New Microsoft Program Rallies Forces To Crush Linux

Enterprise and Partner Group chief to oversee Linux/Unix escalation process

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Microsoft plans to rally its field sales force and partners to crush Linux--and IBM's efforts with the competitive operating system--in 2002.

According to a Microsoft memo dated in December, the software giant will unveil a "Linux Insiders" program at the company's Envision event in January, an expansion of its existing Linux Competitive Champ Program.

Microsoft also created a new Linux/Unix escalation process that is being headed up by Microsoft Enterprise and Partner Group Vice President Charles Stevens, according to the memo, which was written by Brian Valentine, senior vice president of Windows for Microsoft.

Valentine emphasized that Microsoft will take a more aggressive role in beating Linux--and any vendors that supports it. "I want you to know just how seriously we're taking Linux here in Redmond. ... We have the best d*mn sales force in the world backed by the best engineers in the world--of course we will take any non-Windows OS serious," Valentine wrote. "Linux is out there in some of your accounts and you may not know it. The ground up nature of how Linux is introduced into our accounts means that we need to modify our traditional approaches of finding out about Linux in our customer base. We have to be more hands-on and dig deeper in your accounts."

The Linux/Unix escalation process being headed up by the Enterprise and Partner Group involves getting Microsoft's field sales force and solution providers to tap into the expertise of the Microsoft "Linux Insiders" to advance Windows 2000 and unseat rivals Unix and Linux in the server marketplace.

The "Linux Insiders," a task force of Microsoft experts on Linux that will be unveiled at Envision, will assist the sales force and partners in preventing the spread of Linux--as well as IBM mainframes/Unix servers running Linux--in corporate server centers, according to the memo.

"By building a virtual team of field staff and corporate resources, we will enable the field to have one place to go for communication and competitive information. The Linux Insiders will have access to a centralized Web site where personnel can request help, route issues and share best practices that the entire field can leverage," Valentine wrote. "If you still need help for Global, Strategic and Major accounts, the Linux/Sun Insiders (or your General Manager) can escalate the issue to the new corporate Linux/Unix Escalation Team. Let me emphasize that you need to work with your local Insider or your GM because they have direct access to this escalation team. The team is committed to provide an initial response within one working day."

Microsoft also intends to commission an independent analysis by DH Brown to attack the perception that Linux is free, the memo said. Another cost analysis comparison case study between Linux and Windows, due in May, will assess a variety of usage scenarios such as Web, file and print.

In the memo, Valentine encourages staffers to snoop around corporate server environments to locate new sightings of Unix and Linux. The software giant apparently is concerned about inroads made by IBM and other Linux backers in the IT segment. "Ask about the 'connector' pieces--you'll potentially find Linux in these areas. This is a great way to not only find out about Linux, but also other IT projects that may include Novell, Sun, Oracle and other competitors," the memo said. "You can expect us to turn up the volume on winning against Linux, as well as IBM."

According to Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based newsletter covering the software giant, Linux ranks second among Microsoft's top 10 challenges for 2002--next only to engendering trust in the enterprise for security and reliability.

"This free but powerful operating system is hurting Microsoft competitors such as Novell and Sun in the server market, but it could also dampen growth in Microsoft's server software sales," according to the Directions on Microsoft report issued on Jan. 8. "IBM is trying to make Linux a household name. Meanwhile, Microsoft is adding to Linux's appeal with higher licensing fees and product activation technologies designed to prevent unpaid use of Microsoft software."

One systems integrator that sells and services both Linux and Windows said Microsoft's big push against Linux is not a problem in the short term, but could pose a conflict in the future. "This will not affect us in the current market because ... our current revenue with Caldera is on Unix platforms," said Rich Figer, vice president of sales at S.B. Stone and Company, Cleveland. "In the future, however, when Linux and Unix become closer to one product we could find ourselves in competition with Microsoft operating systems. Most of the Unix/Linux market is highly driven by application vendors. If application vendors choose not to develop on Linux that would be a much bigger problem. If Microsoft puts their energy in to alienating application vendors from Linux it would cause problems."

S.B. Stone, for instance, does 25 percent to 30 percent of its business with Caldera on Unix platforms, but Microsoft represents the rest of its business.

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