CyberTech Rambler

May 11, 2007

Bill Hilf unexpected “Outburst”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:51 pm

Bill Hilf, head of Microsoft Linux Lab, enjoys a reputation most other Microsoft employees, especially senior level employees, do not. He is generally regarded as cool head, willing to listen to the opposing view, not parading any FUD and rational. Hence, it is a bit surprising when the Bangkok Post quoted him to had said,

“The Free Software movement is dead. Linux doesn’t exist in 2007. Even Linus has got a job today.”

What an extraordinary outburst! Or is it? It certainly grabbed my attention. Further analysis of the article shows that he is simply talking as an Microsoft employee. My overall impression is that he is toeing the party line at Microsoft, something he is paid to do and expected to do. There is no need to explain to him the difference between “Free Software movement” and commercialization of “Free Software”, nor the fact that both can co-exists. Unlike his CEO who fails to backup outburst, he did. Moreover, he is simply trying to say that most developers of Free Software do it as a day job.

Want more example of him speaking as a Microsoft employee? His negative “opinion” on IBM’s support for ODF is definitely one. I expects him to say the reverse if he goes back to IBM tomorrow. As for Linux is not important, but applications such as Apache, MySQL are, I can always says ditto for Windows. Its not the OS, but Microsoft Office, PaintShopPro are. Like Linux, how many time in any conversation one is talking about the operating system and not applications that runs on it?

One important virtue for Hilf that you do not see from other Microsoft’s employee is his opponent usually agrees with his view, or at least agree he is expressing a viewpoint on a legitimate debatable topic. For example, unless you are a zealot, and although you disagree how much the EC learned from the Microsoft antitrust case, you will agree that EU is learning something from the case and the striking the difficult balance between standardization and innovation is one. (I know, Microsoft learns from the case too and he did not mention it. If he were an independent commentator, I will chastise him on it, but he is a Microsoft employee and had made no effort to hide that. As long as he disclose that he is a Microsoft employee, then not mentioning this is fair) Another important virtue is although he is flocking Microsoft’s virtue, he is not doing it by bashing others. I mean he could say nasty words about IBM on ODF. He didn’t.

Strip away the obligatory pro-Microsoft tone you expects from any employee, he had maintained his integrity. I hope his tenure at Microsoft will not corrupt him. And dare I hope that he will influence others at Microsoft to behave the same.

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