Torvalds attacks Microsoft over open source

Technically inferior and unable to compete on price, Microsoft has resorted to spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, says the Linux creator

Microsoft is spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt among open-source users, Linus Torvalds said in an interview published on Friday.

The software giant is falling short with its technology and, because it cannot win against open source on price, it is trying to encourage inertia in the IT industry, the creator of the Linux operating system said.

Microsoft has been at the centre of considerable controversy over the last 12 months, mainly arising from its statements on open source and its technology partnerships with a range of Linux distributors.

Microsoft has claimed that open-source software violates 235 of its patents, but says it will not sue open-source users at the moment. It is this type of claim which angers Torvalds.

"I personally think it's mainly another shot in the FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] war," Torvalds said in the interview with Computerworld. "Microsoft has a really hard time competing on technical merit, and they traditionally have instead tried to compete on price. But that obviously doesn't work either, not against open source. So they'll continue to bundle packages and live off the inertia of the marketplace, but they want to feed that inertia with FUD."

As well as making assertions over patents, Microsoft has also caused a stir in the open-source world by forming partnerships with Linux distributors, the largest one being Novell.

But despite the controversy, Torvalds remains nonplussed. "I don't actually think the Novell-Microsoft agreement kind of thing matters all that much in the end, but it's interesting to see the signs that the sides are at least talking to each other. I don't know what the end result will be, but I think it would be healthier for everybody if there wasn't the kind of rabid hatred on both sides," he told Computerworld.

Torvalds also addressed the issue of the slow uptake of open-source software in businesses, saying that there is considerable inertia when it comes to operating systems.

"These things don't take a year or two. They take a decade or two," he said. "We've come a long way in those 16 years [since the creation of Linux]. Is there a long way to go? Sure. There are technical issues, support infrastructure and just people's perceptions that just take a long time to sort out."

Microsoft could offer no response to Torvalds' comments at the time of writing.


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