Bill Gates puts in perspective Microsoft's movement to work with Linux

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 11/24/2006 - 18:23.

I don't usually choose to sit through interviews with Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, as I really don't like the enterprise, world or software he has helped create. But, Thanksgiving night he was interviewed by Charlie Rose and he often does a good job bringing interesting insight out of people, so I stayed tuned in. After the expected blah blah about Bill's foundation saving the world, etc., Charlie asked Bill what was the deal with Microsoft getting involved with Linux, and the response was revealing.

Basically, in my words, Bill explained that for a long time Microsoft's big enterprise customers have been using UNIX and now, dared he say, Linux, at the server level, so Microsoft had to create a better strategy to deal with that. So they formed a strategy for better interoperability between Microsoft products and Linux at the server level. Bill went on to say he didn't see that reflecting a change at the desktop level, where he seems to feel Microsoft dominance rests assured. It was valuable to hear that clariification from the Gates' mouth, as the distinction shows where Microsoft has found itself vulnerable, and where it has not.

As someone who has consulted to large anterprises and run small enterprises, and uses Linux at the server and desktop, I can see where Gates is coming from. My large clients have always run huge amounts of UNIX and then Linux and have struggled with integrating Microsoft operating systems with that - Microsoft would have preferred they run Microsoft server rather than UNIX so they did not historically focus on cross-platform interoperability. As large enterprises have a major influence on application development at Microsoft, and Gates correctly states Microsoft largely owns their desktops, large enterprises have forced Mircosoft to accept they will not own the server space, and so must work with the large enterprises on interoperability or risk losing desktops. This is a major global advance, not in that it makes Microsoft a better solution but because it makes Linux a better solution. As Microsoft now makes it easier for all enterprises to roll out Linux in a mixed plaform environment, more enterprises will feel confident using Linux in more environments, including desktops.