Johnny Does Linux

John C. Dvorak recently posted an article entitled The Death of Linux. Just yesterday, a humorous rebuttal to John’s article was posted to LinuxWorld.

John failed to realize that Microsoft is, at its heart, a platform company, and the loss of that platform (i.e. relying on a platform outside of their complete control) transforms them into something else entirely. They will never move to Linux until they come to grips with what that means for them and their business model. Microsoft does not create the drivers it ships, for the most part, so for them to hack on the Windows driver layer to Linux and attempt to sell it would relegate them to the same market position as a Borland or a Sun without the hardware unit.

But that brings up the crux of the missed point: all of Microsoft’s moves indicate that they don’t know how to not be the 800-pound gorilla. They rely on their platform dominance not only to plan out their future but also for their very identity. John’s not talking about porting Office to Linux here, he’s talking about the complete and utter derailment of Microsoft as it currently exists.

Microsoft will never do this, at least not until its way too late for them. Linux is not dying nor can it be killed. By conventional means, that is… Linux seems, despite its communistic facade, very much like the United States of America in one key aspect. The USA is made up of a lot of diverse communities and interests, but when a major threat comes along, these merge into a (mostly) unified front. The Linux community is the same way, reacting to “threats” such as competition from other OS projects and FUD from corporate entities.

I believe that Microsoft will eventually be marginalized as a platform vendor; no one lasts at the top of IT, and they are clearly stagnating. But, once this happens, things will get very interesting for the Linux community. Without the galvanizing force that is Microsoft, the community may fragment due to internal struggles based on technology (unlikely) and/or politics, which I believe is much more likely, based on current trends w/r/t the Linux kernel (the purely political introduction of EXPORT_SYMBOL_GPL is the harbinger). The funny thing is, the Linux community pines for the eradication of Microsoft, but this could hurt them in the long run, unless they find another galvanizing force to rally around. Technology is not and can not be it alone; already its taking a backseat to politics in some areas. For their sake, I hope the Linux community starts thinking about these things now. And perhaps they can pick up a copy of The Watchmen for some inspiration…