My stablemates at ZDNet blog-central have been busy the last couple days. Here are some of the highlights from around our network.
Ed Burnette is on top of Red Hat's rebuttal to Oracle's surprise "Unbreakable Linux" announcement earlier this week at Oracle OpenWorld. Clearly, the announcement did not settle well with Red Hat given the way the company's return volley referred to Oracle's maneuver as "Unfakable Linux." The rebuttal contains a FAQ that Burnette breaks down for us.
According to Ed, "If you read the fine print, what Oracle is planning to do is start with the source code for Red Hat's version of Linux, remove all the Red Hat trademarks (logos, etc.) and 'add Linux bug fixes'. Thus, Oracle's developers be faced with some onerous merging whenever RH comes out with a new version." But the question is, once you've turned your support over to Oracle, does it matter? There's been a lot of discussion over whether what Oracle is doing is technically considered another "distro" or fork of Linux. My take? By the time they're done, it won't be Red Hat Enterprise Linux by anybody's defintion of RHEL (especially Red Hat's).
Perhaps more significant, suggests Andy Updegrove, was Oracle's announcement that it "has joined the Free Standards Group (FSG), at the highest level of membership. You can find that press release here." (Updegrove is on the Board of Directors of the FSG)." Oracle's membership in the FSG along with its promise to contribute all code fixes back to the Linux community could be a way for the company to assuage those who are concerned that its Unbreakable Linux announcement could result in further bifurcation of the already somewhat fragmented Linux community.
In the aftermath of a whirlwind week where new versions of the Internet Explorer and Firefox Web browsers surfaced, George Ou, technical director at ZDNet's sister TechRepublic, puts their vulnerabilities (boy, that didn't take long, did it?) under the microscope. George points out the irony how security research outfit Secunia is going after IE's jugular while it remains silent about news of the Firefox flaw that Bugtraq identified as "critical" (Mozilla is debating that rating).
In case it already scrolled out of your river of news, here on Between the Lines, my partner-in-crime Dan Farber was burning the midnight oil last night after bumping into Microsoft's internal revolutionary Ray Ozzie. With an amazing dearth of browser-based productivity applications coming onto the market from small and big companies alike, Dan tries to beat the fact that Microsoft must have something similar up its sleeve out of Ozzie. But, even though we're positive that Microsoft has a Web Office skunkworks project going on somewhere, Ozzie did not budge. According to Ozzie, "Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. We are looking at Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and paying attention to Office 2.0 and Zoho. We are also putting those in front of customers and seeing what makes sense." But Dan still concludes, "I would guess that Microsoft busy coding browser-based Office components and could pull the trigger rapidly if it were deemed necessary to compete."
Want my take on it? History appears to be repeating itself here. While Oracle has signs around it's campus that say "Unbreakable Linux," perhaps Microsoft should have signs around it's campus that say "Remember Linux." When Linux first surfaced, Microsoft executives spent a lot of time and energy trying to undermine the operating system's credibility instead of coming up with a technological response. Ultimately though, that campaign failed and Linux proceeded to sweep up a signficant amount of business that might have otherwise gone to Windows Server. I
Instead of waiting like it did with Linux (and poo-pooing the thought) and letting dangerous competitors like Google get all the attention and buzz (or, get away with murder), perhaps Microsoft should get it over with and put a beta of it's skunkworks project online, just like Google does (sometimes for an eternity). If the market proves Web Office to be the red herring Microsoft makes it out to be, then Microsoft wins. If it doesn't (and if fellow ZDNet blogger Marc Orchant is right when he says "The sea change is coming. It's not a tsunami, although I predict that there will be some spectacular waves from time to time..."), then Microsoft has a far better head start (with the market and with the services) than it will by waiting.