There are a couple of things on my mind at the moment. One of them is Microsoft's attitude towards the Open Source community. There has been a considerable amount of discussion on the Slug mailing lists of late about whether a speaker from Microsoft should be allowed to speak at a Slug meeting. The general conclusion that the list reached was that the talk that the Microsoft representative would be doing would not really be related to OSS/Linux, so there was no reason to have him talk at a meeting. Although I agree with this decision, there were a number of points raised at tonights Slug meeting which I think should be addressed further.
When I spoke about my opinion on Microsoft's anti-Linux strategies over the next year and a half, most people seemed to think that the issue of software patents warranted more attention. Although I agree that the issue of software patents is a _very_ important one, the issue of media attention and marketing deserve as much though, time, and effort.
Microsoft have made considerable moves recently in terms of drawing attention from Open Source Software and swaying the opinions of IT managers. These moves have been especially prominent in England with what the OSS community has labeled their "Magical Myth Busting Tour". Although these tours have been dismissed as nothing more than PR fluff, we need to take a look at the bigger picture, and why Microsoft is taking this approach.
I think that these PR stunts serve two purposes. First, to sway the opinions of the masses. Second, to learn as much about the Open Source community as they can. Why would they want to do this, I hear you say? Well, when you look at how long it is going to be before Microsoft release their next version of Windows, they've figured that due to the long amount of time that's going to pass, many of their current customers may begin to lean towards Linux. Of course, this is bad for Microsoft and they want to be able to react to this in the strongest way possible. As such, they are trying to find out as much about Open Source as they can. Then they can analyse all of the different routes they can take in response to Linux's growing popularity and market exposure. Who better to find out these weaknesses from than from the Open Source community itself? By running these roadshows, they are able to both market their products, but also find out the reasons behind why all of their potential customers are switching over to Linux.
Once this information has been collected, Microsoft will go full out in a PR onslaught against the Open Source community and the software that we produce. If you think what's been comming out of Redmond and it's associates is bad now, you ain't seen nothing yet. For them, this is do or die. Either they destroy OSS, or OSS destroys them. There is no middle ground like there is for us. The Open Source community can happily co-exist with Microsoft, but while OSS exists Microsoft market share will slowly but surely be eaten up.
We have a unique opportunity to for once take the fight to Microsoft. We are not restricted to the same software release schedule that they are, and we are able to constantly innovate and create in ways that they are not. Our software is better in many ways than theirs. Not only do we need to improve our own software, we need to take the fight to Microsoft directly. The next 18 months are both the most critical and historically important for the Open Source community - they're going to define OSS's place in the world.