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

Re: Linux don't blink

Author:Karl Fast
Posted:7/4/1999; 7:04:17 AM
Topic:scriptingNews outline for 7/2/99
Msg #:8150 (In response to 8144)
Prev/Next:8149 / 8151

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.

Let's think about this idea a bit more. This is exactly what Red Hat wants. Their CEO, Bob Young, has long said that it's not his goal to eliminate Microsoft. It's his goal to take an overpriced OS market and reduce it from $5 billion a year to $500 million. This would be a step in that direction. Is this about Linux? I don't think so. I think it's the free market walking up to Bill Gate's and giving him a great big razzberry.

While Dave's idea may be one of the best things for MS to do, it's interesting to consider if they even can. Let us leave aside the question of whether or not they have the corporate will; that requires knowledge of what's really happening in their corporate culture these days. Instead, I'd like to know if it's technically feasible.

Remember, the Halloween documents quoted a MS engineer who said that the Linux device drive model was so simple that any idiot could add a new driver in a day, yet doing this on NT is non-trivial. Furthermore, MS opened the DOJ trial by claiming that they couldn't extract IE from Windows without breaking it. If true, where does that line stop? How much work will it be to strip down NT so that it is sufficiently different from current offerings to warrant the adjustment in price? Will they remove the TCP/IP limits in Workstation? If I buy the $300 NT HTTP engine, can I use it for FTP and SMTP too? And even if MS can do it, can they do it quickly enough for the market respond?

On the other hand, Linux can be stripped down in a flash. I understand that the PC Week tests have spawned a discussion on the kernel developer's list about adding a module so that Linux can optionally serve static HTTP pages out of the kernel. I think there is even working alpha code on this. This is unlikely to ever become an official patch, but it is a good reminder of how quickly open source development can be and that Linux is pretty damned flexible.

And what if Microsoft does as Dave suggests? It won't convince any Linux people to switch, but it would give NT users a massive price break. In other words, MS may sell more copies of NT but they won't expand their client base very much because (I think) most purchases will go to people who are already using NT or are too afraid to try Linux (I was one of the latter in 1994 but had changed my mind--or perhaps I just conquered my fear and misgivings--by late 1996).

But you know what? Even at the price point Dave is suggesting, I can still go out and get a copy of Linux with all the trimmings--HTTP, SMTP, POP3, FTP, IMAP, etc--for less than a loaf of bread and two litres of milk.


PS. Yes, I am aware that the cost of Linux is not that big a factor in running a server, and the biggest cost is paying people with the necessary expertise. But this applies to NT as well. NT administrators don't grow on trees and they don't come cheap. Some people like to say that "it doesn't matter how little Linux costs because expertise is expensive", as though this somehow validates shelling out all that extra money for NT licenses. I've heard this argument before and it's valid, but it cuts both ways.

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