Microsoft's Linux Support: Denial, Then ConcessionMicrosoft's Linux Support: Denial, Then Concession
Microsoft and Novell have <a href=http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=?articleID=193501706>reached a pact</a> to improve the way that Windows and Linux work together. Where were these guys three years ago when Bill Gates took me to task for asking whether Microsoft might do more in that area? "Tell me any area we're not doing enough," Microsoft's chairman huffed in November 2003 during a one-on-one interview in Las Vegas. "I mean, seriously, what area do you think we
November 6, 2006
Microsoft and Novell have reached a pact to improve the way that Windows and Linux work together. Where were these guys three years ago when Bill Gates took me to task for asking whether Microsoft might do more in that area? "Tell me any area we're not doing enough," Microsoft's chairman huffed in November 2003 during a one-on-one interview in Las Vegas. "I mean, seriously, what area do you think we could do more in?" Thank you, Steve Ballmer, for coming up with an answer, albeit three years after that tongue lashing from your friend and colleague.Bill Gates would have none of my nonsense when I pointed out to him that InformationWeek, in a story at the time, had questioned whether Microsoft was doing enough to support compatibility between Linux and Windows. "Do you think Microsoft is doing more than people realize?" I asked him during our interview. "Will there be more?"
Those could have been softball questions, a chance for Gates to impress the world with Microsoft's plans to support computing environments where Windows and Linux coexisted, since that was, and continues to be, the reality for many customers. Instead, Gates challenged my line of questioning: "Tell me one area we're not doing enough," he said. And, "I don't know what you mean." And, "Name a corporate customer who has some interoperability thing they want from us." Here's the complete transcript of that interview. The issue of Windows-Linux interoperability is one InformationWeek has raised with Microsoft on several occasions. In February 2005, after Gates issued a written briefing to Microsoft customers on the subject of interoperability, I suggested Microsoft hadn't gone far enough. See "What Bill Gates Didn't Say About Interoperability." All this came back to me last week when Steve Ballmer set the record straight. In describing Microsoft's deal with Novell to collaborate on virtualization, management, and document compatibility, he said: "This is a set of agreements that really I think will greatly enhance interoperability between Linux and Windows, and give customers greater flexibility in ways that they have certainly been asking for." Novell brought along Randy Cohen, CTO of Goldman Sachs, a user of Windows, Linux, and Unix systems. "Until now, the burden of ensuring all that operates seamlessly and interoperates cleanly and well for us was really borne by us, at the enterprise customer side," Cohen said. "And it was a significant effort that we had to put into that." So Microsoft has come clean on the need for Windows-Linux interoperability, acknowledging it's partly Microsoft's problem to solve. But that doesn't settle the matter. While the Microsoft-Novell agreement covers Suse Linux, there are other Linux distributions that would benefit from Microsoft's help and cooperation. Gates is no longer Microsoft's chief software architect, as he was at the time of that 2003 interview. We have some questions for Ray Ozzie the next time we see him.
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