Microsoft Halloween documents leak

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The Halloween documents comprise a series of confidential Microsoft memoranda on potential strategies relating to free software, open-source software, and to Linux in particular, and a series of responses to these memoranda. Both the leaked documents and the responses were published by Eric S. Raymond.

The documents are associated with Halloween because many of them were originally leaked close to 31 October in different years.



The first Halloween document, requested by senior vice-president James Allchin for the attention of senior vice-president Paul Maritz and written by Microsoft program manager Vinod Valloppillil, was leaked to Eric Raymond in October 1998, who immediately published an annotated version on his web site. The document contained references to a second memorandum specifically dealing with Linux, and that document, authored by Vinod Valloppillil and Josh Cohen at Microsoft, was also obtained, annotated and published by Raymond. Microsoft has since admitted the documents' authenticity.[1]

Marked "Microsoft confidential", they identify open-source software, and in particular the Linux operating system, as a major threat to Microsoft's dominance of the software industry, and suggest ways in which Microsoft could disrupt the progress of open source software.

These documents acknowledged that free software products such as Linux were technologically competitive with some of Microsoft's products, and set out a strategy to combat them. The documents were embarrassing largely because they contradicted Microsoft's public pronouncements on the subject.

Since the publication of the two original documents, a number of additional Microsoft memoranda on related topics have also been leaked and published (e.g. Halloween VII). Together, these documents demonstrate Microsoft's continued awareness that its open-source competitors are a potential threat to its livelihood in the software industry.

List of documents

The documents are from a variety of sources. Only some are leaked internal memos (documents I, II, VII, VIII, and X). One is a public statement (document III). The others are responses by Eric Raymond to various columns, news articles, and other works.

Documents I and II

These are leaked reports for Microsoft's own use, both written by Vinod Valloppillil, who was a Program Manager at Microsoft.

Document I provides a detailed introduction to the concepts behind Open Source software, and its possible impact on Microsoft products and services. It outlines the strengths and weaknesses of Open Source software. Document II describes the basic architecture of the Linux system, its relation to Unix and Windows NT.

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