Catalyst: Internal Microsoft memos in the press regarding the open
source model and Linux in particular.
Q: Are the Halloween
documents posted on Open Source
A: Although Microsoft has not attempted to perform a
line-for-line review of the posted documents, they do appear to be confidential
Microsoft documents with annotation, sent internally to select staff and
management on Aug. 11, 1998.
Q: What was the purpose of
creating these documents?
A: It is standard practice at Microsoft to research,
write about, and assess all competitors, from both a business model and
technical perspective. We would be doing a disservice to our shareholders and
customers if we were not monitoring and assessing market conditions and
competitive offerings. Accordingly, such assessments of technical, business, and
competitive issues are a routine practice across all industries and types of
Honesty and creative ideas in such documents are critical
to effective communication and the free flow of ideas. It is always unfortunate
when a company's confidentiality is compromised, as it was in this case by
the unauthorized or unintentional release of this document.
Q: Is this an official
Microsoft response to the open source model and Linux in particular?
A: No. These documents do not represent an official
Microsoft position or road map. They are technical analyses written by a staff
engineer that represent the thoughts of one individual at one point in time.
They were intended to encourage an informed internal discussion of issues by
marketing and engineering middle managers.
Q: Who is Vinod Valloppillil
and what is his role at Microsoft?
A: Vinod is a staff engineer who, from time to time, is
chartered with the responsibility of monitoring and analyzing market conditions
and competitive offerings. His analyses are intended to spur internal discussion
about industry trends and market dynamics. He is not an official company
Q: How did these documents
get leaked to the press?
A: At this point we cannot confirm how the documents were
distributed outside the company or who is responsible for the action.
Q: Does Microsoft consider
Linux a competitor?
A: Yes. Linux is a competitor on the client and the
server. My analysis is that Linux is a material competitor in the
lower-performance end of the general purpose server industry and the small to
medium-sized ISP industry. It is important to recognize that Linux, beyond
competing with Microsoft, is also, and perhaps even more frequently, an
alternative or competitor to other versions of UNIX.
The operating system industry is characterized today by
vigorous competition. This competition, of which Linux is only a part, exists at
the technology level as well as in terms of business models, applications,
channels and alliances.
Q: The first document talked
about extending standard protocols as a way to "deny OSS projects entry
into the market." What does this mean?
A: To better serve customers, Microsoft needs to innovate
above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to
deliver advanced functionality to users. An example of this is adding
transactional support for DTC over HTTP. This would be a value-add and would in
no way break the standard or undermine the concept of standards, of which
Microsoft is a significant supporter. Yet it would allow us to solve a class of
problems in value chain integration for our Web-based customers that are not
solved by any public standard today. Microsoft recognizes that customers are not
served by implementations that are different without adding value; we therefore
support standards as the foundation on which further innovation can be based.