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MS should embrace Linux, buy Sun, dump Win2k

But actually, this Linux outfit's blatant bid for publicity isn't as barmy as it sounds

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Microsoft should break itself up voluntarily, buy Sun and release its own version of Wine, the API wrapper that allows Windows programs to run on top of Linux. This, chutzpah-riddled British Linux developer GBdirect tells us, is how the company can avoid collapse over the next few years and come up with an adequate response to the Linux tide.

Naturally when we got GBdirect's email suggesting we might be interested in the company's somewhat radical take on MS versus Linux, we thought 'desperate bid for publicity.' Well it is, certainly, but the analysis is well-written and thoughtful, and there's quite a bit of interesting meat underlying the sensationalist suggestions. (Full article)

These are based on a pretty fair analysis of Microsoft's current situation. Its Win2k and after development roadmap looks unconvincing and increasingly difficult to execute: "The difficulty of further product development [after Win2k] is extreme; a 30 million lines of code tarpit has been created." Its desktop dominance is threatened by PDAs and appliances, and "the whole concept of 'desktop' could become an anachronism - perhaps within as little as five years." Meanwhile its key executives are increasingly likely to become demotivated and to cash and run, while even the brightest spot, applications, is coming under increasing onslaught.

Now, against this we have what is effectively a Unix counter-attack. "Suddenly through Linux, Unix has been reinvented, made to look hip, trendy, streetwise, and is being given away on the cover of glossy magazines... Linux has caught the imagination of legions of skilled and talented software developers, systems adminstrators, geeks, students and serious end-users, just at the time Microsoft was targetting (and winning) exactly that piece of market space." Among the effects of this is that corporate Unix has had a shot in the arm, and is much better equipped to fight off Microsoft than it was two years ago.

So far so good - quite a lot of people would agree with the analysis of the position, and come to the conclusion that Microsoft is in big trouble, and the whole thing could collapse in the next few years. GBdirect's solutions at first seem improbable, but we have to take into account the likelihood that Microsoft isn't going to take it lying down, and will do anything it takes in order to survive. Anything it takes could conceivably include buying its way back into Unix. It couldn't buy anything major under the current circumstances of the antitrust trial, so as a pre-condition it has to go for a voluntary break-up.

Note that AT&T, having been broken up years ago, now has a lot more scope for acquisitions than it had when it was Ma Bell, so maybe MS could do this too. SCO would be the obvious purchase, but "SCO is pretty much moribund and going nowhere" (we only put that in so we'd get an opinion column from Ray Anderson), while Sun would be the really radical target. By using its own source code to produce a robust, production version of Wine, MS could defend its apps business, albeit at the price of legitimising Linux. But that's where buying into Unix comes in.

GBdirect even has a cheeky little voting section which allows readers to be polled on a number of shocking possibilities, like Microsoft putting NT/W2k into "maintenance only" mode and Red Hat buying the rump of Microsoft after the company fails to change track. It won't happen like this of course, but if it's true that Microsoft's strategy is getting deeper and deeper mired, something radical is surely likely to happen - any rival guesses? Whatever, it's an interesting take, and well worth a look. ®

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