Linux clocks double-digit growth. Fear and loathing in Redmond

IDC is reporting rapid Linux growth. It's no wonder that Microsoft is fighting back.

IDC is reporting that Windows server growth hit 6.9 percent in Q4 2007, bringing it to 36.6 percent market share. Linux trounced Windows' growth at 11.6 percent to hit 12.7 percent market share. Microsoft owns the market, but Linux owns the future.

Therein lies the rub of the tale behind much of Microsoft's fear and loathing of open source.

As Jim Zemlin suggests, developers want to write software to a winning platform. Microsoft's Windows has long been an easy choice, but with the rampant growth of Linux, Linux is becoming an easy choice for developers, too. Given Steve Ballmer's sweaty passion for developers, this has got to be causing consternation in Redmond.

So what does Microsoft do about it?

One half the company - the half that realizes that it's a platform company and for a platform to be valuable, it needs applications running on it - embraces open source (or at least plugs its nose when open source gets close). This half doesn't care whether the applications are open source or proprietary. It simply wants lots of applications.

The other half - the half that realizes that Microsoft long ago moved beyond simply being a platform company - actively fights open source. This is the half that can't afford to have a rival platform on the market vying for the affections of developers. This half co-opts a few weak-kneed Linux vendors into siding with it so that Microsoft can attempt to keep a tight leash on Linux's potential. This half lies to discredit Linux and open source generally because it threatens Microsoft's (supposed) God-given right to make money with a license model.

This second half is losing. Oh, it's not losing its billions of dollars in quarterly profits. Not anytime soon, anyway. Instead, it's losing developer affection as enterprises start to innovate again and software vendors decide that living life as a concubine to Microsoft isn't fulfilling.

Want to know what Microsoft is going to do next? Just keep an eye on the numbers. The better they get for Linux, the worse Microsoft will behave. It can't help it.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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