Microsoft Uses 'Free' To Challenge Open Source

Microsoft's decision to issue free versions of its products at various levels suggests that it's well aware of the competitive threat posed by free open source software.

Microsoft has been busy these past few days reminding the world that it really is an organization of monstrous proportions and its tendrils reach from the humblest consumer desktop right up to the level of super-computing. Its message is clear: The company has no intention of giving up any of the markets in which it competes to open source operating systems like Linux -- at least not without the mother of all fights.

Perhaps provoked by Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth's pronouncement that "we want to put Ubuntu and free software on every single consumer PC that ships from a major manufacturer, the ultimate maverick move," Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) saw fit to shed some new light on Office Starter 2010, Ina Fried, over at CNet, reports. This free edition of its Office software -- which will not include PowerPoint but will have crippled versions of Excel and Word -- will be given away with consumer machines in an effort to poison the well for competing open source productivity suites like OpenOffice (which includes a PowerPoint-compatible presentation application and full-featured spreadsheet and word processing programs.)

Microsoft appears to have woken up to the fact that free open-source Office clones like OpenOffice may prove to be the thin end of a very slippery wedge, and if users discover they can get by with it instead of paying for a full version of Microsoft's Office, then the next step will be to switch to Ubuntu (or some other Linux) instead of paying for Windows. Far better to nip the whole thing in the bud by giving away Office -- albeit a cut down version with cheesy ads that rotate every 45 seconds -- for free, while dangling the chance to upgrade to a fuller featured version instantly (by purchasing an unlocking key) in front of frustrated users' noses.

Read the rest at ServerWatch.

Tags: Linux, Microsoft, Servers & Services, Office, beta

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