It's like the movie The 300, only instead of Spartan warriors and whizzy effects, we get open source geeks and wiki threads. At the Tipping Point wiki, more than 600 700 ticked-off Linux Lovers have added their names to the "Sue Me First, Microsoft" list -- taunting the Redmond army to come down and crush them.
Redmond's response so far? A profound silence. (However, there is no truth to the rumor that the RIAA has asked to borrow the list, having run out of dead file swappers to sue.)
The SMFM list formed in response to Microsoft's bipolar unbalancing act last week, when it issued veiled threats about open source software allegedly violating 235 Microsoft patents, while at the same time attempting to push legislation that would weaken the very patent laws it's threatening to wield.
Some commentators have speculated this was all part of a fiendishly clever plan to get the open sorcerors to carry Microsoft's flag on the anti-patent legislation. Imagine Steve Ballmer as a Bond villain, wearing a monocle and stroking a white cat. ("Do you expect me to balk?" "No, Mr. Torvalds, I expect you to comply!")
I think that's giving Microsoft far too much credit. (Remember, these are the same people who came up with Clippy.) I think we're looking at a massive, sprawling organization that's not fully in control of all its parts.
And this means that, for the first time since DOS 2.0, Microsoft may have a real operating system fight on its hands. (Note to the Mac OS X faithful: Please stow your flame throwers in the overhead compartment.) Not that it's remotely likely Microsoft will pack up its Death Ray and go home, or even cease to dominate the desktop. But this is a golden opportunity to convert, say, 20 percent of PC users who are mad as hell but a) can choose their own OS, and b) want more than Apple can give them.
This also means it's time for the open sourcers to step up. Pull a Google. Make the stuff so brain-dead simple your grandmother could install it. Offer copious free support. Heck, instead of a 'Sue Me First' list, how about a 'Call Me First' list? "Got a problem installing Ubuntu? Operators are standing by." That would be taking a real stand against the armies of darkness.
Should Redmond be running scared? Are Linux lovers all hat and no horse? Is it possible to squeeze any more metaphors into one blog entry? Email me here. The tippiest readers may receive a bag for their troubles.