Ballmer: Microsoft taking notice of free rivals Linux, Apache

Summary:What's this? Mighty Microsoft worried about give-away operating system and server software from much smaller rivals?

What's this? Mighty Microsoft worried about give-away operating system and server software from much smaller rivals?

OK, perhaps a little.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT) President Steve Ballmer allowed that the giant software maker is paying attention to the growing popularity of the operating system Linux and Apache server software -- both given away free. Paying attention because both increasingly compete in some markets with Microsoft NT, the company's next cash cow after Windows. Linux is a Unix-based operating system while Apache is used on network servers. Both are increasing in popularity.

Free doesn't mean good
"Sure we're worried," Ballmer said following his keynote address at the Seybold conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

But Ballmer maintained that "at the end of the day" the clincher for customers was the total cost of a project, not free software.

"The free nature of it itself, actually, I don't think that's a customer plus," Ballmer said.



Linux and Apache have gotten big enough to draw the eye of MS. Can these free OSes survive? Add your comments to the bottom of this page.




Separately, Ballmer left the door open to following a decision by rival Netscape Communications Corp. (Nasdaq:NSCP) , which opened up its Internet browser source code to other developers for free.

"Every day we wake up smarter and will consider what it means," said Ballmer, adding that Microsoft has already released several pieces of Windows source code to the public. "There are perhaps other pieces of the system where we need to open things up."

Committed to Macintosh
During the course of his keynote, Ballmer, the No. 2 Microsoft executive behind Bill Gates, also reaffirmed the software maker's commitment to the Macintosh platform.

"We are 100 percent committed as we were at the time Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started talking about this a year ago," he said.

New MS tech for publishers
In an effort to convince publishers that his company is taking them seriously, Ballmer also showed off Microsoft's Chromeffects technology.

Chromeffects, which will be included in Windows 98 on new computers shipping in the fall, uses XML technology that lives inside a browser to render 2- and 3-D images. It only works on machines with 300MHtz processors and a 4MB 3-D video card.

The technology gives a new 3-D look to desktops, letting users pull in documents from the background and work on them. It also lets users do things such as rotate objects like charts and graphs by pointing and clicking. Ballmer demonstrated a page featuring the technology and urged publishers to incorporate the technology into their pages.

"I think pages like that represent the wave of the future," Ballmer said. "We think it's important for us to give Web developers the option."

Some audience members were skeptical. The technology will be included only with PCs and will be shipped only as an integrated feature of Windows 98. Right now, it is not available as a plug-in or for the Mac platform, though Ballmer said he would consider requests for such options. Those could be numerous from the publishing audience, which is traditionally Mac-centric.

Windows, anyone?
At the beginning of his speech, Ballmer asked audience members to raise their hands if their primary machine is Windows-based. About one-third did. The other two-thirds said they were Mac users. But Ballmer said the number of Windows users among publishers has jumped from seven years ago, when he last gave a speech at Seybold. "My sister, and I, and maybe two other people in the room used Windows," he said.

Ballmer also touted Microsoft's server technology as a way to for publishers to reach customers through unique sites, trotting out executives from Eddie Bauer to demonstrate their Microsoft-built e-commerce site. Ballmer also promised that the upcoming NT 5.0 would include features aimed at the publishing industry. "We're still a little bit away, longer than we'd like, from shipping NT 5," Ballmer said, adding that the company is incorporating improved color and imaging features into the product.

What's this? Mighty Microsoft worried about give-away operating system and server software from much smaller rivals?

OK, perhaps a little.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT) President Steve Ballmer allowed that the giant software maker is paying attention to the growing popularity of the operating system Linux and Apache server software -- both given away free. Paying attention because both increasingly compete in some markets with Microsoft NT, the company's next cash cow after Windows. Linux is a Unix-based operating system while Apache is used on network servers. Both are increasing in popularity.

Free doesn't mean good
"Sure we're worried," Ballmer said following his keynote address at the Seybold conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

But Ballmer maintained that "at the end of the day" the clincher for customers was the total cost of a project, not free software.

"The free nature of it itself, actually, I don't think that's a customer plus," Ballmer said.



Linux and Apache have gotten big enough to draw the eye of MS. Can these free OSes survive? Add your comments to the bottom of this page.




Separately, Ballmer left the door open to following a decision by rival Netscape Communications Corp. (Nasdaq:NSCP) , which opened up its Internet browser source code to other developers for free.

"Every day we wake up smarter and will consider what it means," said Ballmer, adding that Microsoft has already released several pieces of Windows source code to the public. "There are perhaps other pieces of the system where we need to open things up."

Committed to Macintosh
During the course of his keynote, Ballmer, the No. 2 Microsoft executive behind Bill Gates, also reaffirmed the software maker's commitment to the Macintosh platform.

"We are 100 percent committed as we were at the time Steve Jobs and Bill Gates started talking about this a year ago," he said.

New MS tech for publishers
In an effort to convince publishers that his company is taking them seriously, Ballmer also showed off Microsoft's Chromeffects technology.

Chromeffects, which will be included in Windows 98 on new computers shipping in the fall, uses XML technology that lives inside a browser to render 2- and 3-D images. It only works on machines with 300MHtz processors and a 4MB 3-D video card.

The technology gives a new 3-D look to desktops, letting users pull in documents from the background and work on them. It also lets users do things such as rotate objects like charts and graphs by pointing and clicking. Ballmer demonstrated a page featuring the technology and urged publishers to incorporate the technology into their pages.

"I think pages like that represent the wave of the future," Ballmer said. "We think it's important for us to give Web developers the option."

Some audience members were skeptical. The technology will be included only with PCs and will be shipped only as an integrated feature of Windows 98. Right now, it is not available as a plug-in or for the Mac platform, though Ballmer said he would consider requests for such options. Those could be numerous from the publishing audience, which is traditionally Mac-centric.

Windows, anyone?
At the beginning of his speech, Ballmer asked audience members to raise their hands if their primary machine is Windows-based. About one-third did. The other two-thirds said they were Mac users. But Ballmer said the number of Windows users among publishers has jumped from seven years ago, when he last gave a speech at Seybold. "My sister, and I, and maybe two other people in the room used Windows," he said.

Ballmer also touted Microsoft's server technology as a way to for publishers to reach customers through unique sites, trotting out executives from Eddie Bauer to demonstrate their Microsoft-built e-commerce site. Ballmer also promised that the upcoming NT 5.0 would include features aimed at the publishing industry. "We're still a little bit away, longer than we'd like, from shipping NT 5," Ballmer said, adding that the company is incorporating improved color and imaging features into the product.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Hardware, Linux, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Windows

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