Embrace and Defend

I like bashing Microsoft as much as the next guy, and perhaps a tiny bit more. And like my neighbors, I cannot look at any Redmond activity without a healthy does of cynicism.

So when I read that Microsoft is working to improve interoperability with Linux, I immediately telephoned Hades for a ski report.

Since Linux is the biggest threat Gates & Co. have ever faced, creating any form of compatibility with the penguin would be absurd. But Microsoft grew much of its empire though a process called “embrace, extend and extinguish“. The process is straight forward:

  1. Find a threatening technology
  2. Public adopt it, all the while looking like a noble knight
  3. Extend the standards that are the base of the technology in ways that make Microsoft’s “mutant variant” a superset, causing code written for Microsoft platforms to become non-portable or inoperable elsewhere
  4. Kill competition via mass incompatibility

Internet Explorer (IE) is a case study. The extensions in IE and ActiveX programmatic (problematic) capabilities make many web sites unusable on other browsers. I once encountered a problem with Bank of America (a major Microsoft customer), whereby if you had a merchant account with BofA, you were required to use IE to control your own account.

Given Microsoft’s history of calculated destruction, establishing a department to create interoperability with Linux is completely out of character. In this case, it appears that the effort was, in part, to stem their own bleeding. The key passage from the article was:

“The team spent a lot of time improving how Linux systems can talk to Microsoft’s Active Directory . . . Getting authentication to work correctly with Active Directory is not simple. It’s often fragile . . .”

In short, Active Directory (AD) is a roadblock for Microsoft. Not widely acclaimed, and loved only by the Butterfly Legions, AD ( which also stands for “attention deficit” – coincidence??? ) is not gaining market share, and has been a major motivator for Microsoft Exchange 5.5 customers to defect to (better) products like Open-Xchange and other alternatives.

However, this new Microsoft lab has a lot of boxes, a lot of manpower, and the task of finding where Windows and Linux do not work together. Given the (in)famous Microsoft FUD campaign so inappropriately calls “Get The Facts”, one has to wonder to what ends this research will lead. Some of the more obvious possibilities include:

  1. Looking for any and all remotely possible patent violations.
  2. Widely documenting incompatibilities to extend FUD.
  3. Discovering architectural flaws in Open Source that allow Microsoft to develop future incompatibilities into their products (i.e., an upgrade that breaks SAMBA).

Paranoid? Well, you are not paranoid if they really are out to get you.


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