Microsoft is suffering from Easter Islander syndrome: having successfully filled its own ecological niche to the exclusion of everything else, and being well into the process of cutting down all the trees, it realises that there's nothing left for it to do but hang around and wait for the crops to fail. So it's busy erecting huge statues around the place - they haven't got much of a chance of averting the fall but they look impressive and who knows, the gods may be pleased. One is in the shape of a Pocket PC, one an Xbox, one a Tablet (although that's already leaning at a dangerous angle).
And now there's a new one in the shape of, um, lots of little ones. Microsoft has decided that it wants a bite of the small but fruity High Performance Computing cherry, until now solid Linux territory. Windows Server 2003 HPC Edition will include features for running Windows on clusters of machines interconnected by a high-speed network to form a single computing resource, says the company, and it'll be out late next year.
Well, let's see. People who build huge clusters of computers like Linux because it's very, very tweakable, easy to tune and has a long record of working well in very high performance roles. Windows doesn't measure up here at all. Ah, says Microsoft, but clusters are going to become mainstream. Then people will want the convenience and simplicity of Windows, and our lower total cost of ownership. It's not entirely clear that anyone doing the sort of grunt work requiring zillions of interlinked computers will see Linux as anything other than more convenient and far simpler to use than the closed world of Windows, but the TCO argument bears investigating.
That's one calculation that won't require an array of Itaniums to compute. You want to run 512 processors in a high performance cluster? Certainly, sir. At £60 a licence, that'll be... excuse me? What are you doing with that penguin?
There's only one way this game is going to end and that's with Microsoft adopting open source -- even Linux -- themselves, in much the same way they co-opted the Internet. You mark my words: it won't be long before the Easter Island Collection is enhanced by a large, flightless seabird.