, a PhD student in Australia, and an advent critic of Microsoft, sent in an interesting piece about Microsoft's upcoming frontal assault on Apache with the release
of Windows 2000, and its effect on Linux. To read the text, hit the details link.
Microsoft's Web Server Strategy - another case of integration
AKA The Anatomy of a Frontal Assault on Apache
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has recently made some interesting noises in Austria.
As mentioned in LinuxToday
and Microsoft, Kanzler Klima ...
(translated via Babelfish),
during a keynote address (and/or an interview) Ballmer said
"Apache is simply better." And then:
"It is our own fault if we do not offer enough features with our servers to
justify their price. When it comes to hosting several sites on one server version,
Apache is simply better. Windows 2000 will solve this problem."
This is a warning sign 1000 miles high and wide that is easy to decipher knowing Microsoft's tactics
and their history. Everybody knows what happened to Netscape. Let me dissect what is going to happen to Apache (and indirectly, to Linux):
- Microsoft admitting that Apache is better ? Let's remember that Microsoft is more of a marketing company -
they would never, ever, I repeat, ever do that.
They are too accustomed to spreading FUD and proclaiming "our stuff is better than competition"
even when it clearly isn't so. Since they are admitting that the price/performance/features equation
of Apache is better than anything Microsoft has to offer, it means they have gotten used to the idea,
mulled it over, and came up with a solution. Apache is not just hurting them financially in the server
market - it is also hurting them in the statistics game, and Microsoft hates not being on top.
They hate not being in control. At last count Apache has 57% of the server market while MS had about 23%.
- The MS solution to the Apache problem: Windows 2000 will have a simple (lightweight?) web server
- very easy to setup and maintain, prominently sitting on the desktop.
This will be "integrated" into the operating system, just as Internet Explorer was in Win98.
- This MS web server will also be available as a free download, for use on Win95 and Win98 machines.
This is done purely to spread it and populate it everywhere - make use of the existing Windows userbase,
since the Windows 2000 upgrade (read: migration) will take some time. Have you counted how many pirate MP3
sites use primitive FTP servers running on Windows ? The installed user base of Windows machines
runs into the 100s of millions, while Linux and other UNIXes that run Apache are only a small percentage
- it will definitely be a lot better than the poor Personal Web Server currently on offer. Remember
Internet Explorer 2.0 in Win95 ? It couldn't compete with the then market leader, Netscape.
It was also "hidden" away, deep inside the start menu. But then IE 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 came out with a force,
with Microsoft putting much more emphasis on it - directly on the desktop, and impossible to get away from in Win98.
- This new free MS web server may not be as fast, or feature rich as their current IIS server, but
people will be easier to convince to upgrade from the free server to WindowsNT (or whatever its called these days)
and the IIS server after being used to a Microsoft product. Even if the free web server eats into their NT sales,
their thinking is that it is at least a Microsoft web server and not Apache...
- ... which leads us to: Microsoft will add some Internet Explorer-only features into their new web server (small at first),
thus attempting to control the server and client side at the same time. Using Netscape to access the web server ?
Too bad it won't do SomeCoolNewFeature - normal people and Windows geeks won't be impressed...
- The new free web server / Windows 2000 combination will reduce the appeal of Apache, and hence, Linux
(sinceit is the primary platform on which Apache runs on). The main attraction of Linux/Apache is the price
and functionality. To most people, its Open SourceNess is a secondary bonus. Microsoft understands this and
is attempting to weave a self-fullfilling prophecy of "Linux is only a fad". Stability is of course
important, but Microsoft's Marketing Power (tm) will make sure that this is non-issue when the advertising
(read: hype) campaign starts for Windows 2000.
- Attacking Apache with this kind of tactic is not legally painful as integrating the browser was.
After all, Apache isn't made by a company. To the legal system and Microsoft, Apache came out of the ether
and its secretary is a website.
- Overall, this strategy isn't much different from what Microsoft did to Netscape.
MS is yet again leveraging the Windows installed user base to counter a new threat: Open Source Software.
But this threat is of much greater importance and greater stakes are at play here.
They know OSS works. They know it has better stuff than they make. They know it develops quicker. They
are scared of becoming obsolete. But most of all they are scared of not being on top, not being able
to dictate. Not being able to control.
- The Mindcraft "Benchmarks" were the first phase of the Web Server straregy - designed to
throw seeds of doubt against Apache. Too bad for Microsoft they actually helped the development
of Linux and Apache.
- Fix the performance problems in the Linux kernel and Apache as soon as possible, to create yet
another viable technical reason for choosing Linux/Apache over Microsoft products and take
the wind out the sails of Microsoft's PR benchmark department.
Increase the population of Linux before Windows 2000 is released by having a good office suite for Linux
(KOffice and Corel Office are good candidates).
(C) 1999 Conrad Sanderson
, 29-Jun-1999. Free to reproduce in unmodified form.