I think perhaps it's got to do partly with the lawsuits that have gone against Microsoft in the last few years combined with the fact that Windows Vista has turned out to be such an incredible lemon, but there's a lot more people willing to get in their faces about stuff. Like this story I read on Slashdot from a week ago:
"The South African minister of public service and administration on Monday (3/25/08) addressed the opening of the Idlelo 3 free software conference in Dakar, Senegal, saying that software patents posed a considerable threat to the growth of the African software sector. Microsoft responded aggressively, saying that 'there is no such thing as free software. Nobody develops software for charity.'"
All I can say is that while I am not a hamster, clearly some of the brains at Microsoft appear to come from hamsters. They must be if they actually think people are going to accept that asinine statement. The software writing world is NOT all part of some Microsoft franchise, paying allegiance to Steve Ballmer in fear of his famous rants.
Yes, There most certainly *IS* such a thing as free software. You can find a lot of it on the Debian download page. There's tons of it on Sourceforge. Heck, Even *I* wrote a program that qualifies as "Free Software", a little thing called 'Mixminion Message sender'.
Microsoft saying that there's no such thing as free software is right up there with Al Gore making idiotic statements about having created the Internet. (by the way, the Internet was the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Lee. I guarantee that Al Gore had nothing to do with it.)