Will freeware really scare Microsoft?

Will freeware really scare Microsoft?

A computer vendor with a dominant position usually has to behave in an arrogant manner for a fair amount of time before customers get fed up and look elsewhere. For example, customers put up with IBM through the '60s and '70s before they decided to bloody its nose in the '80s. And though Digital was a dominant player in the '80s, the '90s found the company begging anybody to listen to it.

Alas, it doesn't appear Microsoft has learned from history. We have found out that Microsoft's thin-client strategy concerning Hydra is pretty much of a ruse in terms of how it is going to be priced. Microsoft is essentially saying that for the same price as a standard client, you can have a thin client. So this is why many people put off adopting other thin-client architectures? It seems to me Microsoft is just paying lip service to the whole topic.

The sad truth is that Redmond only seems to respond when faced with a viable, competitive threat. But it looks like that threat is not going to come in the form of a rival company. The biggest economic crisis facing Microsoft is the rise of a freeware software movement that is increasingly creating viable software solutions at a rapid pace. And as a community, this movement is surprisingly adroit at providing mutual software support. Now all it needs is for some relatively stable companies to emerge as commercial support providers for this type of software.

At the end of the day, this could mean that if you really want to get Microsoft's attention - rather than wait for the government to do something that probably will be ill-advised - maybe the time has come to strategically deploy some departmental Linux servers where a Windows NT server might once have gone.

So the real question is, do we think of freeware - as embodied by Linux, Apache Web servers, and the Perl programming language - as a viable economic model, or is this just the '90s version of a hippie commune for application development?

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