12 December 2002 Former Microsoft chief operating officer Rick Belluzzo has revealed how his departure from the software giant has allowed him to work with open source software – and freed him from “screaming rows” over the competitive threat posed by the open source operating system Linux.
Now CEO of storage device maker Quantum, Belluzzo has suggested that any hint of support for Linux or other open source software would be loudly shouted down, both internally and in meetings with partners.
“I wasn’t a believer in Linux at Microsoft – I couldn’t be a believer at Microsoft. But Linux is clearly the biggest competitive challenge that Microsoft has ever faced,” Belluzzo told Computerworld.
The interview suggests that there is some truth in the rumour that his departure from Microsoft was instigated by a clash of personalities with CEO Steve Ballmer.
“My style is very different from Microsoft’s style… People outside the company liked working with me. For example, if someone raised the subject of Linux, I didn’t jump and scream. I said, ‘Talk to me about why you like Linux and let’s talk through this’. That was a different approach from the norm [at Microsoft],” said Belluzzo.
Belluzzo is now charged with turning around troubled storage maker Quantum. As part of his turnaround strategy, Belluzzo has sold off the hard disc manufacturing unit to Maxtor and concentrated the company on tape back-up devices, where it has lost share to Hewlett-Packard (HP) and IBM.
At Quantum, much of the new development work for the devices uses Linux as the foundation, Belluzzo claimed, because it is cheaper to deploy and more modular than Microsoft Windows, he said. Furthermore, the combination of Linux with tools from vendors such as IBM is making the open source operating system increasingly more compelling than Windows for many mainstream organisations, said Belluzzo.
“Microsoft has a lot of work to do to make Windows as powerful and flexible as the combination of Linux and some of these other tools [such as IBM WebSphere],” he concluded.