[wilhelmtux-discussion] TR : <toc>--Bill Gates holds forth on the `pervasive Linux' threat (TheRegister)

Claude Almansi claude.almansi at bluewin.ch
Don Feb 13 21:39:50 CET 2003

>From another list- Enjoy!
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[mailto:owner-triumph-of-content-l at usc.edu] De la part de James Beniger
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Objet : <toc>--Bill Gates holds forth on the `pervasive Linux' threat

                        Copyright 2003 The Register

 Posted: 12/02/2003 at 20:48 GMT - Updated: 20:49 GMT

       Gates holds forth on the 'pervasive Linux' threat

       By John Lettice

 Bill Gates is taking Linux very seriously - but apparently, still not
seriously enough to actually understand it. Speaking to the Microsoft
MVP Summit on Tuesday he bracketed Linux with other 'kill the company'
threats to Microsoft, giving OS/2 as a prime example. Or at least,
that's what Peter Galli of eWeek tells us he said. Over at Microsoft
Spin Central the transcript of the speech says he said something
entirely different, and much more tedious. We've no idea what's going
on here, but if its a trustworthiness thing, Peter gets our vote.*

 And his report's much more interesting anyway. In this, as a kind of
warm-up to getting Linux wrong, Gates gets OS/2 wrong. For about six
years, he says, it was a technology that people said could kill the
company. The Register does indeed remember saying things to this
effect, but also remembers not having a great deal of company. Nor
indeed do we remember even the most determined OS/2 partisans saying
this much beyond four years. OS/2 2.0 announced in October 1991, and
its window of opportunity closed with the launch of Windows 95.

 Gates is also wildly, and characteristically, imaginative on the effort
IBM put behind OS/2. "IBM... putting all their energy, their leverage
on ISVs, bundling it with their systems..." Untrue, untrue, and untrue.

 The serious point here is that Gates himself was probably the one who
believed for longest that OS/2 could kill Microsoft, that this paranoid
delusion prompted much of Microsoft's anticompetitive actions against
the product, and that he happily believes what he wants to believe,
manufacturing, repeating and embellishing his own eccentric version of
history. We look forward to hearing what he has to say about Linux
after it has killed the company - that will surely be entertaining.

 In the meantime, a similar paranoid delusion drives his view of Linux,
and Microsoft's response to it. On Tuesday, he described Linux as an
unusual kind of competition, "out there and very pervasive," then
warmed swiftly to his incompatibility and unreliability theme. There
are more incompatible versions of Linux than all other operating
systems put together, and the diffuse development model means that
people "do innovations on top of Linux, they don't all get tested
together and they're not all consistent with each other."

 So here Bill is arguing in favour of one company being responsible for
calling all the shots as regards the OS, meaning there's a single
consistent platform to build applications for, and you might also have
noted the merest hint of a commercial for Microsoft's testing and
certification operations. In the world he describes here, patches and
service packs never break apps, apps never break other apps or the OS,
everything works, and the single controlling company is benign, in no
sense an evil, robber-baron monopoliser. You won't recognise this
world, but don't worry because it's the world according to Bill, as he
imagines it will be, provided you just trust him and leave him to it.

 Also in the world according to Bill, the Tablet PC is something that
the disparate open source groups could never do, because it is the
product of three groups, Office, user interface and handwriting,
working together as one in order to produce a single, integrated,
unified product. It may look to you like a box with the products of
these groups stuck - somewhat uneasily - together, but you are wrong.
Even if you were right, well, you'd be wrong by 2.0, trust Bill. And if
you think it wouldn't be difficult to achieve similar levels of
functionality and integration on a Linux-based tablet, using open
source technology, well, you're wrong about that too.

 Gates's sound bite, characteristically, is stolen: "It's almost like a
747 where, yes, it's easy to do a wing, it's easy to do a tail, but to
produce a wing and a tail that work together under all conditions,
that's tough, and that's the position we're in." This will remind some
of you of a very old joke:

 "Unix Airlines: Each passenger brings a piece of the airplane and a box
of tools to the airport. They gather on the tarmac, arguing constantly
about what kind of plane they want to build and how to put it together.
Eventually, they build several different aircraft, but give them all
the same name. Some passengers actually reach their destinations. All
passengers believe they got there."

 One version of the full gag can be found here, and among the rest of
them you'll find:

 "Windows Air: The terminal is pretty and colorful, with friendly
stewards, easy baggage check and boarding, and a smooth take-off.  After
about 10 minutes in the air, the plane explodes with no warning

 It's characteristic of Bill that he can unconsciously plagiarise one
bit without the rest having any resonance for him. It's also
characteristic that he tags Linux with the defects of Unix, describing
it as "basically Unix." Well, that is arguable, but in grasping the
similarities without noting the differences he fails to grasp the
nature of the competition. He does want Linux to turn into Unix,
clearly, and provided it does not, he may well be in a position to give
that 'kill the company' speech from a different standpoint in a few
years time. ®

 * Our well-honed sense of the surreal was piqued by the ExtremeTech
implementation of Peter's report. ExtremeTech, as you may have noticed,
runs eWeek news, usually the first couple of paragraphs, with a link to
eWeek if you want to read the rest of the story. Now, at time of
writing, if you go here you will get ExtremeTech's implementation of
Peter's first two paragraphs, but if you "Click here to read the rest
of this eWeek story," at the bottom, you will get this. Saboteurs?
Friction within the stable? But somebody's sure to fix it soon.

                        Copyright 2003 The Register