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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Will Russia's Move to GNU/Linux Prompt Microsoft to Repair Its Image? |

Will Russia's Move to GNU/Linux Prompt Microsoft to Repair Its Image?

The Russian government recently made a surprising decision: to create a national operating system based on GNU/Linux. The motivation for this development is crystal clear: escaping the Microsoft Windows monopoly. Russia will gain two other huge advantages due to the shift: lower software expenditures and full access to the operating system's source code. The source code access will allow any discovered security flaws to be quickly fixed. Russia appears to be following China's lead. A few years ago, China also decided to shift to a Linux-based operating system known as Red Flag Linux. In this article, I will discuss some of the underlying issues that are causing countries, institutions, individuals, and governments to defect to GNU/Linux.

Redmond's Image Problem
Though Microsoft recently posted an impressive quarterly profit rise, it is suffering from an acute image problem. This image problem arises from the common perception that users are locked into Windows by tactics that are often seen as questionable. Here are a few of these tactics:

  • *Monopolistic control of the marketplace: You simply cannot go to any retail outlet and buy a computer with GNU/Linux pre-installed. If a GNU/Linux retail presence existed, I would certainly buy computers with GNU/Linux pre-installed and so would a lot of other people. Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and other retail markets will simply not stock anything other than Windows PCs and a few Apple computers. I anticipate that in a few years, someone very wealthy will correct this situation by starting a chain of GNU/Linux retail outlets.
  • *Threatening organizations that provide free software/open source alternatives: This trend started in 2007 when Redmond claimed that GNU/Linux violated 235 of their patents without revealing which patents it was referring to. More recently, they "encouraged" a much smaller company, HTC, to pay licensing fees for every mobile phone that HTC shipped with Google's Linux-based Android operating system.
The most critical image problem for Microsoft lies in item two above.



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