Ballmer fails to sway the sceptics

Summary:Microsoft's CEO has making a lot of bold pronouncements of late, but seems to have learnt a little perspective - yet still remains ultimately unconvincing

Since then, JDS has scored several other victories and this week, Sun is expected to announce another major deal.

While Ballmer’s assertion about StarOffice lacking a robust email client is true, JDS makes up for that shortcoming by including a Microsoft Exchange-compatible email client (Novell's Ximian Evolution) and is fully indemnified by Sun. Whereas StarOffice, which is also included, is, as Ballmer asserted, not fully interoperable with Microsoft Office, there has been some speculation that those incompatibilities may be resolved as a result of a recent watershed technology cross-licensing agreement between the Sun and Microsoft.

Even so, Microsoft is relatively safe from desktop erosion in the business arena for now, and the company is looking at different ways to package Windows and Office to compete with Linux and StarOffice and OpenOffice.org. The company isn't going to stand still while the open source community eats its lunch and continues to improve its products. But, it's inevitable that the open source community will create a more competitive environment in the next few years that will ultimately benefit users and create more healthy competition.

Linux on the server is a bit more mature than on the desktop, but according to Gartner's research Linux is having more impact on Unix than on Windows server installations. Gartner estimates that Windows will close the vulnerability gap with Linux by 2008, in part due to broader proliferation of Linux that will make it more of a target for malicious hackers. With more parity on the security front, the battleground will shift more to price/performance and total cost of ownership (TCO). By 2006 Linux should meet the performance requirements of 80- to 90 percent of single on-line transaction processing applications. According to Gartner analyst George Weiss, Microsoft and the Linux camp will have to compete more on automating server management and lowering TCO.

Although we can continue to handicap the fight, that exercise misses the point. Microsoft has proven that is knows how to fight and has often been accused of having unfair advantages. Now the open source community needs to show its mettle and deliver the goods. Whatever the case, a more competitive environment is good for innovation and for lowering TCO.

Topics: Tech Industry

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