MS vs Linux: Is It War Of Ideology?

by Julia Fernandes    May 20, 2005

While reams of newsprint and virtual space have been dedicated deliberating the pros and cons of both Microsoft and Linux, CXOtoday has gone a step further and attempted to probe a bit deeper for a different perspective while at the same time examining the role of the technology media in fueling this ‘debate’.

In an exclusive with CXOtoday, Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of Enderle Group, a technology advisory firm, sheds some fresh insight into this much written and much publicized debate.

To begin with, how real is this Microsoft vs Linux war? Is it only a figment of the imagination of the media? If not to what extent has the media played up this, so called ‘war’?

Identified as one of the most influential technology analysts Enderle states, “The two groups don’t like each other and view each other as a threat but what they offer is so dramatically different it is more a war over ideology then it is a war of products. The product level war is actually between Unix and Linux but that is being obscured by the focus on Microsoft.”

“From the media perspective Microsoft is vastly more dramatic and interesting. From Microsoft’s perspective they are a group of folks challenging their right to exist, while the Linux folks view them as a bunch of people taking advantage of the working man in Microsoft,” added Enderle.

He admits that the media has inflamed it by constantly challenging the beliefs of both the groups and relating any big Microsoft event back to the ‘war.’

However, the point still remains, why does the world love to hate Microsoft?

Explains Enderle, “It is a large, successful company that has grown so dominant that they are a virtual utility (except they really aren’t). People generally don’t like their utility companies either, and Microsoft is, in effect, seen as a global utility company.”

“Compared to what Enron/WorldCom has done Microsoft is relatively benign, and compared to how Apple treats its fans and customers Microsoft is actually customer centric. But large multi-national utilities simply can’t deal with customer opinion effectively without a major focus on it and Microsoft simply has not shown the willingness to hire and budget to address this problem,” quips Enderle.

Point noted. But what about Microsoft’ products and solutions? Are they really the way they are portrayed?

“No, particularly when you take into account the millions who use them. If just 1% of Microsoft’s customers are unhappy that’s 1m people and it isn’t unusual for large firms to have 5 times this as a percentage. Also a huge number of people are on products that have become obsolete impacting greatly how the company is perceived.”

So, will Linux be able to overtake Microsoft?

“As a generic, no. It not only does not have the funding it cannot get it too. Linux is not even an accurate term for the OS it represents given the fact that it only refers to the kernel and not the whole OS,” stated Enderle.

“The companies chasing this opportunity are Red Hat and Novell. While Novell appears to be on the going out of the business path, Red Hat’s growth is relatively glacial. Linspire (Lindows) had the best desktop strategy but they really never went anyplace. As it currently exists Linux can’t but some future derivative might if a better revenue model can be found for the platform,” concludes Enderle.