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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Microsoft Corp is journeying deep into the enemy heartland this week, by opening a stand at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in an attempt to snag wavering Unix users,

writes Gavin Clarke.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft will deploy 15 staff at the New York-based event in an attempt to spread the Windows mantra. The company will demonstrate four products and its gotdotnet.com online service for developers.

This is Microsoft's second appearance at the show, and the company is both expanding its stand and drafting in more Microsoft programmers than product managers in an attempt to bond with conference goers.

Rather than convert Linux developers and users, though, Microsoft hopes to appeal to Unix users running PA Risc-based hardware. As such, Microsoft hopes it can tempt these individuals into opting for Windows on Intel rather than Linux on Intel.

It's part of a strategy designed to coax developers and customers instead of beating them over the head with the alleged dangers to their intellectual property raised by open source licensing. Such was Microsoft's strategy two years ago.

Peter Houston, senior director of Windows server strategy, told ComputerWire: "[Then] We were focussed on driving the debate at the philosophical level. Customers wanted us to move way from the emotionally charged issues," Houston said.

"Microsoft is still concerned about the GPL," he added.

Driving Microsoft's change is the influence of IBM. Houston said backing for Linux from Microsoft's rival had given the operating system increased credibility among business users. Company chief financial officer John Connors said last week Linux threatens Microsoft's server business.

"It's become clear that Linux is now perceived as more than an open source phenomena. IBM has focussed quite a bit in talking about the business benefit," Houston said.

Recognizing the challenge, Microsoft recently attempted to rebut Linux in a sponsored white paper from analyst IDC it hoped would prove Windows 2000 is more cost efficient than Linux. Despite widespread skepticism over the report, Houston said Microsoft plans more such reports.

The real target, though, is not Linux, Houston said. Instead, Microsoft hopes to divert those moving from Unix and considering Linux. "We need to do a better job communicating the value proposition to Unix customers of why it's better to use Windows on Intel than Linux on Intel," Houston said.

Among products to be demonstrated by Microsoft at LinuxWorld this week is the company's Services for Unix.

© ComputerWire

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