Friday, November 03, 2006


What the MSFT - Novell deal means

Microsoft (stock ticker symbol MSFT) can't buy Linux. They can't steal it. They can't imitate it without damaging their monopoly. (More about that later.) They're having a hard time competing with it.

What's left? They can confuse people about what Linux is. I think that's what the deal with Novell is about.

Linux isn't just an operating system kernel, or a gaggle of software distributions that would more respectfully be called GNU+Linux+X. It's not just a trademark that belongs to Linus Torvalds. In every day use, "Linux" has come to mean the movement to democratize the software industry and make it accountable to its users. It's all the people who contribute code and bug reports and documentation and give away Knoppix CDs. The first Linux email list I was ever on was called linux-activists. That's what we are, activists. Most of us never thought about it that way, and might even deny it, but we're a radical movement for social change, and we're succeeding.

And when MSFT quit sneering and took a serious look, we scared the bejeezus out of them. We're the only real competition they've faced in two decades. They deny it in public relations, where lying is standard business practice. But they admit it in their SEC filings, where you go to prison for lying too concretely.

So it's bafflegab time! MSFT is trying to position one particular Linux distribution (one that's owned by a software company that buys things it doesn't understand and kills them) as the Linux distribution. The audacity is mind boggling. A hundred gushing pundits announce the utterly absurd notion that MSFT has somehow legitimized Novell SUSE. It's not just one of the leading distros any more, it's the serious business Linux for people who wear suits and fly first class. <Bill Cosby voice>R-i-i-i-i-i-ght.<end BC voice> But that's how "journalists" are these days, stenographers to power. Any power.

That's all it means, folks. Move along, nothing more to see here. Just business as usual.

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