From: Rick Moen <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: [svlug] AFUL replies to Microsoft (my translation) Stéfane Fermigier of AFUL (association francophone des utilisateurs de Linux) has published a reply to the Microsoft letter, readable at http://aful.org/presse/chardon.html Here's my "anglais" rendition (which I'm also sending to Linux Weekly News): AFUL Response to Microsoft's Open Letter In an open letter dated October 19, 1998, Marc Chardon, general director of Microsoft France, indulges himself in a rather surprising analysis of the free Linux operating system. Surprising, because, only a few months ago, Linux was "off Microsoft's radar". Surprising also because, after an introduction that laments the effect of rumours and unsupported assertions, it is crammed with factual errors and poor conjectures. It is even more troubling if one is aware that Mr. Chardon was executive staff at Digital Equipment, a company whose active support for Linux development goes back to 1994. Surprising, finally -- and unhappy news -- because it reveals a profound ignorance of both the OS's facilities and its development process. It thus strikes us as useful to point out the following developments: 1. _Linux's development has not, as he claims, "considerably slowed" over the last two years_. Linus Torvalds enjoys more than ever his role as "project manager" for Linux's development team, whose kernel code size has (in line count) doubled in two years, and which now supports eight different microprocessor families. The direct support of manufacturers such as Apple, Digital/Compaq, Sun, Corel Computer, and Intel is one guarantee among others that this work will not simply stop from one day to the next. Considerable work has also been devoted to _installation procedures_, which do not take more than ten or so minutes on recent machines, and to _graphical user interfaces_ that rival those of commercial systems such as MacOS, NextStep, or Windows. 2. Contrary to Mr. Chardon's claim, _the best office automation suites for Linux are comparable to (and compatible with) their equivalents for Windows_, and not with "1985 Microsoft Write". One can point out, for example, the StarOffice and Applix integrated office suites, or Corel's WordPerfect word processor. One can also point out the Netscape Communicator communication package. These packages have from the outset, in contrast to MS Office, the advantage of being available for, and compatible with, multiple platforms -- and thus leave the user free to choose his own data-processing environment. 3. _The "open nature" of free software is a relevant criterion for the majority of users._ Following open standards allows Linux to interoperate with other operating systems and networks, and in particular the Internet. Freely available source is, as for it, too, the heart of the free software development model. Although it directly concerns only the user who is also a programmer, it benefits the entire user community because the software produced through this model is -- and this is now a demonstrated fact -- stable, secure, powerful, open (particularly to competition) and in conformance with enduring standards. 4. _The no-cost nature of the system is relevant for a great number of users._ This is especially so with entry-level personal computers, where the price of commercial system software may constitute 10-40% of the hardware cost, and with embedded systems for electronic mass-market products. It is equally so in emerging countries and institutions (schools, societies) that wish to get the best use from relatively old hardware. 5. Contrary to Mr. Chardon's opinion, we maintain that the _availability at will of software source code is, for all users, the ultimate guarantee of independence from the publisher_. To quote Mr. Desvignes, head of the Central Service for Information Systems Security (SCSSI): "One cannot dismiss the possibility of the temptations of authority: Certain "oddities" recently discovered in one large provider's software lead one to ponder that the times call more than ever for vigilance.... Concerning software, we are confronted with the problem of access to the source code of these products." (Informatiques Magazine, October 15, 1998.) Mr. Chardon recognises the unquestionable merit of a system like Linux as a working tool for researchers and academics, but judges it unsuited to win over business and individuals. However, in the area of Internet service providers, a field one might class among the most innovative, Linux already represents, according to several studies, between _25 and 30% of the server market_. It has been proven that Microsoft exercises considerable economic pressure on PC distributors to impose purchase of Windows on all their customers: "...it is impossible today, for a PME and even more so a private individual, to buy a PC without Windows from the large manufacturers." (Laurent Sounack, Décision Micro et Réseaux, October 19, 1998, page 7.) Despite this obstacle, and with the support of all the principal database publishers (except for Microsoft), _Linux is on its way to assert itself in the near future in the market for small and medium-sized business servers_. The general public will undoubtedly take longer to win over. It is already possible for him to form an opinion by installing Linux as a "dual-boot" option -- i.e., choosing between Linux and a commercial OS (Windows or MacOS to cite only two) at start-up. After a certain transition period, during which time software publishers, in particular multimedia, decide to offer platform-independent products, we are convinced that _the Linux system will win over users by its performance, its stability, and the quality of the free software with which it is generally associated_. -- Stéfane Fermigier, for AFUL (French-speaking Association of Users of Linux, and of free software).