The Halloween Document

Joachim Feise (
Sun, 01 Nov 1998 22:01:49 -0800

Eric Raymond apparently was leaked an internal Microsoft memo about the w=
open source phenomenon
Makes interesting reading. Fake or not, that is the question...


Open Source Software

A (New?) Development Methodology

{ The body of the Halloween Document is an internal strategy memorandum o=
Microsoft's possible responses to the Linux/Open Source phenomenon. It sm=
too strongly of Microsoft's unique corporate culture (as revealed by inde=
resources such as The Borg) to be other than genuine.

The list of collaborators mentioned at the end includes some people who a=
known to be key players at Microsoft, and the document reads as though th=
research effort had the cooperation of top management; it may even have b=
commissioned as a policy white paper for Bill Gates's attention (the auth=
seems to have expected that Gates would read it).

Accordingly, it provides us with a very valuable look past Microsoft's
dismissive marketing spin about Open Source at what the company is actual=
thinking -- which, as you'll see, is an odd combination of astuteness and=

institutional myopia.

Since the author quoted my analyses of open-source community dynamics (Th=
Cathedral and the Bazaar) and Homesteading the Noosphere) extensively, it=
fair that I should respond on behalf of the community. :-)

Here are some notable quotes from the document, with hotlinks to where th=
ey are
embedded. It's helpful to know that ``OSS'' is the author's abbreviation =
``Open Source Software''.

* OSS poses a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Micr=
particularly in server space. Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and=
idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not replicable with our curren=
licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mindshare thr=
eat. =

* Recent case studies (the Internet) provide very dramatic evidence =
that commercial quality can be achieved / exceeded by OSS projects. =

* understand how to compete against OSS, we must target a proc=
rather than a company. =

* OSS is long-term credible ... FUD tactics can not be used to comba=
t it. =

* Linux and other OSS advocates are making a progressively more cred=
argument that OSS software is at least as robust =A8C if not more =A8C th=
commercial alternatives. The Internet provides an ideal, high-visibility
showcase for the OSS
world. =

* Linux has been deployed in mission critical, commercial environmen=
ts with
an excellent pool of public testimonials. ... Linux outperforms many othe=
UNIXes ... Linux is on track to eventually own the x86 UNIX market ... =

* Linux can win as long as services / protocols are commodities. =

* OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server
applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple
protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we =
deny OSS projects entry into the market. =

* The ability of the OSS process to collect and harness the collecti=
ve IQ
of thousands of individuals across the Internet is simply amazing. More
importantly, OSS evangelization scales with the size of the Internet much=
than our own evangelization efforts appear to scale. =

Comments in green, surrounded by curly brackets, are me (Eric S. Raymond)=
=2E I
have highlighted what I believe to be key points in the original text by =
them red. I have inserted comments near these key points; you can skim th=
document by surfing through this comment index in sequence.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 =

I've embedded a few other comments in green that aren't associated with k=
points and aren't indexed. These additional comments are only of interest=
you're reading the entire document.

I have otherwise left the document completely as-is, so you can read what=
Gates is reading about Open Source. It's a bit long, but persevere. An ac=
fix on the opposition's thinking is worth some effort -- and there are on=
e or
two really startling insights buried in the corporatespeak.

This annotated version of the VinodV memorandum was prepared over the wee=
kend of
31 Oct-1 Nov 1998. It is in recognition of the date, and my fond hope tha=
publishing it will help realize Microsoft's worst nightmares, that I name=
d it
the ``Halloween Document"'.

Grab a copy now; Microsoft might just sue to suppress this thing. } =

-- =

Joachim Feise Ph.D. Student, Information & Computer Science
Lest you think that "open" computing can't possibly win, just look
back at the primal lesson of desktop computing of the '80s: Open up
your architecture to all comers and win -- or keep it closed, like
the Macintosh, and lose.