February 26, 2001

Weekly news wrapup: Microsoft vs. those 'anti-American' Open Source people, Part 2

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

What do you get when a Microsoft executive implies that Open Source is un-American? Two weeks of backlash from the Open Source community, that's what.

To review: Microsoft's Windows operating-system chief, Jim Allchin, said recently that Open Source stifles innovation. Microsoft semi-retracted -- maybe "clarified" is a better word -- Allchin's statement this week, saying he was misunderstood. Apparently, in nearly saying Microsoft stood for truth, justice and the American way, and Open Source developers were a bunch of pinko communist bastards, what Allchin really meant to say was he was concerned about the GNU General Public License's effect on innovation, when you can't hide your terribly innovative code behind a proprietary license.

The Open Source response has been swift and plentiful. Week two of the response included an article from Linux Journal saying Allchin's comments show Microsoft is scared as hell over Linux. "According to the hive mind of Microsoft, open source should be made illegal. There's no way around it, this is the bottom line," the Linux Journal wrote.

LinuxPlanet asked the Open Source community to consider its own actions in "what is going to be a very long and extremely bloody dispute." More from that article: "The community makes it as difficult as it can for businesses to develop for Linux. Indeed, if someone were to make the claim that the Linux community is fundamentally anti-business, I would have a hard time finding very convincing evidence to the contrary ... As you read the newsgroups and mailing lists, make mental note of the postings that you would use if trying to talk a business into adopting Linux over a Microsoft product. And make note of the ones you'd avoid using."

Allchin's comments even prompted LinuxtToday.com.au to wonder if Linux was also un-Australian. And in an open letter published by NewsForge and others, Jason Reeves, responding to Microsoft's clarification, tells Microsoft to stop whining and start working.

Microsoft selling its stake in Corel?

Several reports surfaced this week saying Microsoft was thinking about selling its shares in office suite competitor and Linux distributor Corel because of U.S. Justice Department questions over whether Microsoft's investment might be considered monopolistic. The apparent asking price: about half of what Microsoft paid for 24 million shares of Corel. A Microsoft spokesdroid denied those rumors late in the week, saying Microsoft's registration for 24
million Series A shares to be converted to common shares was just the company keeping its options open.

Bad week for business

Leading Linux company (and NewsForge parent) VA Linux announced this week it will be laying off 25 percent of its staff in an attempt to become profitable in a tough market. VA's quarterly financials showed the company with a net loss of 28 cents a share, while Wall Street's ever-important expectations had the company only losing 26 cents a share. The layoffs prompted a response from VA board member and Open Source evangelist Eric S. Raymond, who argued that the layoffs are part of a temporary setback. He added, "All the corporate stuff is not, after all, the point -- the point is to change the world, to do better software and give
users more choices. It's been a nice party, but some of us did get a little distracted by all that easy money flowing around. If the slump does nothing else but take our eyes off those dollar signs and put them firmly back on the work, maybe it will have been the best thing for us after all."

New in NewsForge this week

In case you missed these stories:

Columnist Julie Bresnick profiled Linux contributor Theodore Ts'o, whose favorite thing about the 2.4 kernel is that it's now available.

We talked to Ray Sanders of QLITech, which is taking over the Tuxtops line of Linux laptops. Sanders says QLITech can make a better go of selling Linux laptops because of the company's diverse product line.

In perhaps the oddest story of the week, news editor Tina Gasperson followed up on earlier reports that Gnome services company Ximian was buying ads on Google searches for desktop rival KDE. A fan of Gnome decided to keep the fight alive by purchasing Gnome ads on his own.

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