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Microsoft and Linux/Open Source: Oh, Dear...

So Steve Ballmer's rattling the sabers again, saying that Red Hat is violating Microsoft intellectual property , and that Red Hat customers should pay for the privilege. More of the same old song, but slightly more than, to quote James Brown, "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothin.'" That's because Microsoft seems much more interested in forcing -- I mean, "persuading" -- open source solution providers to forge relationships with Microsoft than it is in actually suing customers. We'll just have to see what happens if and when one or more Linux or open source solution providers refuse Microsoft's kind offers of alliance and cooperation.

But what's even more potentially ominous is the addition of Windows server and platform marketing and strategy to the already prodigious job responsibilities of Microsoft's Bill Hilf, the director of Microsoft's Open Source Labs. There is little if anything in this move that bodes well for greater peace and harmony between Microsoft and the open source community, especially given the continuing saber-rattling mentioned above.

What seems likely is that Hilf and his team will tout high levels of interoperability between Windows, especially the forthcoming Windows Server 2008, and the offerings of those open source solution providers that are cooperating with Microsoft. The real questions for users, though, is what will such cooperation require from those open source companies, and how might that cooperation affect those companies and their solutions.

If you're already using or considering open source solutions, you need to exercise caution and vigilance, focused more on your key suppliers' strategic focus than on specific technological issues. And if and when any of those suppliers seem poised to succumb to Microsoft's persuasion, you need to carefully consider how that might affect the nature and availability of the solutions that matter most to your organization.

Open source solutions can help reduce operational costs, and dependence upon proprietary and closed source alternatives. Based on its latest moves, Microsoft seems predisposed to viewing this more as a competitive threat than an opportunity for greater industry cooperation and solution interoperability. Too bad, but not really surprising. React accordingly, and "keep watching the skies." More to come...

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