One of the great games of IBM, back in the day, was to be opaque.
The company kept its strategy to itself, announcing moves without offering real direction, and so an enormous "IBM-ology" industry emerged to explain, speculate, and advise customers.
Microsoft adopted this into its DNA quite early. The result is often derided as FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) but the idea is similar, to keep competitors and customers off-balance. Ziff Davis itself emerged as part of the resulting "Microsoft-ology" industry, explaining, speculating, and advising customers on what to do.
The question is, will this work in the open source era? My piece Friday about Bill Hilf seems to directly contradict yesterday's on Steve Ballmer. And now we have Novell saying Ballmer is inaccurate in claiming Big Green will sue those who don't buy its SUSE Linux.
Now that's opacity. But will it aid Microsoft in an age where code is not owned, and where customers demand control?
I was intrigued by the results of yesterday's poll. Most of you don't appear to take Ballmer's threat seriously. That's good. But does it make you more likely to seek a strategy in the future that takes you away from Microsoft, say through the use of GPL Java and Linux?
If it does, it means open source has truly liberated you from FUD, and Ballmer had best find another way. Either that, or he'd better beat you in court.