Microsoft on warding off the Linux threat

Microsoft on warding off the Linux threat

Summary: Q&A: Microsoft's head of platform strategy denies that open source is a credible threat to the software giant's empire, and rules out porting MS Office to Linux

SHARE:
14

Nick McGrath, Microsoft's head of platform strategy, is at the spearhead of the software giant's attempts to head off the open source danger.

Having helped launched both NT4 and XP into the UK, the 15-year Microsoft veteran now concentrates on combating the threat posed by organisations migrating to Linux.

But, with an almost mockingly dismissive opinion of the opportunities brought about by Linux, McGrath is insistent that Microsoft is not losing ground. Instead he claims that Microsoft is winning key corporate and public sector deals on the critical battlegrounds of cost and security.

Q: As the man responsible for seeing off the Linux threat at Microsoft UK, how do you see the open source challenge today?
A: In a word — maturing. The Linux community is commercialising a lot. But we have learnt a lot from the open source community — our approach is now a lot more open. We have set up a Linux laboratory in Microsoft so we can understand customers' challenges around interoperability.

Presumably you accept that there is more Linux in businesses than a few years ago?
No, I don't accept that at all. I don't see people moving towards Linux — I see people moving away from Unix. We have an end-to-end solution unlike Linux, which is a point-to-point solution. In the Linux environment you end up buying a very specific solution for a point need. [But] will there be one operating system that everyone uses? No.

Let's look at some of the big battleground deals in which you have come up against Linux. The City of Munich Government is one. In September they started to deploy Linux on the desktop...
We continue to work with them, and we respect the decision they've made. Other councils have looked at it, like Bergen, and chose to delay because they felt it was not a cost-effective solution on the desktop [Bergen, though, told ZDNet UK that the project may yet be carried out].

Look at Central Scotland Police. They were looking at Linux on the desktop. But when it came to the flexibility to deploy applications and centralised management updating, they are migrating away from Linux to Windows.

One of the controversial battlegrounds is the London Borough of Newham, which went with Microsoft.
Yes, they carried out an evaluation of Linux and an evaluation of Microsoft.

Many critics say Newham only evaluated Linux as a means to get discounts from Microsoft.
We don't look at it that way. Newham did a lot of evaluating Linux. From a TCO perspective, a security perspective, a reliability perspective and an interoperability perspective, it was found that after doing the study [which has been criticised] that our platform was the most suitable. The Linux platform doesn't offer the integrated nature from an applications point of view that Newham needed.

So did you give discounts to Newham?
We did not change the pricing for Newham. The pricing was the same that everyone that buys through the Office of Government Commerce agreement pays.

There are several key arguments as to whether Microsoft or open source is preferable for any one organisation. The first one is often price. And of course a critical argument is that Linux can be free. It's difficult to beat that.
You might get a free car from your uncle. But you're the one who ends up with the mechanical bills. It can be cheaper to buy a new car and get the guarantees. Then there are the costs of deploying Linux engineers.

Interoperability is surely a key factor.
Yes of course. You have to make sure the platform has the appropriate connectors. There is the issue of driver availability if you move towards the Linux platform. Windows has tens of thousands of drivers. Then there is ease of use. There are multiple management tools needed to manage the Linux environment. You don't have a single complete management solution.

What about security? Windows has more vulnerabilities than Linux.
I disagree. Look at the Forrester Days of Risk report [which found that Microsoft takes an average of 25 days to patch a flaw, compared to Red Hat's 57]. We fix the problems faster.

But Microsoft vulnerabilities are generally more severe though.
No.

Most are fairly severe.
There will always be a case where Microsoft, Novell, RedHat will have to produce updates. But I have seen a significant decline [in vulnerabilities].

When will you be enabling Microsoft Office to run on open source?
We won't. We have no plans.

Why?
We are commmitted to the Windows platform. There are many alternatives to Microsoft Office on the Linux platform. It's all about flexibility and choice in that regard. We have a very successful product on the Mac side of things.

What is the sense in producing Office for the Mac and not Office for open source?
The Mac product is produced by Apple. If changes are needed then we'll work with Apple. They are just one organisation. We have an agreement which makes good business sense.

Are you unwilling to produce a Linux version of Office because you would need to work with several Linux distributors?
I don't know in that regard. If people want to run Office then buy Windows. Or a Mac.

Topic: Operating Systems

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

14 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Companies selling preinstalled Desktop Linux.

    http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/23168/
    anonymous
  • >>When will you be enabling Microsoft Office to run on open source?
    >We won't. We have no plans.

    >>Why?
    >We are commmitted to the Windows platform. There are many alternatives to Microsoft Office on the Linux platform. It's all about flexibility and choice in that regard. We have a very successful product on the Mac side of things.

    >>What is the sense in producing Office for the Mac and not Office for open source?
    >The Mac product is produced by Apple. If changes are needed then we'll work with Apple. They are just one organisation. We have an agreement which makes good business sense.

    >>Are you unwilling to produce a Linux version of Office because you would need to work with several Linux distributors?
    >I don't know in that regard. If people want to run Office then buy Windows. Or a Mac.


    Aw, poor Microsoft. So grumpy about open source operating systems and software.

    Hey, here's a clue: I'm betting that extremely few GNU/Linux users are interested in seeing Office or any of Microsoft's lameware for their platform. Like we really need more data suckered into Microsoft's special data formats. No thanks.

    Microsoft does us all a great service with their current strategy. I am appreciative.
    anonymous
  • FUD
    anonymous
  • Microsoft will not produce a version of Office for Linux for one reason and one reason only. They know that people's dependance on Office is the biggest thing tying them to Windows !! If there was a version of Office for Linux that would provide a very, very easy migration path for businesses, and individuals, to switch to Linux for their OS. All the other issues that are barriers (driver availability, interoperability) are quickly disappearing and would disappear even faster if there was Office for Linux.

    OpenOffice is a viable alternative to MSOffice today, in terms of fucntionality, but what keeps people from switching is that they are conditioned to MSOffice. Someone like me, who never "grew up" using MSOffice had absolutely no problem acclaimating to OpenOffice. Its is simply a matter of what people are used to.

    Also MS has always dragged their feet on releasing the required docs so that others can interoperate with their Office formats. Again... for the same reason... they know that Office is a big anchor around the feet of Windows users today. MS is not going to do anything that will make it easier for people to choose between them and OSS alternatives.

    Finally, I'm sure that MS's Linux lab is primarily there so that they can better exploit (they call it "understand") the interoperability issues. If Ms understand what things hold people to Windows or similarly keep people from Linux they can adjust their strategy to perpetuate and emphasize those problems.
    anonymous
  • If you are reading this for information you are being mis-informed like usual and buying into the Microsoft funded media.

    Don't be ignorant... asking Microsoft if they think linux is a threat is like asking the devil if you can trust him to borrow your wife!

    Just about any kind of information on the news sites you can bet is payed off by microsoft or has money invested on something or someone that is associated with Microsoft. Hell the possibilities go on and on.

    Money talks and Bullsh*t walks just like the old saying and the is M$ all up and down. They have stole technology and cheated their whole way to their position and they are interupting inovation.

    I don't care who responds to this because I know there is somebody that will oppose it (M$ fanboys & M$) so I just ignore it most of the time.
    anonymous
  • http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxoffice/
    anonymous
  • That's quite alright. I *never* want a version of MS Office for Linux. Let it go down with Windows. People switching to Linux can switch to OpenOffice.org or another alternative.
    anonymous
  • Check out the latest videocast from the Linux lab on port25. This clearly shows that the Linux lab team have a great deal more understanding of the server industry than the Windows Server Core product team. This is a moment in history as you realise how far behind MS is. Watch as the goofy product manager ribs Hank about Ubuntu like a clown. See them squirm at the mention of Pearl.

    The classic is when Sam runs a sneaky pass after all the hype about no GUI when obviously there is one due to the window on the screen. He asks so theres no GDI code in there? "Mumble mumble" response from the poor engineer. Also notable is the question about licensing costs and the response that it still doesnt matter how little you run, you still WONT get a discount. Magic!

    Be very aware that MS is really undergoing and enormous change and that this video publically shows this power struggle knives and all. It also demonstrates that this is primarilly due to Linux.

    Joe
    anonymous
  • (1) They only built their Linux Lab to study it.
    ie: To defeat your enemy, you must know your enemy.

    This nonsense about "interoperability" is all public balony. You don't study your enemy to work with him. You study him to KILL him! Because he stands in your way!

    And what about the EU anti-trust case? The key concern was about interoperability in the first place! (Allowing competitors to view the specs such that they can create alternatives that work with MS solutions seemlessly.)

    Its one thing to say that you'll change...Its another to actually change! Judging by Mr McGrath's view, MS hasn't really changed on the inside...Its all a public facade to make it look like it has!


    (2) Do you folks notice that this MS rep used a 2 yr old report as part of his argument for security?

    What about in recent times? (as in the last six months)

    By the way, this report was heavily criticised as nonsense. (ie: Part of Microsoft's FUD campaign against Linux back in 2004)

    Here is the counter-article to Mr McGrath's Forrester article...

    Windows v Linux security: the real facts
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/22/linux_v_windows_security/


    I find Nick McGrath's comments very interesting. Its completely undoing what Bill Hilf is trying to do! (Bill Hilf is the guy in charge of MS's Linux Lab).

    Deep down, we know Microsoft has intentions to crush and destroy open-source. All this public olive branching and playing nice, is because it has to. (As past anti-opensource FUD campaigns have failed miserably). Heck, they even fired that guy who came up with the idea of "Get the Facts" website!

    MS is pressured into being nice, and NOT by its own initiative...You'd think they'll play nice if this pressure wasn't upon them?

    The true nature of Microsoft isn't the Public Relations nonsense it dishes out...Its the actions they make!
    anonymous
  • This guy is such an MS tool it hurts. He doesn't see linux be used more? Yeah and the sky os pink and the sun is purple, what an ass. That and the point-to-point vs. end-to end. Talk about symantics, he should have been a lawyer! All in all just shows a MS employee doing what daddy Gates wants him to, lie.
    anonymous
  • Sounds like a man in denial and on the defensive. First they said Linux and open source was a cancer and that no one was adopting it, then they change their strategy and start trying to be more like open source. Now he's going to sit here and insist that Linux and open source are not making huge market gains?

    Someone get this man a clue.
    anonymous
  • We didn't get a conviction on the monopoly problem with m$. Maybe we can get them on animal abuse ( they are most certainly flogging a dead horse)
    anonymous
  • Nick McGrath is full of sh1t and has his head buried up his ass. If this article is a true representation of where his thinking is at I'm looking forward to his employer's continued loss of market share
    anonymous
  • Wow, what a pompous and naive ass.
    anonymous