Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Linux don't blink

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:7/3/1999; 8:20:10 PM
Topic:scriptingNews outline for 7/2/99
Msg #:8144 (In response to 8142)
Prev/Next:8143 / 8145

Ask Linus Torvalds what if Microsoft crushes Linux. He says he doesn't care, he'll just keep working on it. I learned this lesson the hard way more than ten years ago. Lotus was constantly launching attacks on ThinkTank, which was our mainstay product. Every time they barked, I changed my strategy to get out of their way.

Then in 1986 I had what I believed was an unqualified winner in the pipe. I ran into Philippe Kahn, CEO of Borland on the floor of MacWorld Expo and he told me, as a friend, that we should get out their way because they were going to launch something on the Mac that would blow us away. I looked him in the eye and told him to suck my dick. They never shipped anything, and we went ahead and shipped the Product of the Year.

Don't blink

The lesson is "Don't Blink." If you have a winner, the ones you leave behind will always make barking noises. The trick is to know when you have the winner, and stick with it and ignore the barking.

Last week, talking with Microsoft's guy watching Linux, a heated conversation -- they were playing the "There have always been a lot of Unixes" tape for me, and I said emphatically, Linux is not Unix.

At the end they asked what I would do if I were them.

  1. Come out with a low-priced version of NT Server, that installs in 15 minutes, and comes up ready to blow dynamic pages out port 80, and does nothing more. No hooks for Office, no FrontPage Express, I even want them to leave out IIS. Just bare-bones fastest-possible NT, no socket limits, $300 retail. One CD. This would enable a Qube-type product built around NT, and would keep the pressure on Linux to keep moving.

    For extra credit, allow developers, such as UserLand, to license this OS, for hmmm, $25 per CD (I'll have to check on this), so we can do custom distributions of NT, as we can with Linux.

  2. Do absolutely nothing to interfere with the growth of Linux. This time around, if they screw with it, it'll backfire. There are no VCs controlling Linux to make the same kinds of mistakes Netscape did. Alan Baratz has nothing to say about the future of Linux. There are now millions of developers who do not want to be Microsoft developers. Ultimately they're going to want the support of these people, I'm sure of it.

As long as we carefully analyze what they, and their water-carriers, say for nuggets of truth, and know what the relative merits are of NT vs Linux, we win. There is no threat to Microsoft, unless they want us to support their now-inflated pricing structure. That they won't get. I imagine that Steve Ballmer knows this, and the pricing of NT will change to meet Linux squarely in the market, which is where it counts. They're not as ignorant as the PC WEEK tests would have you believe.

Net-net, force Microsoft to market to us, based on our intelligence, not ignorance. The Linux community has done admirably in this way so far, and I see no signs of it changing. It's incredible to see the earnestness and bright eyes. A long time ago, I remember when Microsoft had that kind of brilliance. It's not there anymore. I have no idea if they can rekindle it.

Having witnessed the Internet turning into a battlefield, and assessing that at least half of the blame for that belongs to Microsoft, I am in no mood for another contentious, irrelevant do-or-die battle. This time around either Microsoft grows up and learns to be the statesman of the industry that it could be, or we'll do a Linus, and keep doing the work we love, revolutionizing the communication media of the world.

If Microsoft won't give us the server platform we need, it's sitting right here on Linux, ready to go, for a very reasonable price, without any lock-in. (None of the analysts include that in their reasoning, how many dollars is the lack of lock-in worth?)

Microsoft is too small to stop it from happening, and no, I am not, nor will I ever be a Microsoft developer. I am an Internet developer because it is the platform without the platform vendor, and I know too well that platform vendors are nasty negative beasts. It's time to blow off that concept once and for all.

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