Leader: Linux "jihad"? Less hysteria please...

You won't make any friends this way, Mr Gates

You won't make any friends this way, Mr Gates

Microsoft has bent over backwards to present itself as reasonable when it comes to the proprietary versus open-source software debate - at least until recently.

'Linux is a great competitor but we think we do a better job' is the standard line coming out of Redmond. This is a fine and sensible stance for any commercial enterprise – so why this talk of 'jihad' at Microsoft's Get the Facts road show?

At said event, which is intended to convince the world that Windows is as cheap and secure as its open-source rival, a Microsoft exec got up in front of a crowd of journalists and described the anti-Microsoft feelings of Linux supporters as a "jihad".

It's not the first time Microsoft has had a political dig at Linux. The partly Microsoft-funded Alexis de Tocqueville institution brought out a report claiming Linux is less secure than Windows and therefore any government agency using it is threatening national security.

SCO – which has links to Redmond – made similar noises recently, saying in a letter to Congress that open source "has the potential to apply our nation's enemies or potential enemies with computing capabilities that are restricted by US law".

It's not a good look for Microsoft – the world's biggest software company can't be seen both to be embracing the challenge of Linux while at the same time using such inflammatory terms as 'jihad' when discussing its rival.

The Linux community is undeniably passionate about its chosen operating system – for some, it almost approaches a religion - and Microsoft-bashing does form a part of that for many.

But that's not who Microsoft should be trying to persuade - those people will never be won over to the Microsoft cause, no matter how many road shows and studies are put in front of them.

It's the software platform-agnostic businesspeople mulling over which OS to choose for their commercial applications that Microsoft should be after – and using pejorative language certainly won't help to accomplish that goal.

Businesspeople are precisely the type who aren't interested in ideological arguments. They want to know what's cost-effective, reliable and effective in a corporate environment – not whether or not they can bring down 'an evil empire' by tinkering with a few lines of code.

If anything, Microsoft's behaviour at the road show reveals that the company feels threatened by the penguin party – and business can smell fear from a mile away.

If Microsoft really wants to convince people that its software is so great, it should stick to doing what it does best – making products for a mass market and pouring advertising money into telling the world about them.