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No Let-Up In Microsoft-Linux War

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The continued commercialisation of Linux is helping Microsoft defend its Windows patch against the rising tide of open source, claims the head of Redmond's competitive strategy efforts.

Martin Taylor, Microsoft's general manager for platform strategy, says discussions with partners and customers around Linux are now less tainted by emotion and are more facts based. He spoke with Louis van Wyk at the vendor's Worldwide Partner Conference in Minneapolis this month.

Taylor is the architect of Microsoft's Get the Facts about Linux campaign and he outlined the work his team is doing to equip partners to take on competing platforms. He also shed light on some new initiatives.

At the event Taylor announced that Microsoft is giving partners access to the same sales tools and competitive data that it provides its own direct sales force, through a program called Competitive Sales Assistance.

The scheme will help partners compete better against Linux offerings from Novell, IBM and Red Hat by giving them access to the information they need to compete effectively, says Taylor.

In addition, Taylor says Microsoft will also open up its training to partners to provide them with same training resources it gives internally.

An increase in channel marketing funds from US$1.7 billion to US$2 billion this year will also bolster partner efforts, says Taylor.

"Partners are saying they need us to create air cover and tell the world about our technologies, so that they get behind us and work with us," he says.

Meanwhile, the Get the Facts campaign will continue to focus on the areas of total cost of owner-ship, reliability and security, as well as intellectual property indemnification.

It will now focus on different scenarios in the way technology is deployed.

"The Get the Facts [campaign] gives partners the tools they need to help have a balanced dialogue with customers," says Taylor.

The campaign was launched two years ago at the request of partners.

"When I started in this role I went on a listening tour. One thing I heard from partners was 'There is this emotional, religious war going on with Linux right now, can you help us?'" says Taylor.

Today, the Get the Facts campaign is proving successful and Microsoft is winning more Linux arguments than it is losing, says Taylor.

And with the ongoing commercialisation of Linux, the Microsoft-versus-Linux discussion is becoming more rational and less emotional, he says.

"A couple of years ago there was a lot of excitement, romance, myth and emotion around Linux and open source," he says.

Taylor says there has been a major shift in the emotional approach to Linux.

"There is a window in time where everyone just gets emotional attention because they're new, they're here, they're whatever. You are in that emotional space for a limited amount of time because people want to go and pull the covers back and look at the specifics."

Linux is now commercialised, with providers such as Red Hat and SuSE becoming profit driven, says Taylor.

This has led to discussions being more fact based and balanced, which is benefiting Microsoft, he adds.

"It has made it much easier because now customers pay a price for Linux or for Windows. They want to understand total cost of ownership, security and reliability," he says.

In the past when decision-makers in organizations did not have to write a check to acquire Linux, they gave it a "free pass" by overlooking some of its drawbacks, says Taylor.

"Where people were taking bets on Linux earlier, they are now taking a more pragmatic view. Linux is far enough along the evolution now that we are actually seeing customers that were on Linux hit some of the walls on reliability, cost of ownership, and actually come back to Microsoft."

Taylor says the battle with Linux will continue to rage in areas such as web servers, Unix migration and high-performance computing for which Microsoft plans to launch a new product, Computer Cluster Edition, in the first half of next year.

Taylor also wants to work closer with governments to ensure decisions about Linux migration are made based on fact and not politics. "We will continue to roll up our sleeves and sit at the table and partner with the public sector."


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