Is Microsoft our Enemy?

In the various Open Source communities in which I participate, Microsoft is always taken as this large looming figure lurking and waiting. Or its portrayed as this enemy at the gates – not pun intended – waiting to get in and destroy us all. As Tom Adelstein pointed out over the weekend:

Indulge if you will in recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images experienced as intrusive and distressing. The obsession with Microsoft in Open Software communities is excessive and unreasonable and a product of the mind. My only hope is that such thoughts, impulses, and, or images can be expunged by logic or reasoning, which is contrary to the notions in the psychiatric community.


Redmond? So what. Let them do what they do. We need to do something other than write about all their transgressions – real or imagined.

To say this another way:

Get over yourself. We have enough problems of our own without imaging more.

Sure, a few years ago, Microsoft was actively working to take down Open Source. We all know the FUD. Open Source is evil, Open Source is insecure, Open Source is for a bunch of long-haired hippie-type pinko… well, you get it.

Well, our communities and successes have gotten so big that we stand on our own and have taken the lead in some areas. In what I consider to be one of the biggest successes, we have FIrefox. Initially this effort might have come about as a result of reacting to Microsoft, but in Firebug, YSlow, SEO, and more addons than I care to consider, we leap frogged way past anything else out there.

We didn't do this by waiting and reacting to Internet Explorer. We didn't do this by living in fear of what Microsoft was working on. We didn't even just emulate what they'd already done. We did this by looking at what we had, dreaming of what we'd like to do and then trying it. And now they're playing catch up.

And here's the dirty little secret:

When we push the limits and get ahead, they have to respond. They have to compete with us, fix their problems, and push their own boundaries.

Microsoft is not our enemy but neither is Microsoft our friend. Microsoft is one of a multitude of competitors. And in a free market, the supplier who gives the customer what they want wins… for a while. Until another competitor comes along.