. Groklaw is me. Me plus a large community that cares.
Groklaw just tipped the 7,000 member mark, and it is still growing.
That's all there is to it. I gather he imagines Groklaw is too good to
be by little ole me, a nobody. Surely IBM must be behind it. But they
aren't. Groklaw is a voice from the community, and if we are so
effective that SCO and their gang feel they must attack Groklaw, I'm
glad. But they should stick to the truth.

Of course, a girl could get positively tuckered out trying to teach the
SCO group manners.

Microsoft took FUD to a whole 'nother level. Instead of using softly whispered asides during sales calls, they hired shills to blare the FUD over loudspeakers: Journalists, analysts, and astroturfing surfers are all employed to that end. The list of victims of such FUD attacks is too long to relate here. Let's just say that Novell received a rather large settlement recently for the damage done to DrDOS by Microsoft's FUD.

I still remember when -- about 1994, if I recall correctly -- industry analyst Phil Payne observed on Will Zachmann's legendary Canopus Forum on CompuServe that Microsoft was invariably doing exactly what it accused the competition of doing. That's another rare form of FUD you seem to have learned at the master's knee, grasshopper: Your speech is overly full of it.

For example, you said:

I understand the need for those that are deeply political or religious to misrepresent their opponents so that their own positions appear well founded. I also believe the practice to be stupid, primarily because eventually the truth does come out, but I still understand it.

Then you demonstrate how deeply you understand by saying of Linux users:

There are people who get up every day, work a 9 to 5 and go home to their families trading their lives for varying degrees of cash. In my view, though clearly not theirs, they are selling their lives very cheaply. These are wage slaves and the difference between people like that and a zombie is generally lost on me. Do you realize that many, I'm not saying all or even most, of the Linux supporters are like this, they have never coded anything in their lives, have never even played a video game, in fact the only reason they are supporting Linux is because it is a cause and their life lacks one. That is an incredibly sad group of folks, and I wonder what their reaction will be when they finally understand they are supporting software and not the second coming.

Thus proving Payne's observation not only to be correct, but still valid after all these years.

I'm curious, Rob, whether your apparent confusion about free software is real or feigned. It could very well be FUD of the third kind: that which plays on misconceptions that are already "out there." Certainly an analyst of your stature -- coming from an industry renowned for borrowing a customer's watch in order to tell him what time it is -- should have stumbled over a clue by now. That you haven't is something of a mystery.

You say there are three types of free software, then you go on to describe two types of proprietary software -- adware and time-limited trial versions -- with one false representation of Linux. In your own words:

With software there are several kinds of "free." There are free products that come with ads and increasingly with Spyware, there are "free trials" which time out at unfortunate periods of time (time bombs), and there are free enterprise products that cost 1,000s of dollars. Guess which one Linux is?

Are you really that ill-informed about the most powerful dynamic in IT today, Rob? Your statements show you know nothing about the subject of your attacks, the recipient of your bias, the villain of your tale? Or is that simply a reflection of how poorly informed you think the people who listen to you and trust your judgement are? It's hard to say for sure which is the case. My call on it could go either way.

There isn't any mistaking your animosity toward Groklaw; it is as obvious as the morning sun. If ever there was a dark kingdom that preferred darkness to light, FUD to truth, and confusion to clarity, it is Microsoft and its legion of shills. Your dislike for Groklaw is easy to understand: Its community is dedicated to challenging all the FUD it can find.

But you're certainly right about fanaticism going too far at times. I've experienced it myself, coming from Windows users when I skewered the myth of Windows being an easier, faster, better install than Linux. You see, Rob, although you wave your hands and sing hosanna in admiration of the depth of your understanding of human nature, you fail to understand that a certain percentage of every user group -- regardless of their software preference -- fits that mold. Unless, of course, you are simply being dishonest in your attribution of those traits to the free software world.

In closing, Rob, I would like to offer some advice: If you truly wish to stop being called a Microsoft shill, or a SCO shill, learn something about free software and the people who develop it. Tell both sides, honestly, without your very obvious -- and now admitted -- bias for the monopoly and your disdain for truly free software, and you'll find people in both camps listening approvingly.

Sincerely,
Joe Barr