Microsoft, Money, Linux, Social Networking, And Nerds

People like talking, using, and writing about Linux because it is inherently new, cool, and exciting.

From The New York Times:

“Microsoft plans to announce today that it has reached a $440 million legal settlement and licensing deal with the InterTrust Technologies Corporation, a private company and a pioneer in the development of software to protect digital music and movies from piracy.

The settlement of InterTrust’s patent infringement suit, filed in 2001, is the latest in Microsoft’s continuing drive to resolve its legal disputes. It comes less than two weeks after the company, the world’s largest software maker, agreed to pay Sun Microsystems $1.6 billion to settle Sun’s private antitrust suit against Microsoft and to resolve patent claims.”

Microsoft has enough cash to settle more than 100 cases like this. This is the sort of thing that makes commentators like Robert X. Cringely nervous. Cringley also suggests another reason why Microsoft will defeat Linux:

“Some readers predicted Microsoft would collapse under its own weight and under the insurgence of Open Source software, especially Linux. Most of these readers have a higher regard for the competitive value of Linux than I do. All those who think Linux will clean Microsoft’s clock who are also people who have never compiled software, please hold up your hand.”

Good point. I confess to being one of those people who has compiled software. I’ve been on the Internet (and using UNIX or UNIX-like operating systems) since 1984. But I am not as pessimistic about Linux’s chances (or optimistic about Microsoft’s future) as some.

I think that those that are pessimistic about the future of Linux underestimate the social networking aspects of Linux. And I don’t mean “social networking” like LinkedIn, Orkut, or Friendster.

I mean that people like talking, using, and writing about Linux because it is inherently new, cool, and exciting.

These are the same people who are converting old discarded hardware (Mac or PC) into home-based servers, running Linux on iPods, and, yes, compiling software. These people tend to be the same ones who work in IT departments and who ultimately influence the decisions corporations make about IT purchasing.

For example, a group of my MIT friends and I get together periodically to discuss, demonstrate, and play with new technology. We call this group the “Linux Salon.” That this group exists (and I suspect there are others like it out there) validates the social networking power of Linux. As long as people continue to be excited about Linux, Linux will continue to gain market share.

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