The biggest Linux FUD hits of all time?

The greatest Linux quotes we love to hate

I managed to catch Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin's keynote for LinuxCon yesterday, and watched what was a combination of a Linux cheerleading session and a pretty tongue-in-cheek slam-fest of all things Microsoft.

With friends like these...

[GPL as a cancer] is believable, unfortunately, because of Stallman's rants against proprietary software. They are easier to read and understand than the actual GPL, so too many people get their ideas of the GPL from the rants rather than doing the work of reading and understanding the license.

Hacker News user billswift | What's your take?

This is what one would expect from Zemlin, whose role at the Linux Foundation seems to put him right out in the spotlight as a quasi-official spokesman for Linux.

As part of his keynote address, Zemlin delivered a recap of all the famous quotes that Microsoft employees and other people have lobbed at Linux over the years, taking rather strong glee in how much they didn't come true.

[Longterm kernel proposal signals ongoing Linux growth and The Not-So-Secret of Linux Success]

To his credit, Zemlin also had his own mea culpa on quotes-gone-wrong, generating a lot of laughter when he panned through slides showing his "This year will be the year of the Linux Desktop" quotes for 2005... 2006... all the way through 2010. (And came out early making the same "prediction" for 2011--you read it here first, folks.)

But before his own confessions, Zemlin rolled through the greatest hits of Linux FUD over the past decade, and boy, did they bring back some memories. I thought it would be worth a look at the quotes Zemlin highlighted, which show just how far Linux opponents are willing to go when it comes to truthiness.

Here was the lead-off:

"But if you say to people, 'Do you understand the GPL?' [then] they're pretty stunned when the Pac-Man-like nature of it is described to them." Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman, June 19, 2001.

This line of thought falls into the incorrect notion that just using a GPL program or linking to it with another application will immediately force you to change the license of your product to GPL, too. Most people understand these days that this is wrong, though every once in a while this FUD still pops up, amazingly.

"Everyone just says we're a company going out of business, and throwing a Hail Mary pass, but once we get to court, those who say that will look as strange as the Iraqi information minister on TV saying the infidels are defeated and did not get into Baghdad." Darl McBride, SCO Group CEO, April 24, 2003.

As Zemlin said in his talk, SCO did indeed get their day in court. Bankruptcy court, that is.

"But as history has shown, while this type of model may have a place, it isn't successful in building a mass market and making powerful, easy-to-use software broadly accessible to consumers." Craig Mundie, Microsoft Senior Vice President, May 3, 2001.

Mundie's remarks were made in a speech to The New York University Stern School of Business, and it is one of the earliest trial balloons for the Microsoft concept of shared source, where just a little source code is opened to select customers and not really shared with anyone else. Today, Microsoft calls this "open surface."

"And according to Sun, Red Hat is a very vulnerable target--a company with limited resources, engineering talent, world coverage and capabilities--with potentially serious intellectual-property issues." George Colony, Forrester Research CEO, September 20, 2004.

Okay, don't blame the messenger for this one. Colony was delivering his conclusions after talking to a lot of people with Sun. This was early in the days when IP began really coming up as a potential weapon for Linux, a problem that has exploded all around the Linux ecosystem.

"We MUST get a TOC [total cost of ownership] study done... If the IDC report won't cut it, then we get another one done."

This quote is from then-Microsoft Group VP Jim Allchin, in an internal memo from 2002 that was revealed later. The above quote as Zemlin presented it in his talk is pretty damning, but I thought expanding it to the whole quote from Allchin's memo would be equally as interesting:

"We MUST get a TOC study done. Cost is a first thing on everyone's mind right now given the economy and pressure on cost reduction. I am not sure what the final decision was on the IDC study. We REALLY need some here. I think [Bill Veghte/Bob Kelly] own this. If the IDC report won't cut it, then we get another one done. Some customers know that Linux isn't really free, but we need to help the other customers see this." Jim Allchin, Microsoft Group Vice President, Internal Microsoft Memo, September 27, 2002.

Given all of the TOC studies that came out in the last decade that everyone and their grandmother knew were bought and paid for, this memo brings a certain level of satisfaction.

And then there was the big one. The quote that to this day rankles anyone involved in the Linux operating system. Some argue that it may remain unforgivable, equating the work being done and the success of that work with a disease that has claimed millions of lives.

"Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches," Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, June 2, 2001.

Zemlin himself slapped this quote back around at Microsoft after he screened the 20th anniversary video from Microsoft to Linux during his keynote. At one part of the animated video, the caption reads "What happened?", referring to the highly antagonistic relationship between the two technology camps.

"'What happened?'," Zemlin rhetorically asked, "You called us a cancer, that's what happened."

Zemlin was able to get another dig in, just after showing the Ballmer quote, indicating that in terms of spreading itself everywhere, Ballmer may have indeed been right in some small way with this quote. Zemlin illustrated it the next slide:

"Today, in a break from the ordinary, Microsoft released 20,000 lines of device driver code to the Linux community," Microsoft Press Release, July 20, 2009.

There are, of course, other quotes that have been hurled towards Linux, and maybe you have a favorite (or most hated) one of your own. It's nice to have the 20:20 benefit of hindsight, where we can look back and laugh.

Sadly, as Linux continues to grow, there will be a lot more where these came from.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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