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Another Year, Another Microsoft Job Targeting FOSS

Another Year, Another Microsoft Job Targeting FOSS

Microsoft is up to its old tricks in the new year, as evidenced by a recent job posting for anti-FOSS personnel. This time, the thing that has Redmond sweating is what appears to be a mass migration of students to OpenOffice. And why wouldn't they? "It's free-as-in-beer and good enough -- much better than the Microsoft Works that came on their computer," noted Slashdot blogger David Masover.

By Katherine Noyes
01/07/10 5:00 AM PT

Well, the new year may be officially under way, but that hasn't stopped Linux bloggers from continuing their reflections on all that transpired over the past decade.

At TuxRadar, for example, Graham Morrison looked back over the past 10 or so years and identified "15 game-changing Linux moments of the decade."

Beginning with the release of version 2.4 of the Linux kernel back in 2001, all the way through to Oracle's purchase of Sun last year, Morrison zeroes in on the news he thinks mattered most for Linux.

'Top 9 Linux Stories of 2009'

More than 500 Diggs and 100 comments greeted that piece on Digg, even as bloggers paid roughly equal attention to a like-minded story over at the Linuxologist.

Focusing more narrowly on the events of 2009, that story chronicled the top nine events of the year, beginning with 1234567890 Day and ending with Android's quick rise to stardom.

Bloggers weren't shy about expressing their enthusiasm.

'Year of the Linux!'

"Rock on android," enthused guzba on Digg, for example.

And of course, the inevitable: "2010! YEAR OF THE LINUX!" chimed in jman583.

Datamation's Bruce Byfield, meanwhile, turned his attention toward the future with nine predictions for open source in 2010.

Top of his list? "Complete free video drivers arrive."

Amen to that!

'Once You've Seen 100, You've Seen Them All'

Aside from the looks forward and back, bloggers on Slashdot and beyond mulled over Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' review of the differences among Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu.

His conclusion? "Each is meant for a different audience."

Surprising? Survey said "no."

To wit: "People tend to use what they started with until they move to another one that has a 'must-have feature' like support for specific hardware, or their distro falls behind in the update race," opined Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.

"To abuse an old aphorism, 'Once you've seen 100 distros, you've seen them all'," she told LinuxInsider.

'Linux and Open Office Compete Lead'

Perhaps the most entertaining discussion of all in recent weeks, however, arose when it came to light that Microsoft recently posted a job ad for a "Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary (CSI Lead)." Alert blogger John McCreesh flagged it.

The ad's no longer live, but you can view it in Google's cache.

"If you're looking for a new role where you'll focus on one of the biggest issues that is top of mind for KT and Steve B..." it begins, later specifying that the mission "is to win share against Linux and OpenOffice.org by designing and driving marketing programs, changing perceptions, engaging with Open Source communities and organizations, and drive internal readiness on how to compete with Commercial Linux and participate with Open Source Communities."

So there we have it! It's no longer just Linux but now OpenOffice as well that's causing pangs of anxiety in the halls of Redmond.

Did bloggers have much to say on this one? You bet your Pepto Bismol they did.

"What Next? Sorting Through Garbage Bins?'

"Free software projects need to bear this in mind when Redmond comes knocking on their doors, and tries to suggest that it would be mutually beneficial for them to work together," Computerworld UK's Glyn Moody wrote, for example. "The intent is for that benefit to flow one way, and one way only, as this job advertisement makes clear."

Similarly: "What next? Sorting through garbage bins? Paying bribes/offering big discounts?" wrote blogger Robert Pogson. "No. They're going to engage with FLOSS communities. Expect more dissension, defections, lawsuits, Astroturfing and mayhem."

And again: "Expect Microsoft to definitely carry out its continued Embrace, Extend, Extinguish tactics against F/OSS," LXer blogger vainrveenr agreed.

'What Are We Going to Do About Linux?'

Linux Girl was struck by a mounting sense of deja vu. Could she let this one go without further ado? Not a chance.

"I suspect what Microsoft is planning would be to encourage open source projects to work better with MS office than they do with OpenOffice," Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider. "This job posting should be a wakeup call to anyone who thinks it's safe to work with Microsoft."

Indeed, "I remember hearing from a former Microsoft employee that there was a time when at just about every meeting, people would ask, 'So what are we going to do about Linux?'" Slashdot blogger David Masover asserted. "And no one would have a satisfactory answer."

'$150 for a Student?'

The fact is, open source "terrifies" Microsoft, Masover told LinuxInsider. "They've been fighting this battle for a long time."

What the company is most afraid of, he added, "is competing with free."

Microsoft's Office 2007 pricing scheme tells the story, Masover explained:

Office Home and Student -- US$149.95 (temporarily discounted to $99.99)
Office Small Business -- $369.99
Office Standard -- $399.95
Office Professional -- $499.95
Office Ultimate -- $679.95

"Now, I know that businesses generally get bulk licensing, and are happy to write Office off as a legitimate expense," Masover said. "But $150 for a student? (Let me think: Office, or an iPod Nano? So hard to choose.)"

'Free-as-in-Beer and Good Enough'

Anything beyond the student level costs more than the price of a low-end computer or a high-end game console, he added.

"From what I've seen, more and more students are starting to use OpenOffice, simply because it's free-as-in-beer and good enough -- much better than the Microsoft Works that came on their computer," he opined. "I'd guess that's why Home and Student has been discounted by that much..."

Even if there are things Office can do that OpenOffice can't, "OpenOffice doesn't have to be as good as Office -- it just has to be less than $370 worse."

'They Can't Afford to Be Wrong'

If people are starting to use OpenOffice for home and school, meanwhile, "that makes it that much easier for a business to choose it," Masover noted.

After all, "the biggest roadblock so far has been training," he pointed out.

Ultimately, then, "I think the only news here is that Microsoft is taking OpenOffice seriously, but they've been taking Linux and open source seriously for a while," Masover concluded. "While it's in their best interest to have everyone think open source is a you-get-what-you-pay-for second best, they can't afford to be wrong."


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