February 19, 2001

Weekly news wrapup: Microsoft claims Linux is un-American

Author: JT Smith

- by Grant Gross -

Everyone's favorite monopolists -- we're talking about Microsoft here -- had one of those kind of weeks that makes fans like us realize why they get themselves in trouble with the U.S. Department of Justice every once in awhile.

This week, Microsoft's Windows operating-system chief, Jim Allchin, was was quoted as claiming Linux stifles innovation. "I'm an American, I believe in the American Way," he told Bloomberg, implying that Linux is un-American. "I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don't think we've done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat."

Those damned communist Open Source hackers! Let's have congressional hearings or something. Despite Linux ruining America's ability to innovate, Allchin says Microsoft can compete, because it allows companies to pay for its support, in addition to paying for the original product. Linux companies don't provide support, he claimed, and therefore companies that use Linux products must pay someone else for support. Are you following Allchin's logic yet? Me neither.

When Microsoft wasn't claiming Linux will starve your dog and kidnap your children, it found out it was facing another Justice Department investigation for investing $135 million in rival Corel. Poor Microsoft, what could possibly be wrong with propping its major office suite competitor and convincing it to sell off its Linux products? So let me get this straight, Mr. Allchin: Giving away a superior product for free stifles innovation, but paying your competitors to go away is the American way? OK, now I understand.

Expect more rhetoric from Microsoft after CEO Steve Ballmer recently identified Linux as a "threat." Ballmer was quoted as saying, "I definitely feel we need to fight back not only in the embedded space, but also in the ISP space, the server space and the academic space. Microsoft programs and initiatives will attack on every one of these fronts." Notice the use of words like "fight back" and "attack" -- and top-level executive shakeups at Microsoft. It sounds like we have a company running scared.

If that wasn't enough Microsoft news, a recruitment letter the company has apparently been sending to Linux developers down under made the rounds this week. It says, in part: "I have a deep respect for users of Linux/Unix and know they are sometimes the most hard core devoted programmers out there. We are looking for the best and brightest to join our team to produce the next generation of Windows." If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em?

Trademarks and fighting fairly

Thank god that there was more than Microsoft news in the Open Source world this week. The OpenSSH project team was asked by SSH Communications Security Corp. to stop using SSH in its name. SSH Communications Security claims to have a trademark on SSH and CTO Tatu Ylönen says OpenSSH's use of the name just hit his radar screen, although the project is nearly two years old. OpenSSH's Theo de Raadt suggested the community decide the issue, but it appears unlikely that will happen. Late in the week, Ylönen repeated his trademark claim while offering a proposal, but as of now, it seems that the two sides are too far apart.

Chip-maker Transmeta, employer of Linux godfather Linus Torvalds, plans to release a version of Linux for Internet devices and other appliances.

In round 1,453 of the KDE vs. Gnome battles, Gnome services company Ximian rankled the KDE faithful when it purchased advertising that popped up on the Google search engine when a user entered a KDE-related term. Ximian defended the ads but later pulled them, reported NewsForge news editor Tina Gasperson.

New in NewsForge this week

Editor in chief Robin Miller found out that Maximum Linux magazine was shutting down. Parent company Imagine Media is restructuring, and Maximum Linux wasn't making any money.

Columnist Julie Bresnick interviews Linux contributor Tigran Aivazian about his life before Linux in Armenia, and about how he embraces change.

Two of our writers explained the 2.4 Linux kernel to readers. Weekend editor Dylan Griffiths explained how decisions happen with the kernel team, and news editor Dan Berkes wrote about the basics of the kernel itself. If you've ever wondered, "what the heck is this kernel stuff?" here's your chance.

NewsForge editors read and respond to comments posted on our discussion page.

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