When Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer was in London to launch the supercalifragilisticXPalidocious operating system, he downplayed its predecessor, Windows 2000, calling it "reliable" but "not very compatible".
Although many customers were probably still rolling out Windows software, Ballmer said that companies should go for the "superhigh reliability" of XP.
He joked that his sons - "the Ballmer brothers" - didn't like Windows 2000 because they couldn't play their favourite games on it.
Bearing in mind these remarks by Bill Gates's right-hand man, many in the channel were surprised last week by a Microsoft-sponsored report from IDC, Windows 2000 versus Linux in Enterprise Computing: an Assessment of Business Value in Selected Workloads, which triumphantly announced that Windows 2000 offers better total cost of ownership over a five-year period than Linux.
The channel was less surprised that the report happened to appear the day before the Enterprise Linux Forum opened in Boston.
Although Ballmer and Co have dramatically changed tack regarding competition, probably under pressure from the needs of its .Net strategy, and swapped the fire-and-brimstone talk of crushing opponents for a more conciliatory tone, this tactic is classic Microsoft.
It also underlies another comment made by Ballmer at a more recent meeting in London, at which he said that Microsoft's "number one competitive threat" is Linux.
The fact that it is comparing Windows 2000 with Linux appears to show that Microsoft is taking the fledgling operating system seriously, especially as the IDC report said that the predicted lead of Windows in management tools and support costs will narrow.
It would be interesting to see a similar study comparing Linux with XP.
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