Recently two pieces of first class anti-free software diatribe hit the headlines. The first is Microsoft's "please don't use OpenOffice.org" video and the second is Steve Jobs' anti-Android rant. Both are pretty shallow attempts at deflection and have been rightly called out as actually endorsing the subject of the attack as a valid opponent. In both cases it does seem to say that Microsoft and Jobs are concerned enough about OpenOffice.org and Android respectively that they need to tell the rest of us how bad they are. This is good news for those of us who like openness and freedom in our computers.
First class FUD
I've said this before but if you feel the best way to promote your product is to attack the opposition you have already lost. Fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a well known tactic and exists not only in the software world. Free software supporters have been quoting Gandhi's "ignore, ridicule, fight, win" quote for a long time. By launching these attacks both Microsoft and Jobs appear to have belied their fear of the rival product and aligned themselves with step 3 of that process. Despite the rhetoric that came from Redmond and Apple supporters following these stories, the truth is that both OpenOffice.org and Android have made big enough dents in their markets to wake up the sleeping giant monopolists. Some prime examples of the FUD spouted here includes Jobs saying
The thing most of us think of when we hear the word open is Windows
(no really he did) and:
Open systems are not always best
Microsoft have their own brand of FUD of course and their video is so overrun with it I would be here all day if I started quoting examples.
Have we won?
I am reminded of Winston Churchill's words to the British public after the D-Day landings in 1944. "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning."
So does this mean we are winning? (By 'we' of course I mean the free software community and the wider free culture movements) I think not. I am reminded of Winston Churchill's words to the British public after the D-Day landings in 1944:
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning
Free software and open systems have not won yet. I'm not sure we will win, because honestly I think the proprietary guys are fighting a different battle. They seem to be desperately clinging to the money-for-old-rope model of control and more control. Free software by contrast has no marketing team, no driving force extending from share prices. From day one the free software and free culture movements have been most effective by just putting our stuff out there and saying "help yourself and pass it on". It has taken a while but after years of the software industry pushing the opposite people are finally starting to believe there might actually be such a thing as a free lunch when it comes to software, text, images, video and audio. Once that happens the proprietary guys find themselves fighting something much worse than a product or an opponent. They are fighting an idea, a principle and as I have said before it's one that doesn't play the same game they do.
Sooner or later companies like Apple and Microsoft will have to change the way they do business because an increasing number of their customers already have
So we haven't won yet but rants and propaganda like this are good examples of the shifting ethos. Sooner or later companies like Apple and Microsoft will have to change the way they do business because whether they like it or not an increasing number of their customers already have. While I'm at it all of this also makes it even sadder for Oracle who having bought their way into this brave new world have locked themselves out and thrown away the key.