11 December 2002 Analysts at the Meta Group have forecast that the growing popularity of the open source Linux operating system will soon force software giant Microsoft to port its major applications to Linux.
Meta said that Linux currently accounts for between 15% and 20% of new server operating system shipments, but by 2006 or 2007 Linux running on Intel microprocessors – a combination referred to as “Lintel” – would rise to 45%.
However, it added that until 2004 Linux would pose a bigger threat to sales of Unix servers, particularly at the low-end, than to Microsoft Windows. Proponents of Linux maintain that the software is cheaper and more stable than Windows.
Microsoft quickly denied Meta’s claims and said that it had no plans to develop Linux software. Microsoft has been running an anti-Linux marketing offensive in recent weeks and co-founder and chairman Bill Gates views it as the main competitive threat to Windows’ dominance in the operating system market.
“Microsoft will not be engineering server software expressly for Linux, and continues to make its strategic basis bets on the Windows platform,” said Peter Houston, senior director of Microsoft’s Windows Server Strategies.
But Meta believes that Microsoft will sooner or later have to come to terms with Linux’s popularity. “We think Linux server stuff is going to be huge, and we don’t think that’s something that Microsoft can walk away from,” Meta’s chairman Dale Kutnick told News.com. Kutnick believes that the shift in strategy will occur from late 2004.
Meta also forecast that Microsoft will lower its prices for Windows, or separate it into new versions, so that it compares more favourably to Linux, which is freely downloadable over the Internet. But if Microsoft did sell software components separately, it would go against its established policy of bundling products together.
Highlighting a divide among analysts, market research company IDC last week produced a Microsoft-funded report that suggested that Windows was cheaper to run than Linux for several standard enterprise computing tasks.