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June 26, 2006

Scott Morris: Bill Hilf No Threat To Linux on Desktop

by @ 6:59 am. Filed under General Linux, Linux News, My Opinion, War, Work-Related

This type of thing absolutely never ceases to amaze me. This person can’t possibly be so out of touch with reality that he actually believes what he is saying here. I mean, I’m sure he sat down with a room full of PR experts and actually brainstormed this stuff. That is the only plausible explanation. Obviously they know that anything they say reflects on Microsoft. Any opinion he expresses, then (especially having taken Martin Taylor’s place, who left this past week), you KNOW will have to be in absolute line with Microsoft’s standpoint, no matter what it is.

What am I talking about? I just read this li’l story about Mr. Bill Hilf, the guy who succeeded Martin Taylor this past week at M$. He claims that “Linux No Threat To Windows On Desktop.” Mr. Hilf, you must be new, there, tiger.

Alrighty, looks like it’s time again to bust out the baseball bat and take this guy one argument at a time. Lest anyone fall victim to what he is saying, I will explain why he is out of his freaking mind. Believe me, he is.

On that note, let’s get started:

“Linux isn’t a threat to Windows on the desktop and is losing steam on the server as customers separate the operating system from the development model, according to Microsoft’s chief platform strategist.”

“Bill Hilf, general manager of competitive strategy at Microsoft, said pundits have predicted for years that Linux will gain momentum on the desktop, but that won’t happen because of the complexity involved in delivering a tightly integrated and tested desktop product.”

Let’s see, you mean it is losing steam because Massachusetts has banned Microsoft Office? Because there have been more Linux-related expos this year than any other year? Because Microsoft now uses Linux in their wireless networks? Because the Belgian government has banned Microsoft Office? Because Munich, Germany migrated over 12,000 desktops to Linux? Because Venezuela is also switching to Linux? How about the adoption rate of Linux in China right now? What do you have to say about the heavy usage of Linux in the Armed Forces of the United States?

In my own research, I have found that governments in South America, such as Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Chile, and Peru are switching. European governments making the switch include Kurdjali, Bulgaria; Munich, Germany; Bergen, Norway; Schools and Government Agencies in Italy; Moscow, Russia; the United Kingdom; Canary Islands; Denmark; Barcelona, Spain; Dundee, Scotland; Central Scotland Police; France; Iceland; Poland; and Portugal. In Asia, the big ones are China, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

I’m not even going to list the countless banks that have started using Linux to protect their data. Well, I might mention the fact that China’s largest bank switched to Linux. Actually, I’ll just briefly mention that the Deutscher Investment Trust, a German bank, has also switched to Linux. There’s also the Venezuelan bank, Banco Mercantil (with which I actually had an account at one time), who has made the switch to Linux. And of course, there’s the Indian bank that switched to Linux. Yeah, fine, they’re mostly servers. At least it’s causing M$ to lose money.

Maybe Mr. Hilf missed all of those stories in his RSS feeds or something.

Man, one of us is not plugged into the real world. Wake up, Neo.

Here’s the other thing: He says in the above quote that “pundits have predicted for years that Linux will gain momentum on the desktop, but that won’t happen because of the complexity involved in delivering a tightly integrated and tested desktop product.” Again, you’re already behind, sport. There is at least one Linux platform that is already doing this stuff. I will address this in detail after I set straight the other fallacies put forth by Mr. Hilf.

I think it’s cute that he slips in, “I’ve been a Linux desktop user for a really long time.” Watching someone install it once doesn’t really count, man.

“‘The magic of open-source software is not the software. It has nothing to do with the code at all. Most open-source code is terribly inferior to commercial software code,’ Hilf said. ‘The magic is the community and how you interact and participate in a community and make development transparent enough that the community believes in you and trusts you.'”

The magic of this moment is in the generous amounts of ludicrous that this statement is. He’s right, though. The magic of open-source software is not the software; the penguin seduced, brainwashed, and hypnotized me into using Linux. Oh, wait, now I’m speaking like a Microsoftie. The magic is actually in the track record that Microsoft’s code has of being many different ways of inferior, the biggest one being in absolute lack of any kind of secure code, whatsoever, and only that when they were forced to. “Whoops, I hadn’t realized that our code was so horrible and crappy. I’ll have to look into that.” The translation of this is: “We don’t care how poorly-written, crappy, and insecure our code is as long as the ignorant users of Windows will keep on buying it from us. They don’t need to know that there are better options out there.”

Terribly inferior code, huh? Is that why Linux has a track record for having rock-solid security (which track record Windows has certainly not enjoyed)? Is that why so many governments, institutions, and companies world-wide (including Microsoft, by the way) has started using it for everything having to do with security? Is that why Windows has a track record of being more open than a lady of the evening working her favorite corner?

Perhaps the thing that absolutely blows my mind the most about the quote is the end, where he says, “The magic is the community and how you interact and participate in a community and make development transparent enough that the community believes in you and trusts you.” What gives Microsoft the most remote impression that they know anything about this? According to consumers, they are ranked almost at the very bottom in terms of how much people trust them. No one trusts Microsoft. Could that be because they’ve done everything they can to get peoples’ money rather than provide a quality product? Maybe it’s because they pull crap like this. The community believes and trusts Microsoft, huh? Not on your life.

“Hilf’s comments come as Novell and Red Hat market more advanced, integrated server operating systems and desktop products that compare more favorably with the Microsoft desktop than in prior years.”

You have absolutely no idea how true this is, and I’m gonna tell you how true it is in just a bit… after we explore how out of his mind this guy really is.

“And even though Linux may appear slick on the desktop, it can’t compete under the covers, Hilf said. Novell and Red Hat are trying to adopt Microsoft’s integration model, but the process of integrating system components and ensuring third-party applications and device drivers run well on the desktop–and testing all those scenarios–makes that task too cumbersome.”

Other than the fact that no one that I know of is trying to adopt Microsoft’s integration model. Are you? Is Ubuntu? Debian? Fedora? No hands. Hmmm…

I’m not even going to make a comment on Mr. Hilf’s comments about competing “under the covers,” especially where it involves Martin Taylor.

He’s backwards again in reference to his little bit about the device drivers. Here’s the funny thing: According to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Linux actually supports more hardware than Vista does! Scratch your head, there, for a minute. Yes, apparently Linux now supports more hardware than Vista. Hmm… again, Mr. Hilf is apparently just a little wet behind the ears. Here’s a towel, chief.

“‘Vendors come in and buy piece parts, and they try to assemble a mini Microsoft development model. But who is going to test it? It’s the user,’ Hilf said. ‘The user tests and reports back bugs on the desktop. The end user doesn’t want to be a tester, unless they’re a developer. It’s extremely hard and complex.'”

So hard and complex that Microsoft has produced nothing but buggy and worthless code for the past 20 years, and even worse updates (the XP SP2 disaster comes to mind). So hard and complex that yes, it is the user that has had to deal with the brunt of this neglect. You are absolutely right: the end user does not want to be a tester. So why, for the past two decades, have you forced them to be exactly that?

“‘There was a ton of work and engineering put into the Win32 API. Why do people want to clone the Win32 API, like the WINE project?’ he added.”

Answer: Because Windows absolutely sucks. People are willing to do anything to run their favorite applications on a platform that doesn’t make them feel like they are rolling around naked in raw sewage.

“Hilf gave kudos to his predecessor, Martin Taylor, a Windows Live executive who left Microsoft this week, for developing the Redmond, Wash., company’s Get The Facts marketing campaign.”

Evidently, neither of them realize how fruitless that lame campaign was, and how little was accomplished by it. Maybe it’s not the campaign they are congratulating each other about, after all. Maybe it has to do with their competing under the covers.

“‘One thing Martin did before I started [with Microsoft] was to help centralize the company around a single way of thinking about this,’ Hilf said. ‘There were a lot of different people composing theories about what to do to compete against Linux and open source.'”

Well there you go, sport. If it were such a non-threat, why are you trying so hard to get rid of it? If Linux is absolutely no threat to Windows on the desktop, as you are claiming throughout this article, why in this world of ours would you and His Majesty Martin Taylor be so hell-bent on destroying it? Why would there be an entire department, and even your very position at Microsoft be created and designed to attack Linux in every conceivable way? Why has everyone been obsessing about ways to nuke Linux, as you, yourself say?

Must be more of a threat than you will admit.

Please spare the world the garbage, PR-campaign-style, FUD-perpetuating speeches. I realize that your employer forces you to say these things. I realize that if you want to keep your job, you have to say them. Just know that anyone with the ability to reason doesn’t buy it. Neither does anyone who has experience with Linux, or anyone who has ever had to clean up a corporate disaster because of a security hole in your bug-ridden software, or anyone who can add up the fact that a FREE download (Linux) is cheaper than your Windows + Office combo topping the scales at around $500. Hmm… I guess that includes most serious IT professionals.

Now, I’d like to discuss some more about why this guy needs a padded room in which he can enjoy his own little reality.

In short, there is already at least one distribution of Linux specifically designed to integrate seamlessly into a Windows-centric environment. I realize that there are others, but I have personal knowledge of at least one. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

First of all, if you are in an enterprise or SMB, what will you be looking for in a desktop operating system? You will want something that saves you money, maintains or increases employee productivity, is easy to admin, is secure, and it has to be something you can just drop into your existing environment.

How will it save money? Let’s look at a quick comparison.

What will most basic office desktops need? The operating system and some kind of Office suite. Windows + Office = about $500. This is per desktop. If you have 25 desktops, that is already $12,500 right out the window. You can purchase SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 for (don’t quote me) about $50 or so, give or take. You immediately drop from $12,500 to $1,250. Hmm… about 10% of the cost. Yep, looks like that saves us some money right there. No problems with that argument. It’s very obvious and twice as clear.

How about maintaining or increasing productivity?

There is the fact that the Office suite, OpenOffice, provides the ability to do just about anything that its Microsoft counterpart can do. It is intuitive and fairly straightforward. Even new users can be productive immediately. So there’s one way: OpenOffice provides the office production tools.

Let’s look at another way.

Many people, when they are trying to find some bit of information on their computer, cannot remember where they saved it or originally found it. This leads many users to waste untold amounts of time looking through email, web sites, documents, and other files to see if they can find it by hand.

Enter beagle, the desktop search tool. In SLED 10, you have the ability to pop up your beagle window, run your search, and have immediately available a list of results. Thus we see that time is saved, and productivity is increased.

So beagle is another example. Let’s look at one more.

You have the new desktop effects found in Xgl. Yeah, they look great. However, many of the visual effects actually make the operating system more intuitive and easy to use. They provide visual cues that help new users get comfortable with the system very quickly.

Alrighty, there are a few examples of equal or increased productivity. I could go on, but I have other stuff to cover.

Is it easy to admin?

SLED 10 works with SLES 10 to create situations where you can push updates out to the desktop machines. You can “batch admin” systems, something that has not been available before (correct me if I’m wrong, here) for a desktop. Novell has really thought about this. They are addressing these types of things. I’m not just saying that because I work there. In another week I won’t be.

SLED 10 will be the ultimate admin-friendly desktop. SLED 10 and SLES 10 were created from the same code base. Same YAST. Same basic system for all the machines. This means that it is easier to maintain for admins.

The next point is security, which has long since been a dead horse. Linux is more secure. Always has been.

Perhaps the point that Mr. Hilf is saying is that Linux does not play well in a Windows environment.

This is actually one if the very strongest points of SLED 10. How?

First of all, SLED 10 can work with things like Active Directory to authenticate users. You can also authenticate with LDAP. It integrates right into the authentication setup you already have.

SLED 10 can browse the Windows Network Neighborhood, and can appear as a Windows computer to other machines on the network. This means you can browse and share files and printers, just like you would do on your Windows machines.

Another way that SLED 10 works with your existing environment is via Evolution. The SLED 10 platform can connect to whatever messaging back-end you are using. It plugs into Exchange, for example.

There is also the fact that OpenOffice can read and save any Microsoft Office formatted document. This means that if you do have Office users that you work with, you can send them documents in Word and Excel formats.

I’m telling you, SLED 10 will be the first Linux platform ever that can truly address all of the issues to be considered when looking for a desktop platform. Gone are the days where the knee-jerk response is “OK, so how much do I need to fork over to you, Mr. Gates?” Only the old-school has-beens are still thinking this way. Join the new IT movement. The one where everyone sees Microsoft’s software for the trash that it is, and sees Linux for the value that it adds to the industry. At very least join us in the real world and think for yourself.

I’m not the only one saying this type of thing. Check out Neil McAllister’s article, SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. His review of SLED 10 demonstrates what I’m saying here.

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