[Linux-aus] AT&T Tests Linux - boosting AT&T's leverage

Leon Brooks leon at cyberknights.com.au
Wed Oct 6 07:46:02 UTC 2004



> "I still have concerns about security" in Windows, Eslambolchi said.
> "We have had more viruses attacking PCs in the last six months than
> in the previous 10 years." 

That's going to get worse, not better.

> "If Microsoft solves the security problem, and I think they will, I may
> not have to switch," he said. 

The big insoluble problem at the base of all of this is that MS-Windows was 
not design secure from Day One, whereas Linux (through a Unix-like conceptual 
heritage) has been.

Microsoft had a chance to fix that when they adopted VMS (as MICA) wholesale 
for their NT stream of products (2000, XP, 2003, ShortHorn), but botched it 
by working too hard for compatibility with their MSDOS-based horribly 
insecure barely-timesharing 9X product stream. One single configuration 
options gives VMS high-level military security, which you can only do for 
MS-Windows by unplugging everything - no network, no I/O - and how useful is 

In their current situation, they (and their users) are faced with an unending 
game of whack-a-shark. It's like trying to pave over kikuyu grass - the 
problem won't go away until you rip up the paving and get every shred of 
kikuyu out first. The bullet that they failed to bite up front, they're 
having to bite now, and they're foolishly trying to do it by paving over the 
problems rather than solving them at their roots.

The consequences for the user include more difficult-to-use versions of 
Internet Explorer (which will also only get worse), Outlook and so on.

The other problem Microsoft faces is monoculture. They only have one of 
everything, not even a dichotomy, and for all practical purposes they're down 
to one hardware platform too.

Linux, by contrast, is a unity-in-diversity situation, with many varied 
products able to freely interoperate because they all stick to the same 
published standards rather than because they've all been regimented. This 
means that users get more choices and still get to integrate stuff well 
(Microsoft's current favourite feature) but they do it without laying out a 
welcome mat for virus writers.

> Some companies may express interest in Linux to gain leverage in
> contract negotiations with Microsoft, said Charles Di Bona, an analyst
> at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.

He's absolutely right - Newham in England being a classic example, and Telstra 
being a local (for me) example - and from the outside looking in through this 
one news report, that looks exactly like what AT&T is striving for.

If so, there are some simple things AT&T can do to improve their bargaining 
position, and they can be started right now.

 * Test all of AT&T's websites for compatibility with the Mozilla suite of
   products, badge them as such, add the FireFox web browser to the software
   AT&T rolls out to its PCs and internally promote its use; and

 * Add the ThunderBird email client as well, promoting it as a more secure
   alternative to Outlook; and

 * Add the OpenOffice suite as well, setting the default save format to be the
   Microsoft document types for now in order to minimise disruption of
   existing workflow, and promoting that for its ability to recover broken
   documents, its autosave which works reliably, and its ability to spit out
   PDFs without additional software; and

 * Spam all of your employees with a free copy of TheOpenCD so they can
   use these things at home as well, making it clear that this is free and
   completely legal to copy and share.

The nett effect of this will be to show Microsoft that AT&T are serious about 
alternatives, to gain experience in using potential alternates, and to begin 
preparing AT&T's people for a switch if they do elect to go ahead (all of the 
above products run identically on MS-Windows, Mac OS X and Linux - what 
training costs?). It can be done today and without ploughing up any existing 

The cost will be minimal (some extra bytes in the rollouts, pressing of 
employee CDs at maybe 20c a pop and distribution of same) and even if AT&T 
are really only fishing for discounts, it ups their leverage considerably.

For example, OpenOffice does all of the day-to-day tasks that MS-Office does, 
plus writes PDFs and uses a published XML-based standard (OASIS) for its 
native documents - Microsoft are going to have to show significant positive 
value in their product just to bring it up to $0 worth!

Cheers; Leon

FireFox - http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/
ThunderBird - http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/
OpenOffice - http://www.openoffice.org/
TheOpenCD - http://theopencd.sunsite.dk/
The OASIS file format standard - http://www.oasis-open.org/

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