Will Microsoft’s ‘Linux Defense’ Work?

Last week, Microsoft Corp. and government lawyers met to make their final rebuttals before the judge renders his initial ruling on the antitrust case against the software giant.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson also ordered both sides to present their final written versions of the facts of the case, which approached 1,000 pages each.

Jackson has told all who will listen that he wants to move the case forward “to avoid the Vietnam morasses” like the one that led up to the eventual breakup of AT&T. His ruling could come as early as October — although the case is expected to spend years going through the appeal process.

The Linux Defense

As expected, Microsoft lawyers used what some observers have termed “The Linux Defense.” The gist of the argument is as follows: How can Microsoft be guilty of creating an operating system monopoly, when Linux vendor Red Hat, Inc. is having such stunning success on Wall Street? The argument sounds credible, especially considering that Red Hat’s stock has soared from $14 to about $123 in just about a month.

However, government attorneys counter by pointing out that while Linux has been successfully challenging Microsoft in the sale of high-end business server computers, it hasn’t even dented the personal PC market.

In fact, earlier this year, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was quoted at a technology conference as saying that Linux’s impact “will be fairly limited.”

Just So Much Smoke

While the “Linux Defense” is a cute maneuver, no one who goes to a brick-and-mortar computer software store will see any real evidence that the Linux operating system will be taking the food out of Bill Gates’ mouth anytime soon.

In fact, it’s impossible to get any really worthwhile applications that aren’t Windows-based.

Lately, Microsoft has also been crying that Sun Microsystems, Inc.’s new StarOffice 5.1 application package — which is downloaded for free via the Internet — is more proof that it is fighting for its life and never has had or never will have a toehold in the marketplace.

But as one of the thousands of people who spend hours downloading StarOffice, then trying it out — let me tell Bill Gates what he probably already knows: Microsoft Office still has no competition. And in the sage words of Forrest Gump: “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Wear Them Down

Even though I think Microsoft’s “Linux Defense” is cockeyed, the software giant definitely has the time and the money to wear the system down. Who knows? In 10 years or so, the Supreme Court may agree with Bill Gates and rule that the “Linux Defense” makes perfect sense.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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