While on tour in Southeast Asia recently, Microsoft Platform Strategy Director Bill Hilf sought to debunk some of the myths around Linux and the open-source movement. Hilf said that the goal of his tour was to provide "descriptive and intelligent" arguments that refute conventional wisdom about Linux and the-open source movement. Although Hilf clearly knows what he's talking about, his controversial choice of words is sure to get him in hot water with open-source fanatics.
"The Free Software movement is dead," said Hilf in the "Bangkok Post." "Linux doesn't exist in 2007. Even \[Linux creator\] Linus \[Torvalds\] has a job today."
According to Hilf, the Linux phenomenon is really about Apache and related Web technologies, such as Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) and MySQL, and not about Linux itself. Developers who target those technologies are increasingly interested in Windows, which accounts for about 67 percent of the server market. "That's the dirty little secret," Hilf said. "When I talk to open source developers, at least half are talking about Windows, from SugarCRM, MySQL, PHP. Every single one."
And as for the notion that open-source solutions such as Linux are supported by a hidden army of programmers thanks to the availability of source code, Hilf said that, in reality, most active Linux development is coming from paid employees at companies that release Linux distributions. "They are full-time employees, with 401K stock options," Hilf said. "Some work for IBM or Oracle. There is no free software movement. If someone says Linux is about love, peace, and harmony, I would tell them to do their research. There is no free software movement any more. There are big commercial companies like IBM and there are small commercial companies like Ubuntu."
Hilf is no stranger to controversy, having attended Linux-friendly events, such as LinuxWorld, despite working for Microsoft. Hilf's background lets him speak with authority about Linux and open source because prior to joining Microsoft, he led IBM's Linux strategy.