[Disclaimer: Microsoft is a client of mine.]
I am a long time fan of Hugh MacLeod and gapingvoid, but when he began a discussion on open source software as part of some work he's doing for Microsoft, I must admit feeling more than a little uncomfortable.
We've seen the "science experiment" meme before now. (It was originated by one of Microsoft's best marketing directors almost three years ago.) Look for the Somasegar quote well down the page. Soma is one of the finest execs Microsoft has -- he kept me sane the first two years I worked at Microsoft -- but here he's merely saying the words he was given. Seeing the meme resurface in Hugh's post along with other stale Microsoft messaging is not good.
You see Microsoft still thinks they compete with open source. They still think there's a spectrum with commercial software at one end, and open source software at the other. It's a lie they tell themselves, and by extension their customers, despite the evidence to the contrary. It unfortunately hobbles their own ability to execute in this space.
Just as Hugh is the first to admit in his post that he knows little about the software business, I have to be the next to admit I know nothing about the "advertising" business. But from his "science experiment" cartoon jab, to the ambiguous question in the title, to the naive question in his opening sentence about the original cartoon, it all feels WAY too contrived. I deeply respect the blog related work he did for English Cut and Stormhoek, but in each of those cases he was creating affirmative stories forward. Here he's regurgitating old Microsoft messaging under the guise of "starting a conversation" which perpetuates a theme they're too happy for their customers to believe.
Sorry Hugh, but it's disquieting.