by billhilf on May 15, 2007 02:49pm

I have strong opinions.  Those of you who know me personally know that I am not one to "follow the herd" and that I speak up.  However, I need to comment on a recent story where I was quoted.

A few folks have emailed or called me about statements I said in the Bangkok Post about the ‘end of Linux’ and ‘there is no free software movement.’  My statements were shaped in a sensationalist way, not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time the press has used shock value to get headlines.  It then hit Slashdot and the blogosphere where a couple hundred people have called me every name under the sun.  I have a tough skin – need to in this job.  But days like this suck, to be honest.

I get asked Linux related questions from the press, most of which are probably obvious to you.  One of the questions I often get asked is about the development of Linux by free software developers.  I answer this by saying that most customers who use Linux, use a distribution like Red Hat or Ubuntu or SuSE and that although there are certainly a lot of developers who work for free, most of the people who do the daily work on the Linux kernel are paid to do so.  Typically they are paid by IT companies who have a commercial interest in Linux.  This isn’t FUD, it’s reality (Corbet from LWN did a great analysis of this here citing “at least 65% of the code which went into 2.6.20 was created by people working for companies”).  And I answer this question because I get asked about it in press interviews.

But I’m rethinking that last part.   Mostly because I don’t think it matters.  If the software is open, it’s open, that does not change based on who developed it or why.  In this article it sounds like I say ‘because they are paid, then free software is extinct!’ which, of course, is silly.  I know this and I think it’s a combination of me not being clear and this particular article shaping it in a certain direction.  But I’ll take the blame: I shoved my foot in my mouth and it came across as idiotic.

I will also use this blog entry to clarify our work in the Open Source Software Lab.  Here’s exactly what I tell my team, and the rest of Microsoft, on our strategy related to Linux and open source software:

-We compete with Linux and Unix servers with Windows server
-Many customers run a mix of servers in the same environment, so we’ll need to interoperate
-We want to grow the software ecosystem, including open source software, as it relates to Microsoft software

I believe that we can continue to compete with Red Hat or SuSE or Solaris for server business while we also work on interoperating and growing the software ecosystem.  I believe there is a lot we can do to grow an Open Source on Microsoft environment, realizing that sometimes we will simultaneously compete and collaborate.  It’s not schizophrenic, we work this way today with many other types of software, it’s the nature of being in a platform business and believing in choice.

I’m sure there’s also a lot of questions about the Fortune story on ‘Microsoft versus the Free world’ – more wonderful sensationalism – and I will write on that soon.


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