Learning from Linux
OS/2 and the Halloween Memos
PART 3 - Halloween III

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The Linux community has recently posted a number of leaked memos that Microsoft admits are internal MS documents. These papers are Microsoft analyses designed to summarize the Linux phenomenon and help Microsoft focus on how to attack this alternative platform and prevent the public from enjoying it. Prominent Linux people have also commented on these memos and how they reveal Microsoft's internal culture and world-view.

But interest in understanding the Microsoft ethos is not limited to Linux supporters. OS/2 users and advocates can learn a great deal about Microsoft's inner workings and how to take advantage of their smug neglect of the OS/2 community. For example, the articles show a pervasive amnesia about OS/2 as an available option for computer users. These memos also confirm that such tactics as FUD, the threat of lawsuits, and the corruption of open standards are all normal, everyday tactics in the Microsoft repertoire. Let us analyze the memos and see what we can learn about "The Microsoft Way" and how to overcome its intentional obstacles to progress.

Halloween III

(the Linux excerpts follow)

Sometimes Linux competes with Windows NT. This is hardly news. But it is not
NT vs Linux. Dramatically demonstrates the wildly different business models of the OS
marketplace and the vigorous competition at every level (technical,
alliances, applications, channels and business model) that characterize the

This is spin designed to quickly deflect any suspicion of monopoly intent away from MS before getting to the heart of the memo. Microsoft prefers to consider the freeware market -- open source and other noncommercial, nontraditional sources of software -- as a viable competitor (perhaps ONLY viable competitor?) in this analysis. However, they will vigorously deny this "competition" when trying to convince an ISV to write for their proprietary Win32 API. They will carefully downplay this so-called "competition" when dealing with stock analysts. They will rudely dismiss such "competition" when negotiating preload contracts with their captive PC OEMs. It seems that the PC software marketplace has "competition" only while Microsoft is in court, not when they conduct their business activities. How convenient for them.

In addition, however, Linux is an alternative to/competitor for other
versions of UNIX, especially RISC UNIX - in fact this may be the more
powerful affect in the marketplace.

In other words, there is competition, but it doesn't matter, since they will all kill each other off. How clever -- praise the marketplace for providing competition, and then consign all of the competitors to a doomed condition. The writer shows clearly Microsoft's need to have their cake and eat it, too. Microsoft hypocritically cries "foul" when confronted with the fact of their monopoly, but then just as quickly dismisses the entire Unix marketplace as a non-factor, with Linux merely the straw that breaks its back.

Has an utterly different business, support, and investment model from the
comprehensive, integrated Microsoft model for Windows NT, which has
attracted millions of developers and tens of thousands of

This statement attempts to imply that Microsoft's "cathedral" approach -- a closed, proprietary world devoid of creativity -- is "comprehensive" (the word means thorough, complete, and well-balanced), while Linux in particular and Open Source in general are "incomplete" because they are "too flexible" and "too decentralized." Microsoft's infantile need for control of all intellectual property bleeds over into their observations of the nontraditional software market. They refuse to attempt to comprehend a development environment that is driven by the developers and their customers, instead of by lawyers and marketers.

Linux is a philosophy as much as technical phenomena.

Ah yes, this is what we OS/2 users have tried to explain to the world about Microsoft as well:


Windows is about *control*:
- control of users
- control of developers
- control of distribution channels
- control of the media
- control of investment capital
- control of public opinion
- control of education
- control of industry
- and, finally, control of government

(Note: if you think control of government is far-fetched, ask the Department of Justice which operating system they just installed.)

Windows is about control, because *Microsoft itself* is about control. To put it another way, Microsoft is not a bunch of nerds writing great software -- as they falsely portray themselves to the public at large. Microsoft is a bunch of control freaks who happened to latch onto software as a highly effective means of control, a level of control that in prior ages would have required military action, political intrigue, or Mafia-style terrorism. Instead, it's control packaged as freedom -- the most effective type of propaganda.

On the positive, and Microsoft is interested in better understanding and finding ways to
accommodate this dynamic, it provides for extensive peer review, and for a
lot of independent parallel work on a variety of features.

Yes, Microsoft is interested in "understanding" and "accomodating" Open Source, the way a virus wants to "understand" and "accomodate" your DNA.

The negatives are stark, however:

no long term roadmap ... and no way to get one;

Why just ONE? This is Microsoft's mentality exposed: they believe there is only ONE road, and only THEY can provide it. This is quasi-religious, or perhaps not quasi at all: it is a cult mentality of total obedience to the "fearless leader" personified by Mr. Gates himself. To believe in many alternative technologies and many different paths of technical progress is therefore HERESY in the eyes of Microsoft and its minions. This is the dynamic that drives Microsoft.

OS/2 users and supporters of other non-monopoly platforms must learn carefully not to fall into this trap of believing in only "one true platform." While we each take advantage of our freedom of choice to choose alternatives, we must not lambast others who choose differently from ourselves, as if that was a sign of "betrayal" or evidence against our own choice. We must view the software marketplace like the automobile marketplace: I like my Toyota, and I'd love to own a Mercedes, but I will never call a Chevrolet owner a fool or a lackey for choosing to drive something else -- even if I believe my own "transportation platform" is the better choice.

individuals are a non-scalable factor in the development at various control points;

Horror of horrors! An individual, a person, a human being might actually have some power, some influence on the resultant product! This is what used to be called "craftsmanship" before Microsoft and its mentality made craftsmanship and quality into dirty words in the software business. Once again, Microsoft control freaks recoil in disgust at the very idea that someone "beneath them" -- a mere *programmer* -- might actually have individual initiative rewarded and personal achievement recognized by the customers and by the development community, instead of by the suits running the show in Redmond.

no intellectual property protection means that the deep investments needed by the industry in infrastructure will gravitate to other business models.

You mean, like, maybe *more efficient* business models? Maybe business models that actually produce quality code? Why would that be a "stark negative," according to the writer? Because when you sell garbage, the prospect of people finding out that you have been selling them garbage is indeed a "stark negative" to your business prospects.

Unless Linux violates IP (Intellectual Property) rights, it will fail to deliver innovation over the long run.

This line implies that Linux is running out of unoccupied space in which to innovate. It implies that all the good ideas are or will be taken by somebody else first, and that Linux will have to "cheat" to keep improving. Well, doesn't that sound a little bit like the head of the U.S. Patent Office who quit in 1875 because "there was nothing left to invent?" Or rather, doesn't it show that Microsoft's goal is to surround Linux with a Berlin Wall of patents and copyrights, to prevent its growth and success based on the intellectual greatness of its coders? Yes, Microsoft plans to use its capital and its leverage to "get there first" and occupy as many avenues of innovation as possible -- and then prevent others from innovating in those areas by either the threat or the reality of lawsuits. This is something like the rich landowner in the Old West who wanted to make sure that new homesteaders worked for him, or not at all. Microsoft plans to use the power of government to prevent freedom instead of ensuring it.

Indeed, this may be one reason why having the protective umbrella of IBM's IP may help OS/2 to continue to prosper, even as it prevents OS/2 from becoming a full-blown Open Source phenomenon: If there is a shark (Microsoft) in the water, a cage may be the safest place to swim.


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