Microsoft vs. Open Source competitors ... where's that headed?

Microsoft has a job vacancy for a director of open source strategy - what does this mean for Microsoft, open-source and consumers?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Microsoft has a job vacancy for a director of open source strategy - what does this mean for Microsoft, open-source and consumers?

The Windows Competitive Strategy team is looking for a strong team member to lead Microsoft's global desktop competitive strategy as it relates to open source competitors.

OK, desktop open source competitors. That, as Matt Asay writing for CNET's The Open Road blog says, can only mean one thing - Microsoft is focusing on Ubuntu.

Here's the problem facing Microsoft right now. A handful of OEMs are selling desktop, notebook and netbook systems kitted out with Ubuntu rather than Windows, and because there's no license fee to pay Microsoft, these systems are undercutting equivalent Windows-powered systems. What's worse (for Microsoft) is that these systems work and are ideal for people who aren't looking to hook up the system to an existing Windows-based hardware and software ecosystem. When I look at what people are doing with their new desktop/notebook/netbook systems, it seems that they are hooking them up a WiFi network, maybe installing an IM client, and mostly making use of web-based services. Windows or Linux, the OS is rapidly becoming irrelevant, and Microsoft knows this.

Sure, the Linux market share is small at present, and there's no sign of rapid growth that could threaten Microsoft's OS revenue stream. But Microsoft also has to be aware that increasing presence of Linux-based systems for sale by OEMs, combined with the free price tag and a soggy economy could make more people think about taking the road less traveled when it comes to the OS. Also, it's difficult not to notice how many Windows users out there who are dissatisfied. Users being dissatisfied never seemed to bother Microsoft in the past, but being dissatisfied and having a viable alternative - now that's a dangerous combination.

OK, so Microsoft acknowledges that open source is a competitor. Pop quiz - what's the Redmond giant going to do about open source? It's hard to see the company making a version of Windows available for free (that said, developing nations can pick up Windows for next to nothing). Then there's that small but important point of money. 

I'm willing to bet that this job consists of little more than coming up with reports and surveys that show how great Windows is and how much Linux sucks. Look closely enough at the job description and you'll see it:

  • Create a rational set of proof points that promote Microsoft’s comparative value
  • Build a fact-based marketing plan that articulates the Windows Client value proposition to partners and customers

See ...

Sounds like a job of Hypno-Toad.

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