Microsoft's Latest Whizzo Plan: Divide and Conquer


Despite the rather surprising news that Microsoft won't have a comprehensive open source strategy until 2015, there's increasing evidence that it has at least established its shorter-term tactic: to head off the growing use of GNU/Linux.

That might seem an obvious thing to do, but it's different from earlier attempts to paint *all* of open source as hopeless for enterprise use. Instead, Microsoft is adopting a “divide and conquer” approach, whereby it sends out soothing messages to open source application projects – including much billing and cooing in an attempt to encourage hackers to make their code work better on Windows – all the while putting in the boot where GNU/Linux is concerned.

The latest giveaway comment to this effect comes from a former bigwig in Microsoft's Ministry of Open Source Love, Jason Matusow, in a recent blog post. The whole thing is replete with huge ironies, lovingly dissected here. But what interests me most is the following comment:

Politically, every conversation about the OSS mandate is really a Windows vs. Linux discussion.

One of the interesting things about Microsoft is that its official commentary on the way things are tends to reveal, rather, how it perceives them. In this case, a completely general open source mandate is morphed into an insane government plot to replace Windows by GNU/Linux.

It's nothing of the kind, of course; it's just about regaining control over a core part of government infrastructure, something that open source provides automatically – and that the proprietary Windows never can. But Microsoft just can't bring itself to admit this, because its entire business model is based on dictating to the customer: Thou Shalt Upgrade to Vista, etc. Instead, it has to frame things in crude, Manichean "Us vs Them", terms. Let's hope that its 2015 strategy is a little more nuanced.

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