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Sun labels Linux sceptics 'luddites'

Rhetoric reflects growing competition

Only two years after publicly hugging a Microsoft executive live on stage in Sydney, Sun Microsystems's chief technology evangelist Simon Phipps has branded opponents of open source "luddites" and predicted current proprietary vendor dominance will crumble through the sheer collective will of a new generation of IT managers.

"The luddites fighting the move to open source are certain to be defeated. Different parts of the software market may move to open source at different speeds, but the move is an inevitable societal trend," Phipps claimed.

The latest bout of schoolyard name-calling over open source comes as Sun attempts to sell its latest technology vision to the faithful assembled in Queensland for a high-end Sun soiree hosted by vendor-neutral research and development organisation DSTC (Distributed Systems Technology Center).

DSTC chief scientist Andy Bond was somewhat more diplomatic, comparing the advance of open source to a behavioural characteristic exhibited by ant colonies when resisting an attack known as swarm warfare, widely favoured by military researchers investigating distributed command and control functions.

"I'd compare the [current] open source movement to the open systems effort in the 1980s. It's the next generation. It's about having the potential to go somewhere else. It's like an ant colony. You just can't get rid of it. As soon as you stuff one bit, it will pop its head up somewhere else. It's good that it is almost immune from market forces," Bond said.

Meanwhile, Phipps was waxing lyrical about why the 1980s really weren't all that bad, especially if you just happened to work with open systems, or at Sun.

"Sun is probably doing more with open source software than any other major computer company. In fact, Sun was the earliest company to use an open source-like model for business success when it was introduced in the 1980s."

Asked whether they resented being branded "luddites", a spokesperson for Microsoft refused to buy into the name calling, although admitted being sorely "tempted" to say "a number of things".

"We have found that customers want and respond to facts and figures, not emotional rhetoric. That's why we are providing them with the total cost over ownership," the spokesperson said.

The now infamous hug between Phipps and Microsoft's Canada's program manager of XML standards Paul Cotton occurred at the 2002 DSTC Conference in Sydney following a panel discussion where the two agreed to work together on interoperable Web services standard, but compete on product.

The Microsoft spokesperson declined to answer what would happen if the software giant's executives were caught hugging competitors in the future.

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