Microsoft won't be waving the white flag
when it camps out in Booth 1390 at LinuxWorld Expo next week. But
its execs won't be adorned in pith helmets, either.
Word of Microsoft's decision to staff a booth at the show
first hit in July. Since then, Microsoft has been honing the message
it intends to take to the Linux masses.
Microsoft wants to relate, geek-to-geek, to the LinuxWorld
conventioneers at the San Francisco Moscone Center. To do so, the
Redmond software maker plans to show off four of its technologies
that it believes developers will find of interest, according to
Microsoft officials. These include its shared-source
software-licensing plan; Services for Unix (SFU) Windows utilities;
Embedded XP software (for the retail/point-of-sale crowd); and Web
Matrix, a new hobbyist programming tool.
A number of LinuxWorld attendees probably would prefer that
Microsoft were barred outright from the gathering, concedes Peter
Houston, senior director of the Windows Server Product Management
Group. But Microsoft is counting on reaching the remaining 70
percent to 80 percent of those who are interested in seeing what the
leader of the "closed-source" software world has to say.
"We want to reach those who are likely to be operating in a mixed
(Windows/Linux) environment," Houston says. "How do these people
want us to talk to them? They don't want to hear myopic thinking. We
need to be more pragmatic."
Houston—who began in February to split his time 50/50 between
setting Microsoft's Windows server strategy and working on
competitive analysis and strategy vis-à-vis Sun, IBM, Novell and the
various open-source companies—has his work cut out for him.
Until recently, Microsoft's top brass has tended to shoot from
the hip when talking about Linux and open source software. Houston
says he and his team are working to make Microsoft executives'
well-publicized descriptions of open source as "cancer" and
"un-American" a distant memory.
Houston meets once a month with CEO Steve Ballmer to review the
competitive landscape and top competitive priorities, he says. And
Houston throws in bits about what Microsoft can learn from the open
source world, such as how to build tighter links with its
This isn't to say Microsoft is going soft on open source. Houston
says the open-source user base should know that Microsoft's
centralized engineering, build labs and testing facility is what
makes the company tick.
"With Linux, a lot of the functionality has been driven toward
commoditization," Houston says. "People in that community need to
figure out a model of innovation—things that benefit customers—and
do those as fast as they can."