Opinion

Thought for the Day:Linux's war of the flea

Linux is winning the propaganda victories in its guerilla war against Microsoft, says Simon Moores

"The guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog's disadvantages: too much to defend; too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with."

So writes Robert Taber in War of the Flea - The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare. That takes me back to my youth and military studies, but I never expected to think of a Linux connection.

However, the ongoing fight between Linux and Microsoft can undoubtedly be seen in these terms with Linux cast as the agile guerrilla winning propaganda victories despite Microsoft's heavier armoury.

There are signs that Microsoft is getting increasingly worried by a growing perception that governments and large institutions are deploying OSS (Open Source Software) or Linux, when in fact they are only considering or just piloting the technology.

In December, I attended a EURIM meeting on Open Standards/Open Source in e-government and a second meeting at the European Parliament offices in London, where Open Source was once again discussed. As a consequence, I believe that Microsoft, while it would have good reason to be concerned by the growing Open Source movement in government, would also be correct in assuming that OSS, while it is winning propaganda victories remains very much at the pilot stage of implementation where government, and very often big business, is concerned.

In my notes I have written two comments. The first is that "Open Source is an unstoppable, disruptive technology" and the second, which is rather more damning of the present climate, simply says: "No understanding of Open Standards, how these are put together and how these continue to a (a state of necessary) interoperability", which is the key to future success.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the technology spectrum, Microsoft has good reason to be nervous. 2002 ended with the news that Japan's two largest consumer electronics companies, Panasonic and Sony, have begun joint development of a version of the Linux digital consumer electronics devices. This will bring Linux into direct competition with Windows, once again as Microsoft also plans to expand into new niches beyond PDAs and mobile phones

You may recall my writing about Linux as a curiosity on the Sony Playstation but this latest Japanese electronics alliance represents a much greater boost for the Linux operating system, because the two giants have reportedly secured basic support from a number of other major consumer electronics makers to make Linux the platform of choice in embedded devices of the future. Motorola is reportedly "trying to adapt the software for consumer-electronics products and devices as disparate as airplane radar and antilock-brake systems for cars".

This year, I believe, will be one of increasing "Linux creep" across the technology spectrum. Microsoft has good reason to be concerned by the perceptual impact of the low intensity conflict between two very different ideologies, if only because Linux is becoming a shadowy hit-and-run "partisan" success which frequently leaves Microsoft with an uncertain and heavy-handed tactical response to the threat it now faces , one which echoes the carpet-bombing strategy of the Vietnam war. And we know how that ended.

What's your view?
Will the guerrillas beat the Microsoft standing army? Tell us in an e-mail >> CW360.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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This was first published in January 2003

 

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