Chris Dawson's Why do I only get flamed when I support Microsoft? asks a really good question. There are no simple answers to this question, which is truly multi-faceted but one thing is certain: a lot of the animosity directed toward Microsoft has nothing to do with Microsoft or their business practices.
I think the lack of civility we see in many reader comments merely reflects the lack of civility in our society as a whole. We see it in Washington, D. C., we see it on the streets of America, in our music, and in our so-called news media (be it 'shock radio' or the 'fair and balanced' alternative).
Aside from their unqualified dominance of the personal computer marketplace, Microsoft is no different than any other vendor. Some of our readers' opinions aside, corporate entities such a Microsoft are neither moral nor immoral. Large corporations exist for one reason only -- to make a profit. Sure, many of their founders started out with a vision but once a company goes public, the need to make a profit often overshadows the philosophy envisioned by its founders.
For instance, Microsoft's greatest detractors are often Linux aficionados. Why? As long as they are happy with their choices, why should these Linux users be concerned that others have made other choices?
Sure, Microsoft has raised concerns about their intellectual property rights perhaps being infringed upon by some open-source software but they've not taken a single Linux user to court -- nor are they likely to (so far, only SCO has taken that route -- of suing one's own customers). And why shouldn't they raise those issues?
Whether a Linux vendorwill be taken to court over Microsoft IP rights or not remains to be seen but Microsoft is in partnership with Novell, in part, to protect the rights of those Linux users who have embraced SuSe Linux. (In truth, I expect that Microsoft also hopes that this alliance will lead enterprise users to turn away from Red Hat.) Similarly, Microsoft has a partnership arrangement with Sun Microsystems, which protects the rights of Sun's Linux users as well as their Solaris users.
These sound more like business decisions, not a vendetta against, Linux, as many Linux fans would have us believe. All of the hyperbole aside, here is the reality:
- Microsoft is more concerned about UNIX/Linux competing with them in the machine room than they are on the desktop -- and they should be. In a mixed-platform environment, there are clear advantages to UNIX/Linux as an alternative.
- Linux vendors have made little effort themselves to market their distributions outside of the enterprise. If Linux vendors are content to allow Microsoft to dominate the commodity desktop market, is that Bill Gates' fault?
- Dell is the one first-tier OEM who is responding to user requests for Linux preinstalled. Can they sell enough systems to make it worth their time? Maybe, maybe not. The first time they tried this, nobody was interested.
Ultimately, the consumer will decide if they are ready for Linux -- or if Linux is ready for them! The enterprise has access to the expertise to use whatever operating system it wants -- based upon the task at hand -- and that's what concerns Microsoft. The consumer knows little or nothing about Linux (or Windows, for that matter) and will select Linux only if they are convinced that it is simple enough to use without any special knowledge. (Our readers often forget that they are not typical consumers.)
In the early 1980's, when it was "IBM versus Apple", everyone hated IBM -- for no other reason than that they dominated the marketplace. Today, people don't care that IBM is still the grandaddy of the IT industry. Now it's Microsoft that is the company people love to hate.
Well, it's time for our readers to realize that Microsoft is not to blame for the small market share enjoyed by desktop Linux. Just as Apple decided over two decades ago not to compete with Microsoft in the commodity desktop, so have the Linux vendors.
Until they decide to give Microsoft a run for it's money, Microsoft will continue to dominate and nothing Linux desktop users can say will change that.