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what harm can MS do to free software anyway?

I just posted the following article to slashdot.org
(http://slashdot.org/slashdot.cgi?mode=article&artnum=841).  i think it's
relevant to recent discussions in here on names and marketing so i've
reposted it here. 

--- cut here ---

ok, so what if MS pumps millions of dollars into "fighting" free
software....what will that achieve. how can that hurt us?

the fact is that MS and the free software community want two completely
different things.

They want market share and money.  We want decent software that we can
use and modify for our own needs.

we don't have market share or income to lose from this. sure market
share is nice, but it's not something that we actually need. if a free
software user goes over to the dark side (unlikely, i know) then what
have we lost? not much. one user. maybe one developer.

if a dark-side user comes over to the free software world, we gain a new
user and potentially a new developer. But microsoft has lost a tiny part
of their revenue stream.

MS can put other software companies out of business by the tried and
true method of bankrupting them. How the hell can they do to us that
when our "economy" doesn't run on money, it runs on reputation and
respect for neat hacks?

in short, they are competing in an economy of scarcity - there's only so
much of the pie to go around, whereas we're collaborating in an economy
of abundance - the more who participate, the more there is for everyone.

When you look at it from a historical perspective, you will see that
for as long as computers have existed, there has been free software in
one form or another. And there always will be because you can't destroy
the urge to create, or the desire to share your good works with other

take it back even further and you'll also see that there has always been
free music, free stories, free exchange of ideas and creative endeavour.

Keep this in mind, and keep a sense of perspective, the next time you
start worrying about the MS juggernaut turning it's evil eye towards the
Free Software community. They can't win.


PS: this means they are doomed to fail. but we knew that anyway. whether
it's 5 years or 10, the days of proprietary software and closed systems
are numbered. my bet is less than 5 years.

--- cut here ---

craig sanders

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