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Could it be that M$SFT is missing an opportunity

Why is Microsoft fighting open source so hard? It seems to me that they are really missing a huge opportunity to cut their costs and grow their profits. Even now no one is arguing that Microsoft succeeds in the market place because its technologies are so fast or so reliable, even the pro msft zealots are arguing the microsofts "competative advantage" is that they have:

1) First Rate Development tools (with which I absolutely  agree)

2) an easy to use Windowing system (with which I absolutely  agree)

3) Really understand how to make administrating software easy (mostly agree)

but if this is what they are really good at, and this is what they get paid for, why not simply focus on that for open source products?
i.e. couldn't they put their UI/Dev Tool/Admin commoditization knowledge to use to make (proprietary) tools like:

An Admin tool for MySQL
A truly first rate windowing system for linux
A truly first rate set of API to access the Windowing system on linux
An admin gui for any number of App Servers (Sun One could really really use one)
A proprietary development environment for linux (maybe even help finish mono?)
A version of MS Office for Linux?

Think about it, Microsoft's unique gift has always been making computers accessible, on linux there is a crying need for that, unlike windows pc's this is a completely unsaturated market and whats nice is MSFT wouldn't have to start from scratch i.e. Apache, MySQL, Tomcat, Linux, Mono, Java, C++ already exist

if they did this they could also cut all the development costs for SqL Server, Windows etc ... or better yet this would free up some resources to create the next genereation of OS/Servers/Developer tools

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Monday, December 29, 2003

Why would they get into a sector dominated by products that are free?

Marc LaFleur
Monday, December 29, 2003

By developing for Linux they would be acknowledging that Linux is a viable desktop replacement for Windows. Which is bound to hurt sales of Windows (their main cash cow).

Given that it takes time and costs a lot of money to write the tools, even if the products managed to pay for themselves it would eat into Windows sales.

Damian
Monday, December 29, 2003

First, Microsoft isn't fighting open source at all. All the fighting comes from the other side, who relentlessly insist their views and their type of software should prevail, even though it isn't.

Second, Microsoft's competitive advantage has always been superior software development. It is precisely that advantage that is undermined by open source philosophies.

I'm sure everyone would love it if Microsoft donated all their work to other corporations and governments, but Microsoft is too smart to be sucked into that mentality.

Bill
Monday, December 29, 2003

MS should definitely opensource and GPL both office and their windowing system and spend all their time keeping it up ta date with the various distributions. THen they can charge for support. By opening up development, this will free up resources that will enable them to move into new markets full of innovation and growth.

This is the only solution.

Analyst
Monday, December 29, 2003

But again, what sells copies of windows is not the underlying file system, the implementation of the TCP stack, or the other system services, its the right click, Internet Explorer, windows explorer etc ... Microsoft is not selling cutting edge technology it is selling "cutting edge" usability. What difference should it make to them what they make usable.

I am not saying they should open source their products, I am saying they should make proprietary interfaces to open source products as well as proprietary Dev tools/office tools

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Monday, December 29, 2003

meant to say proprietary dev tools which run on open source products

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Monday, December 29, 2003

Microsoft has too much of a conflict of interest to work well with open source products.

If they make tools, windowing systems, or other software for Linux or BSD, it makes those other OS look more attractive, decreasing the demand for the Windows cash cow.  Until Linux erodes enough market share that Windows is no longer a cash cow, they won't want to make anything that makes the Linux experience better.

T. Norman
Monday, December 29, 2003

> I am not saying they should open source their products,
> I am saying they should make proprietary interfaces to
> open source products

Wouldn't that violate the GPL?

Myron A. Semack
Monday, December 29, 2003

it would only violate the GPL if they shipped the product with the linux distribution. And it would not violate the LGPL at all if

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Monday, December 29, 2003

An opportunity for what?
There is no money in open source.

B
Monday, December 29, 2003

There is lots of money in making open source usefull. i.e. think of all the developers who making untold millions off JBoss, Tomcat, Apache.

IBM Global Service, HCL, Tata all love open source, because they don't have to worry about selling their clients basic components just the solutions that tie these components together.

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Monday, December 29, 2003

I am quite happy paying AU $230 for OS X, which is built on top of the free BSD Unix system. In fact that is why I bought a mac.

However I don't think that is the issue. The real issue is compatibility. The Windows NT core has been in existence longer than linux. Gazillions of lines of code have been written for this platform. Billions of gazillions of brain cells have been used committing the APIs to memory.

The other issue is why. The core NT operating system is good, and I would imagine large amounts of manpower are not required to maintain it. There is pretty much no advantage of moving to a Unix core (apart from a nice shell perhaps), especially since it would require lots of effort doing so.

Rhys Keepence
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Linux and Windows are competitors because they are both attempting to accomplish the same thing.  On the one hand, you have Linux trying to get their act together on a Windowing environment and common toolkit.  On the other hand, you have Windows trying to take over the small server market (they still need to work on remote administration, stability, etc).

Why would Microsoft want to put work in making Linux better?  They could just put more work into Windows to make Linux irrevelant. 

Almost Anonymous
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Like most of the replies so far, I find the question charmingly naive.

I think there is a more interesting speculation which is related, however: if Linux starts to dominate the OS market (no flames please; I'm sure Gates and Ballmer have thought this through even if *you* haven't), what will Microsoft's response be?

Portabella
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Portabella,


It is not charmingly naive for microsoft to narrow the focus of what industry they are in, as many companies have died trying to be all things to all people (now I am assuming that microsoft is starting to struggle), this may not be true, in which case carry on trying to beat sony's ps2 with the X-Box. But if it is then ....

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

If MS ever needed to ship a direct competitor to Linux then it has Unixware sitting in a dusty corner.

MS doesn't succeed because it produces better products (though some of them are better than their competitors), but because its better at producing and marketing products regardless of their quality.

It has leveraged very successfully off a general purpose operating system family.  Were MS actually broken up in the way the Courts wanted I've no doubt that the Application/Office group would have added *nix platforms.  At the moment though, there is no incentive in MS justifying Linux's existence.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Microsoft already made a major shift in it's OS development with NT. The old Win 3.1/95/98/ME line was dead-ended at 2K and NT/XP is of a completely different species.

MS hired away a couple OS developers from Digital Equipment when it was taken over by Compaq and those guys wrote NT from the ground up based on their experience with OpenVMS, a.k.a. VAX/VMS. The NT/XP family is a direct descendant of an OS originally written in 1978 which was known for stability and robustness. (I was a VAX system manager back in the day and I've used it since version 1.0)

So, MS has to believe it is on the right path and should have no motivation to switch yet again.

old_timer
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

> It is not charmingly naive for microsoft to narrow the focus of what industry they are in

Perhaps not.

The "charmingly naive" aspect of the idea is that they would voluntarily throw away their cash cows before they are forced to do so. They simply cannot have the same profit margins if they build on OSS, and I think everyone knows this.

I thoroughly agree that companies can pursue short-term gains until they fall right off a cliff.

Portabella
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"MS hired away a couple OS developers from Digital Equipment when it was taken over by Compaq and those guys wrote NT"

Your history is a little off. Indeed the core NT team (headed up by Dave Cutler) were hired from Digital in the late 80's/early 90's, but quite a while before Compaq took over Digital (late 90's).

Ponty Mython
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

M$FT makes their money on Office and Windows.  Everything else is either because they feel that nobody else is doing it right or because they want to try and diversify, just in case.

If they ship Office for Linux, they will be directly impacting Windows sales.

If they ship a NT front-end to Linux, they will slowly render themselves obselete because it reduces their ability to force people into the total windows package on every desktop, starting with the server machines and moving down from there.

I have no doubt, however, that there's a secret document somewhere or perhaps some common groupthink among high-ups at Microsoft (so there isn't any sort of Halloween document leaks) for what to do if Linux starts to really take things on.  If Windows loses hard in the server space, the NT front-end for Linux and Office for Linux might start to not look so bad because it won't be canabalizing existing sales quite as much.

The real dangerous problem for Microsoft is what all of this indicates.  People aren't finding the whole open source movement appealing, they are liking the price and the lack of tie-in.  And, at the same time, Microsoft is running out of new stuff to toss in Office and Windows.  They need to convert Office and Windows from a thing you purchase when you get a computer, and maybe each time they offer something you actually want new, to a thing you pay for once a year, every year.

So Microsoft's problems for the future have relatively little to do with Open Source.  It could have been OS/2, BeOS, PalmOS, DR-DOS + GEM, Solaris, NeXT, or any number of other also-rans, never-rans, or curiosities that offered a challenge to Microsoft dominance of the typical desktop that was cheaper and offered some advantages over Windows.

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

> Everything else is either because they feel that nobody else is doing it right or because they want to try and diversify, just in case.

It's Fire and Motion too.

Having a Microsoft competitor in every category means that no other company can gain the same dominance that they have. Rather like a gain of Risk... you secure your continent, which gives you a guaranteed income, and make sure that no one else can secure one too. (Apologies to those who haven't played).

Portabella
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I think you really have to secure Greenland to win at Risk...

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

> I think you really have to secure Greenland to win at Risk...

In our games someone usually got Australia because it was the easiest to conquer and hold.

Portabella
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I have come to learn that holding North America is just about useless.

Alyosha`
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I think a possible Microsoft response will be to market a stripped down of Windows that:

- is low cost, including being suitable for developing nations
- runs well on older computers
- runs games
- provides upgrade paths to Big Windows

When this happens, they will cut costs by sacking lots of people, thus preserving their historical profitability.

me
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

at one point, windows 95 was more expensive than windows 3.1, it's biggest competitor.
microsoft raised the windows 3.1 price to match win95.

mb
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

s/it's/its/

mb
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

> I have come to learn that holding North America is just about useless

One more lesson from Risk is that when you gain a continent or two, everyone usually teams up to attack you. Hmmm................ :)

Portabella
Monday, January 05, 2004

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