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Microsoft's Biggest Threat - Google or Open Source? 240

Posted by Zonk
from the by-your-powers-combined dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Google always plays down suggestions that there's any looming clash of the titans between itself and Microsoft. Meanwhile, the search giant is pushing open source in every way it can. They're contributing directly by contributing code to projects and employing top hackers like Andrew Morton, Jeremy Allison and Guido van Rossum, and indirectly through the $60 million fees it pays Mozilla, its Summer of Code scheme and various open source summits held at its offices. Google+OSS: could this be the killer combination that finally breaks Microsoft?"
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Microsoft's Biggest Threat - Google or Open Source?

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  • Google is OSS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cytlid (95255) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:39AM (#21874046)
    Google is Google because of things like Linux and OSS.

    Linux/OSS are the tools which allow Google to exist.

      I'm just waiting for the next big Google.
    • Re:Google is OSS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:03AM (#21874174)
      Google, aside from its use of linux (which it could do without supporting FOSS in any other way incidentally, if it wanted to), has no choice but to pally up with FOSS if they want to keep profits up.

      FOSS would pose just as big a danger to them as it does to microsoft if they did otherwise.

      A tad cynical perhaps, but you can bet if they thought there was more money in closed source than open, they'd go that way.

      One more thing, where is the source for gmail? Or google maps (not the API), or many other google projects. If they're so into the foss, why are so many of their 'free' offerings all but proprietary in nature?
      • Re:Google is OSS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:41PM (#21874812) Homepage Journal
        ``One more thing, where is the source for gmail? Or google maps (not the API), or many other google projects. If they're so into the foss, why are so many of their 'free' offerings all but proprietary in nature?''

        All but proprietary? How is Google implementing an appliaction they don't provide source for, but do publish an API for, different from, say, Microsoft implementing something they don't provide source for, but do publish an API for? Wait! I'll tell you how it's different. With Microsoft, you run the software and you store your data. With Google, they run the software and they store your data.
      • by LingNoi (1066278)
        They sell services not software. That doesn't mean they're so retarded to put themselves out of business by giving away source code that competitors could use to setup their own Gmail service and not use Google's.
        • Re:Google is OSS (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @03:23PM (#21875962)
          They sell services not software. That doesn't mean they're so retarded to put themselves out of business by giving away source code that competitors could use to setup their own Gmail service and not use Google's.

          The whole idea of a service over software model is that the source code can be given away, it's the service that makes the cash.

          And no-one would bother setting up another gmail using the gmail source. They'd have to differentiate themselves significantly to appeal to the massed gmail users, or current non gmail users. That wouldn't be trivial.

          The point of opening the source is that while others can take it for use in their own things, they can also add to it and google could have those additions back.
          • Re:Google is OSS (Score:4, Insightful)

            by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @04:54PM (#21876654)
            That's all great yet you completely ignored my point. Why would they bother to create direct competitors with their services?

            They give back source code for many different projects but it would be completely stupid to give away the source code to Gmail because they would loose more then they gain.

            You need to stop looking at the advantages to yourself and look at what they get out of releasing code. It's their code they can do what they want with it.

            The whole idea of a service over software model is that the source code can be given away, it's the service that makes the cash.
            This boggles me. Yes it's the service that makes cash so why would they risk creating more companies offering the same service they are?

            I don't understand what opening the source code has to do with providing software as a service as you just wrote.

            "Software as a service" would be more akin with paying so much a year and getting free support, upgrades and bug fixes. You don't need to open source the code or distribute it for free to sell it as a service. I would describe what your are saying as an open source business model which differs slightly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by darkfire5252 (760516)

        A tad cynical perhaps, but you can bet if they thought there was more money in closed source than open, they'd go that way.

        More than that, now that they're a publicly traded corporation the board can be sued by investors if Google knew that closed source was more profitable but chose not to pursue that route. Public corporations (unfortunately) have the sole purpose of maximizing shareholder value, and they are legally obligated to do so. Theoretically, a more socially oriented government could require corporations to have goals other than this, but this won't happen for a loong time, if ever.

    • The reason is not just much lower costs. It is what drives MS (and others) to look at them, which gives them LOADS more advertisement. In general, nearly all the web start-ups that are based on Windows die. In fact, if you want companies like MS to consider buying (and jacking your prices WAY up), then you have to be OSS based. Otherwise, they know that they can control you anytime they want, but least you help sell more MS systems.
    • by FudRucker (866063) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:52PM (#21874878)
      GNUgle?
    • by jacquesm (154384)
      *exactly*. I will believe google is beneficial to open source rather than the other way around the day they start contributing to the kernel those modifications that they claim make their linux kernels superior to those distributed through kernel.org.

      As it stands it's embrace, extend, hoard. It's within the letter of the license but certainly not within the spirit of it.

      Google has profited MASSIVELY from the open source movement and has paid back (for them) token bits and nothing where it might hurt their c
  • by kapowaz (667664) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:45AM (#21874074) Homepage
    Google are an advertising company. Anything it invests in is done with the ultimate objective of selling more advertising. Microsoft is a software company who have, admittedly, recently taken an interest in Search tools, but not with the objective of selling advertising so much as adding value to its own software and services. One of the reasons Google doesn't talk up any direct competition with Microsoft is because they're not direct competitors. Until they're both directly selling software to the same target market this will remain the case.
    • I totally agree. FOSS isn't really any threat to new innovative software. In my experience, we coders prefer to get rich from our work when we can. It's mostly the software which can't be sold for a profit that makes it's way into FOSS land. Microsoft has some value left in Microsoft Office, from what I hear, and still has some edge over Open Office. However, there' no value left in plain old operating systems. It's old mature technology. How do I know? Linux is catching up. When FOSS catches you,
    • by babbling (952366) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:39AM (#21874386)
      GMail versus Hotmail.
      Live Search versus Google Search.
      Google Earth versus Virtual Earth.
      Windows Mobile versus Google Android.
      Google Docs and Google Pack (contains StarOffice) versus Microsoft Office.
      Google pumping money into Free Software (Summer of Code, employment of key developers) versus pretty much any proprietary software (Windows, Office, IE) that Microsoft tries to sell.

      The main way in which they're not competing is where their primary profit lies. Google doesn't make much money off software distribution yet, and Microsoft's primary source of revenue isn't advertising yet. There are certain areas (eg. document applications, mobile phone operating systems) where they plan to make money in different ways. Google wants to display ads alongside your documents, whereas Microsoft wants you to buy their office suite. Google is developing Android to get as many phones as they can internet-enabled so that people use the internet more and are exposed to more of their ads, whereas Microsoft wants mobile phone manufacturers to pay them a license fee for each mobile phone running Windows Mobile.

      I think we're all familiar with Microsoft's business strategy. It's fairly simple: they sell software. It works well. (or at least it has until now)

      Google's strategy makes it look like they're diversifying because of all the products they're launching, but I think they're actually just trying to put their ad network in as many different places as possible. They've done it for search, documents, emails, and videos. They're looking at putting internet onto phones across a wider audience, and they're surely hoping that some new types of services will emerge that are compatible with their advertising model.
    • by spisska (796395) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:49AM (#21874446)

      Microsoft is a software company who have, admittedly, recently taken an interest in Search tools [...]

      MS is an OS and applications company that has recently taken an interest in search tools, and advertising, and game consoles, and live services, and mapping, and portable music hardware, and low-end laptops, and enterprise servers, and smartphones, and content delivery, and standards, and anything else involving binary code that they can get their hands into.

      The problem with MS is that they've lost focus on the business that built and sustains them -- Windows and Office. As it stands, Office is still the must-have application, which drives every business in which MS is successful. Replace Office, and you no longer need Windows, Exchange, MS Server, MS SQL, etc. None of their other activities are successful -- they're either gaping sinkholes of cash or so marginally profitable that they're unsustainable for anyone not sitting on $50 billion in cash.

      What Google gets right is that their entire business is focused on the core of search, advertising, and the organization of information. Everything they do points straight back to and reinforces the core business.

      Google's business is possible thanks to OSS tools, and Google deserves respect for going well beyond what is required under OSS licenses and actively contributing code and developer time to projects that are only marginally related, or completely unrelated to their core business. This doesn't cause them to lose focus, but it does keep their developers sharp and happy, and able to approach problems in completely new ways.

      Take the office suite, for example. MS' big innovation for the new Office: a redesigned interface that many users, at least initially, find confusing and frustrating. It's interesting but not really necessary, and it's inexcusable that there's no mechanism to display menus in a way that users are already used to. With the Google office tools (which admittedly are nowhere near ready to replace MS Office) you get something that really is groundbreaking: the ability for multiple people to edit the same document at the same time.

      There's also the difference in how these companies view business and threats. In MS' case, they see a threat in every business sector they don't control outright, and in many they do but where there are still upstarts who can't be bought, bullied, or sued. For companies like Google and others who rely on and develop OSS, competition means better software and improved opportunities for all.

      MS isn't going away any time soon and there will always be a place for proprietary software. But increasingly proprietary solutions will be limited to niche professional markets (AutoCAD, ProTools, Premier etc), common applications will move from desktop to server and become platform-agnostic (office suites, email/calendaring, collaboration and versioning), and OSS apps will become increasingly robust and capable for armchair enthusiasts and pros alike (Ardour, GIMP, Cinelerra, My/PostgreSQL, etc).

      MS can look for threats wherever it wants and they will find a lot. But the real threat doesn't come from any particular company, sector, or application. It's environmental -- the platform will simply become less and less relevant as time moves on. The real threat is that MS won't see this and won't react in time. It will be the beginning of the end as soon as there is a platform-neutral, drop-in replacement for Office + Outlook + Exchange + Sharepoint. We're not there yet, but the day is fast approaching.

      • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @02:09PM (#21875392)
        they're either gaping sinkholes of cash or so marginally profitable that they're unsustainable for anyone not sitting on $50 billion in cash.

        Microsoft had a stand-out first quarter.

        Each of the company's five business divisions showed double-digit revenue growth.

        That was particularly important in the Client Div., the group where Microsoft counts Windows sales. There, revenue jumped 25%, to $4.1 billion, an astonishing gain for a mature market Microsoft Results Turn Heads [businessweek.com]

        Retail sales of Office 2007 have been breathtaking, numbers so big that they are difficult to grasp:

        Through end of November, U.S. retail PC software sales are up 10.3 percent year over year as measured in dollar volume...By comparison, Office sales are up 50.7 percent, by the same measure and in the same time frame.

        "Here's the really interesting statistic," said...NPD's director of Software Industry Analysis. "Over two-thirds of the dollar volume growth in the U.S. retail PC software market in 2007 can be attributed to Microsoft Office. In other words, the ratio of Office dollar growth to total PC software growth is 67 percent."

        The "magnitude of Office sales relative to the rest of the PC software market" is phenomenal, "It's the massively huge tail wagging the dog. If the senior execs at Best Buy, Office Depot, etc. don't buy Jeff Raikes [president of Microsoft's Business division] a beer the next time he's in town, something is seriously wrong." The Year of Office 2007 [microsoft-watch.com]

        Microsoft hasn't forgotten the Mac. From the same story:

        For Black Friday, Microsoft offered a surprising deal: for about 56 bucks, after rebates, Office 2004 Student and Teacher Edition and the forthcoming Office 2008 Special Media Edition. The new, top-of-the-line Mac Office version would otherwise sell for about $500.

        As measured in dollars, U.S. retail Black Friday sales of Mac Office were up 215.8 percent.

  • Missing option.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ckwop (707653) <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:45AM (#21874080) Homepage
    Microsoft's biggest enemy, at the moment is its self.

    After Vista they proved they've gotten far to large a head count to innovate. Unless they slim down their development team, they're going to go the way IBM did in the early 90s.

    Simon.
    • Good answer. This is pretty much the post I was about to make. Somewhere in the mix between w2k and XP the whole mess stalled. Right now all the is carrying microsoft is it's own inertia.

      Let's hope that when they do implode (if that hasn't happened already and we just haven't noticed) they don't take the open source world with them. Maybe "we" need to start distancing ourselves?

    • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:29AM (#21874322)
      Microsoft's biggest enemy, at the moment is its self.

      It goes beyond the fact that Microsoft has lost its ability to innovate, though that is a significant portion.

      Microsoft still has the zero sum mindset, i.e., either it wins it all, or it walks away. Microsoft will do whatever needs to be done in order to preserve what it has, including watching the market move past them. Microsoft will always be the dominant player on the desktop, Microsoft's monopoly will assure that. However, what Microsoft's monoploy cannot prevent is another entity making the desktop significantly less important. Once the desktop loses its importance, Microsoft's very foundation is weakened.

      Unless they slim down their development team, they're going to go the way IBM did in the early 90s.

      The computing paradigm shifted away from IBM's mainframes in the early 90s. Will the paradigm shift away from Microsoft's desktops?

      • by canuck57 (662392)

        It goes beyond the fact that Microsoft has lost its ability to innovate, though that is a significant portion.

        Microsoft is a marketing company, they do NOT innovate much if at all. The last innovation was NETBUI and CIFS, only CIFS is used any more and has it's basis in fact to ftp/NFS.

        • TCP, UDP etc - nope
        • RPC, ntp, nntp, ftp etc - nope
        • SMTP, POP3, IMAP - nope
        • Windows GUI - nope
        • HTTP/HTTPS, web browser - nope
        • Word processing - nope
        • Spread sheets - nope
        • File sharing - nope
        • Mouse - nope
        • DNS, Kerberos, LDAP
        • by Hangtime (19526)
          The key is not to innovate, the key is to commercialize. If you can do both you are truly a game changer but given an option I would rather be able to execute then think up an idea.

          Take for instance spreadsheets. VisiCalc was the first then Lotus 1-2-3 came on the scene and from there MSFT came up with Excel. Excel in its early versions was not nearly as good but with time MSFT blew past Lotus both with marketing (Office bundle) and features. Now it is the standard bearer.

          The more appliances I have the more
        • by ribond (149811)
          People are looking for computers more and more like appliances.

          Microsoft (it turns out) is just a software company. It has good ideas and bad ones, and (for good or ill) Windows is more and more a platform stabilized/planned by committee. This sounds terrible to people who like widgets and fiddley-bits (i count myself in their number) but it's better for the public, I think.

          How many cars have you climbed into lately without wailing about the lack of innovation in steering wheels and pedals? Would it be
      • I totally agree. I also feel that a company has the responsibility to serve it's market as best it can, and to live and die with that market. IBM is the best mainframe provider ever. No one else comes close. The mainframe market went south, and so did IBM. I see no problem with that, just a great company doing what it's suppose to do. More examples: Sun is the best workstation company ever. DEC was the best minicomputer company ever. Intel is the best microprocessor maker ever, but they're going to
        • by mpe (36238)
          Investors seem completely ignorant of this. They always want their portfolio companies to reinvent themselves when the market shifts. It's just not good to serve a new market through an old mature company serving an old mature market. New companies that don't come with baggage do it better. Do you think Microsoft can focus on the super-cheap cell phone OS market once it starts eating into Vista profits?

          This example is probably even worst (for Microsoft) than the "serve a new market through an old mature c
      • by Hangtime (19526) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:36PM (#21874776) Homepage
        Plenty of very good companies still have a zero-sum mindset and it works. Take for instance GE. GE wants to 1 or 2 in any industry in which it competes. If it can't it will divest the business and move-on. The reason? Regardless of what industry you inhabit, if you are NOT 1 or 2 you will be constantly battling for survival.

        BTW, every device I have wants to be hooked up to my PC including my Tivo, my phone, my camera, etc. If anything the proliferation of devices is making the desktop more important - not less. We are starting to see a network effect. It easy to have the PC as the hub because its a standard platform in which everything can interact.
        • by westlake (615356)
          If anything the proliferation of devices is making the desktop more important - not less.

          I saw this process at work Christmas morning at my sister's place. The youngest with her iPod Nano. The older with her digital camera. But the family's new Vista PC was where everything came together.

      • by mpe (36238)
        It goes beyond the fact that Microsoft has lost its ability to innovate, though that is a significant portion.

        Actually innovation rarely tends to come out of "industry leaders" in the first place. Microsoft has also always been a somewhat extreme example of "Embrace Extend Extinguish", (hence the Bill Borg icon).
    • by mpe (36238)
      Microsoft's biggest enemy, at the moment is its self.
      After Vista they proved they've gotten far to large a head count to innovate.


      They are also their own worst enemy in the sense of XP competing with Vista.
  • Microsoft's Biggest Threat - Google or Open Source?
    Why would it be only one of them? As stated in the summary, Google pushes heavily for open source software development. The subject should say Microsoft's Biggest Threat - Google/Open Source?
  • Google is in no way competing with Microsoft. In fact, Google now depends on Microsoft for it's survival as a large majority of their targets are Microsoft users. However, investing in Linux and open source is a good way of mitigating risk in case of the failure of the Microsoft platform or of conflict with Microsoft.
    • Google is in no way dependent of Microsoft, If Microsoft was gone tomorrow people would still find a way to use the web and Google services. If they are dependent of anything it would be good network services. Actually, if Microsoft was gone, it would leave google more room to expand in areas like e-mail handling and office application services.

  • What did you say? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:52AM (#21874116)

    ...Meanwhile, the search giant is pushing open source in every way it can....

    That statement refers to Google. While I recognize Google's contribution to Open Source by the mentioned means, I would not give it that much credit.

    Why is it that Picasa still does not run natively on Linux?

    Why is it that one cannot specify ODF as among the file formats available for search, http://www.google.ca/advanced_search?hl=en [google.ca] despite the fact that ODF has been in existence for several years and some estimates put the number of ODF documents on the web in greater numbers as compared to Microsoft's OOXML?

    Why is it that new products appear for the closed Windows platform before thet appear for the open Linux platform? They should appear simultaneously. [Emphasis mine].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Why is it that new products appear for the closed Windows platform before thet appear for the open Linux platform? They should appear simultaneously. [Emphasis mine]."

      Surely that's obvious.

      It comes down to one thing: Google's products are intended to be profitable, not primarily to serve an ideology. Sure, Google does have an ideology, but they are also a business.

      And when it comes down to actually making a crust, what's more important... supporting an ideologically-rewarding OS, or actually getting your p
      • by bogaboga (793279)

        It comes down to one thing: Google's products are intended to be profitable, not primarily to serve an ideology.

        So you want us to believe that releasing products at the same time would make Google less profitable? You make me laugh. What about being the first in a particular market?

        • So you want us to believe that releasing products at the same time would make Google less profitable?

          I can't speak for the GP, but the answer to your question is "yes".

          It's expensive to build a product for any OS. It's particularly expensive to build a native product for Linux, due to the different metaphors which different GUI's expose. (To pick a simple one: does activation track mouse, as in classic X, or does activation follow selection, as in modern Linux GUIs?) The company would need to dedicate software engineers to building that version. Engineers able to make it at Google are a scarce resource

          • by bogaboga (793279)

            It's particularly expensive to build a native product for Linux, due to the different metaphors which different GUI's expose.

            There is surely more variables to consider when building for Linux. But this can be remedied. Have you heard of platform independent software? I know you have.

            What about delving into open source and letting the installer figure out what environment the software is being installed on. This is not that expensive as the code is open, and available.

            • Of course the work could have been done -- for what it's worth, the "openness" of the underlying platform has nothing to do with that fact. The question was whether doing it would have impacted profitability, and the answer to that question is "yes".
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      Why is it that Picasa still does not run natively on Linux? Picasa [google.com] does run on Linux. I am not sure what you mean by natively, unless you mean it needs wine. But why have 2 separate source streams if you don't need them? One could say this about Java apps too, they need the JVM to run. So the point?

      Why is it that new products appear for the closed Windows platform before thet appear for the open Linux platform? They should appear simultaneously.

      Like what? I am at a loss to say I have seen anything

    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      Why is it that one cannot specify ODF as among the file formats available for search
      ..and what has ODF got to do with Open Source Software? Please stop associating ODF with Open Office / Open Source as its one of the main reasons Microsoft will never implement it in it's products.

      It also puts off other people who hate open source for one reason or another. ODF is a file format specification and has nothing to do with open source software.
  • by schklerg (1130369) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:53AM (#21874122)
    People run windows primarily because of the applications on it. The most significant of these is MS Office. The competitors lack true compatibility with all MS generated files, which makes it tough to go with another office suite, no matter how good it is. I'm an open office fan, but there's some formatting that just doesn't work. Break MS Office dominance with another cross-platform app, be it from Google or anyone else, and you have put a HUGE dent in MS. Not only will the office cash cow lose some weight, but the perceived need for Windows will drop as well.
    • by hal9000(jr) (316943) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:22AM (#21874274)
      The competitors lack true compatibility with all MS generated files,

      I am glad you said this AND that you got modded up. Office is the app to kill. Make one that is better, works seamlessly with Office docs and you've got a chance. I use Office because I don't have the time or the desire to dick around with formatting issues and alot of companies are on the same playing field.

      But let me also add, making an Office killer is not as simple as making a word processor, spread sheet, and presentation app. Office is a *development environment* and many, many companies use the programatic capabilities of Office to build apps that cal pull on different parts of the office suite. Those programmatic features are used by companies, not necessarily consumers and I will posit that company sales drive Office profits more than consumer sales. so I think to reall make a dent, any competing office suite has to either run Office apps/macros/scripts or interpret/convert existing office apps/macros/scripts as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      I use OpenOffice but the file formatting issues don't bother me, I'm lucky enough to not have to import complex files.

      The speed and occasional stability problems do bother me though. I'm also lucky enough that I don't have to use it very often, it's a few times a week and not a few times a day.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      I am not so sure Microsoft Office is the killer app so much as Microsoft Exchange is. I used to think of Exchange as Microsoft's horribly email server, but I've since discovered that it's not only that, but also a tool companies use to plan appointments and meetings. _This_ is the feature that companies love and why they won't ditch Exchange. They pay through the nose for it and it's unreliable as an email server, but the calendaring functionality apparently makes up for that.
    • by Dracos (107777)

      Office is one of the things that keeps businesses coming back, willing to pay for more abuse. After 11 versions of subtle incompatibilities, you'd think some of them would realize that they're being played.

      After Office, kill Exchange. Most businesses consider email so critical that they freak when email is down for a couple of minutes, and don't care that the protocols tolerate this. When they can have a Free, more stable, feature for feature Exchange replacement that doesn't need constant maintenance,

  • by Fri13 (963421) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @10:56AM (#21874138)
    Greatest enemy for Microsoft, is Microsoft self.

    If they dont stop using monopoly for advance and supporting open standards, they get big enemies like EU.

    Microsoft would stay biggest software company if they would work together with industry, open standards and support competitors (Opera, Firefox, Openoffice.org etc) by ripping browser and mediaplayer off from OS (why OS should have red eye remover and music library?) so users can use what they want. Microsoft could install IE and WMP and other tools if they want to non-OEM windows version, but should allow OEM manufactures and end-users to remove them and install something else if wanted. Of course this would mean that Microsoft should start innovating and building better products and not just one big package what some people calls "OS", even it is more than just OS.

    GNU/Linux and different distributions from it what includes different desktops and applications, isn't biggest enemy, yet! But it is big wheel what can turn MS weapons against MS itself.
  • ibm, ms and google (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:06AM (#21874196) Homepage Journal
    I'm waiting for the day when Microsoft begins to wither and die under its own weight, and at the last minute, pulls an IBM, investing heavily in OSS to keep itself going more cost effectively.

    Then MS will suddenly become a much loved company around here, 'cause 'round these parts, supporting OSS = /. love

    Then, in a need to fill the void left by Microsoft, Google will suddenly become the big bad guy. All of us on Slashdot will be praising Microsoft and hoping they can take down the big evil google.

    or we could agree that both of these companies fulfil a certain niche that the other company cannot, and we need them both. one company provides employment for countless nerds due to its buggy software, while the other company helps those nerds find things, (like porn)

    They are not in direct competition with each other.
  • by bmartin (1181965) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:17AM (#21874254)
    The groundwork is already in place: Top OEMs are beginning to install alternate OSs on their machines. If Google has their way, most computing will eventually be done using thin clients; at that point, the internet and computing will become ubiquitous, and MS will no longer be a factor.

    The main reason people use Windows is because other operating systems don't meet their needs. It's mainly a software thing, such as is the case for PC gaming (which is still ahead of consoles, but not by as much as in the past). Wine is a helpful product in that it eases the transition for many people, but it's not a complete replacement for Windows yet.

    Since things like a suitable alternative for Photoshop (e.g., super GIMP) and a fully-featured Wine aren't going to appear over night, it'll be a long time before MS becomes irrelevant... unless computing moves online. Most business software is either written for Linux already (e.g., development IDEs) or can be COMPLETELY replaced by a combination of FOSS (e.g. Outlook -> Evolution). I replaced my Windows workstation with a Linux workstation at my last job when I became fed up with the task scheduling and constant SSHing in Windows (I had to work on Unix systems anyways).

    People are leaving Windows. It's a very slow but consistent process. Every piece of commercial software developed for Linux is a blow to MS. Every computer running Mac OS X is a blow to MS. A lot of little things will bring down MS; it's inevitable. Google, though not a direct competitor, is a huge point of leverage.

    Don't think Google's going to come out with Google OS. That's not in their plans. Their idea is to make the OS an irrelevant piece of software when it comes to doing your everyday computing tasks. MS is going to have to come up with a new strategy if they want to cease the antitrust legislation against them.
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:29AM (#21874316) Homepage
    Microsoft needs to stop selling new versions of Windows and Office, and transition to a yearly subscription model.

    This would generate revenue while letting them hop off of the new version cycles that are intended to force upgrades without adding much in new features that out weigh the penalties of more and more problems.

    I used to like Windows more than I do now. I shipped a commercial product on Windows 1.03 and for some business needs I still keep a Windows 2000 image on my MacBook.

    Anyway I like to feel that I get good value for my IT investments (I am a one person consulting shop) and right now, I feel that I get best value from a nicely loaded MacBook and several leased managed Linux servers for my own stuff and Linux or Solaris servers for customer projects.

    As a Linux user since about 1992 (I downloaded Slackware on a 2400baud modem - ouch!!) I continue to be a little disappointed with the 'Linux on the laptop' experience but I might eventually replace my MacBook with a Dell Linux laptop: it would be nice to just deal with just Linux. I have all but stopped using Common Lisp and Java for consulting, sticking with just Ruby - after many years of investing *lots* of time staying up to speed on many technologies, it is a refreshing change to concentrate more on problem solving than a wide mix of technologies.

    Except for rare use on my Windows 2000 image, I would not even consider using any form of Windows for development work.
    • Good God no.....

      I for one would not support a subscription model....I don't need a new version of Office just becuase the Ui changes...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by malkavian (9512)
      The problem with the subscription model is persuading everyone that they need to keep subscribing. People with PCs that don't connect to the net. How do you enforce subscription? Time it out and say "Hey, you're out of time, please call microsoft with your credit card details to enable you to use your PC again"?.
      Even those net connected are going to get a little antsy with the messages that they have to keep paying to keep using something they consider they've already bought as part of their PC purchase
      • by jimicus (737525)
        Individuals may balk at an annual fee. But individuals are not, and never really have been, Microsoft's core customer base.

        Their core customer base is businesses licensing office for 10's/100's/1000's of PCs - and there's been a subscription model around for that for years. The annual fee is a lot easier to swallow than the one-off fee, particularly if your business is growing (if you're on the annual subscription, you don't need to buy a license with every new PC and every new starter you have - you ju
  • by McDutchie (151611) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:33AM (#21874350) Homepage

    Meanwhile, the search giant is pushing open source in every way it can.

    While remaining even more secretive and becoming even more of a monopoly [google-watch.org] than Microsoft on things that actually matter, like their search and advertising business, to say nothing of their total disregard for privacy.

    Can you say 'divide and conquer'? Thought you could.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rhizome (115711)
      While remaining even more secretive and becoming even more of a monopoly than Microsoft on things that actually matter, like their search and advertising business, to say nothing of their total disregard for privacy.

      And it's this, at the very bottom, that causes me to wonder. The story asks, "Microsoft's Biggest Threat - Google or Open Source?" leaving me to ask myself, "Why give them the answer?" Of course, the post does not address this at all, but it's a real question: Why help Microsoft at all? They're
  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:35AM (#21874366)
    The problem with all the fences Microsoft built to protect itself is that fences not only fence out the competition, they also fence yourself into a corner. Just as the music industry's practices are what doom them, Microsoft has so much invested in reinventing the wheel to lock customers in that they dare not do anything truly innovative that would break the lockin. If they came out with any disruptive ideas, their customers would have to break their Microsoft lockin by definition, and if the customers had to face that choice, they might just as well use the chance to break away from Microsoft altogether.

    History dooms Microsft.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Microsoft has so much invested in reinventing the wheel to lock customers in that they dare not do anything truly innovative that would break the lockin.''

      I don't think that's true. If you look at Microsoft Research, they are doing a lot of interesting projects, including some actually innovative things. The new generation of software (Windows Vista, Office 2007, etc.) is quite different from the old software from an end user point of view. User interfaces have been changed, and backward compatibility isn
      • In the first place, none of the really disruptive ideas (if any) out of their research labs has hit any of their software. Look at the crap they think clever -- Clippy for Pete's sake.

        In the second place, calling anything in Vista innovative is a real stretch, let alone disruptive. Its biggest feature is all the DRM that makes it so crappy.
  • Neither (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nebu (566313) <nebu.gta@igs@net> on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:41AM (#21874396) Homepage
    To be a threat to Microsoft, you'd have to be a potential barrier to a large amount of future profits. Google is basically two things: (1) A search engine and (2) a wildcard, pouring money into almost everything. Microsoft is not strongly invested into the search area, so (1) is not a threat to it. In fact, Microsoft is more of a threat to Google in that respect, not because Microsoft is doing better than Google, but because Google is the "established champion", and Microsoft (among others, like Yahoo) are the encroachers who are trying to steal that title. As for (2), there's always a chance that Google will discover/invent the next big paradigm shift that changes everything, but then again, so can any other startup, or even maybe big companies like Apple or IBM, or hell even Microsoft themselves (the "Microsoft Surface" looks pretty sweet, for example, though I'm not sure it'll be big enough to be a paradigm shift). It's getting hit by a lightning bolt: a possibility, but not something you worry about from day to day.

    OSS is a bigger threat, mainly because of free office suites, and to a lesser degree Apache. Most of Microsoft's money comes from OSes, then from Office, and then services associated around server technology like .NET, IIS, etc. Honestly, I don't think Microsoft is very worried about Linux on the desktop. I find Microsoft hard to read in terms of OS on the server side, so it's possible they may actually be *WORRIED* (e.g. managers thinking "Hey, if we don't do something, Linux'll win"), but I'm not sure. I *DO* know that Microsoft is getting anxious about their Office software, which is their second biggest cashcow. It's not any-one particular alternative that they are afraid of (e.g. OpenOffice), but that there seems to be a growing awareness of alternatives that they're worried about. I suspect they're aware that this particular type of software is about to become commoditized and are looking at appropriate strategies (e.g. moving to software-as-a-service, via that Office Live thing).

    For the server side technology, Microsoft doesn't directly make money off of these (they give away .NET, IIS, etc. for free), but rather from surrounding services (e.g. certification, training, etc.) and products (e.g. Visual Studio). Note that this is the same business model that OSS software later adapted (give the software away for free, make money on the services), which is one of the reasons why I find comments about Microsoft being anti-OSS to be a form of over-simplified ignorance. Microsoft is a corporation, not a fundamentalistic ideal. If they can make more money through OSS than closed-source-software, they'll switch in a heartbeat. In the particular case of Apache vs IIS, it's like the Google scenario: Apache isn't a "threat", because Microsoft isn't strongly invested into that market -- Apache is -- and Microsoft is attempting to grow into that market, rather than to hold onto it (and they seem to be quite successful, much more so than they have been against Google: IIS adoption is growing very rapidly).

    So what *ARE* Microsoft's biggest threats? Well, one of them is a little bit obvious when you look at their history, and what has caused them to lose the greatest amounts of money: Government and law. Microsoft is in a difficult position there, because their desktop business centers around pushing new and improved versions of their old product. Consumers, before they buy the next version of Windows, want to know what are the new and improved features, and if there aren't enough new and improved features, they won't spend the money to upgrade. However, if Microsoft adds too many new and improved features (e.g. by bundling a media player with their OS), they may get in trouble with certain governments (namely the British and US ones).

    Software design jokes aside, Microsoft isn't dumb. They're already predicting, in the long term (10-20 years) that all of software will eventually become commoditized, and they have plans in place to move entirely in t
  • by wwmedia (950346) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @11:44AM (#21874416)
    one one hand a convicted monopolist who crushes competition thru market domination

    on another hand a company whos main aim is to hoard data and serve ads with it, a company thanks to whom the web is littered with splogs

    take a pick

    evil or not evil, eitherway their main objective is profit (no matter what marketing fud they spread) and for google open source is a way to reach their objectives while cutting the costs, if they were so open why dont they share their algorithms or release their tools on linux?
  • Microsoft sells software. Their continued existence is based on people continuing to buy their software. Google isn't, but that doesn't stop them from competing.

    Google can provide web-based apps that will run on any OS, and these are likely to become more important than desktop apps in much the same way that personal computers became more important than central data centers. I see arguments against using web-based apps, but they are pretty much the arguments against allowing enterprise data onto perso

  • As pointed out by previous posters, Google is an advertising company and thus isn't really in competition with Microsoft for business. However, they do have software products and OSS projects funded by their advertising revenue which in turn competes with Microsoft. Therefore Microsoft isn't a threat to Google, but Google is a threat to Microsoft.

    Google alone won't "kill" Microsoft, but perhaps a combination of Google + Linux/OSS + other Unixes + alternative user platforms such as Apple will be enough to ma
  • Look, Microsoft are never going to go away. They're far too big for that. They'll get smaller, sure, but they'll always be here. The sooner people realise this, the sooner we can all get on with writing decent software.
  • This is somewhat of a sidetrack comment, but I think it is worth bringing up. Historically there has been lots of talk about Linux displacing MS on the desktop and the importance thereof. While this makes for good conversation, it is somewhat pointless right now. The real battle is in the back-office. The 'hearts and minds' of sys admins have already been won. MS is being displaced in the server market at an alarming (to MS anyway) rate and Linux based iron is moving in. There are very few companies t
  • by Hangtime (19526) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:20PM (#21874674) Homepage
    MSFT makes in a quarter what it takes GOOG to make in a year. That is all.

    MSFT: $4.2 Billion last quarter
    GOOG: $1.1 Billion last quarter
    • Exactly... People don't really "get" just how much cash MS has. Tens of billions in liquid assets, making over a billion dollars A MONTH, owning tens of billions of other assets. And not a penny of debt.

      That said, Google is the threat because they actually make money, meaning they can effectively penetrate other markets. To grow, you need to either exist in a growing market, or take a larger and larger chunk of your existing stable market, or expand into new markets. All of which take capital to acco

    • Re:The True Measure (Score:4, Informative)

      by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @01:09PM (#21874962)
      2006 Annual Net Income (IBM & GOOG don't show 2007 yet):
      MSFT: $12,599,000,000
      IBM: $9,492,000,000
      GOOG: $3,077,446,000

      What is amazing is Google's growth:

      2006 - $3,077,446,000
      2006 - $1,465,397,000
      2006 - $399,119,000
  • Also, google isn't the only large company betting on OSS, giants like IBM are heavily invested in OSS as well.
  • by IronClad (114176) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @12:34PM (#21874768) Homepage
    The most lucrative of Microsoft's business models seem to have been based on the exploitation of customer and regulatory naivete in a new market. If this is true, and as long as Microsoft doesn't really change, their biggest threat is to have there market grow up, mature, and educate themselves about what has been going on.

    Both FOSS and Google help that education process, to different extents, and in different ways. So both are threats. Which is the biggest immediate threat? Whichever one manages to get its message into the dense brains of middle managers first. It's a hard call to make from here.

    FOSS's advanced messages (freedom, collaboration, transparency, technical education, etc.) will take a long time to be understood. The FOSS "Free & Cheap Stuff" message is already catching on, but it's not enough of an education in its own right to undo Microsoft's abuses. FOSS supporters who work to thoroughly school their organizations and contacts in the issues do make a big impact.

    But I think Google is in a somewhat better position to be the immediate threat. Why? It has a greater power to punch simple "soundbyte" messages, one at a time, into the psyche of of the huddled masses yearning to breath free. I don't know if they're going to do that or not, but they could, and that's the threat.

    It's close to the topic of politics -- I don't like soundbytes but recognize their power over the naive. Political discourse would be different if the electorate were uniformly wise and educated on the issues. Not the way it should be, but more the way I think things are, and just my opinion.

  • I'll take some heat for this, but I lump Apple and Google together and I see their business model as access to data. That's essentially what Google provides, access to data, anywhere in the world. Apple is basically thumping the competition for the same reason, sure iPods are nice but the real service isn't "music" it's access to your media, any where, and you can take it with you. DRM isn't really their business so much as it's an evil you have to put up with to do business with the major labels. Why
  • people (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wikinerd (809585) on Tuesday January 01, 2008 @01:26PM (#21875090) Journal
    the biggest threat to MS is people who self-organise to create useful software with no strings attached. Open source is a social process, and it is this social process which threatens MS.
  • The parts of Google that matter aren't open source. The search engine not only isn't open source, the rating algorithms are secret. None of the web apps are open source on the server side. Try to scrape Google's data and see what happens. Read their robots.txt file [google.com].

    Sure, they have some open source stuff, but it's more in the nature of client code that slaves some open source app to Google's proprietary servers. You're not going to see an open source enterprise search engine [google.com] from Google, not one you c

    • Even if all of Google's code were open source, it wouldn't be as big a deal as most people seem to think. You've got to have a multi-billion dollar infrastructure to effectively use the code that Google has.
  • The ancient Greeks knew that men often find that their greatest strength becomes their greatest weakness. A man who has arete ("excellence") such as great power, great beauty or great prowess may develop hubris ("arrogant pride"), which in turn leads to ate ("blind recklessness" the final letter is pronounced), when an he loses his sense of humility and becomes rash or imprudent. Ate, in turn, leads to nemesis ("retributive justice").

    Vista? Office 2007? .docx? What else could have lead to these products, o
  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:42AM (#21879952) Homepage
    Open Source is the greater threat because it is not a single company, organization, individual or entity. You can never eliminate open source or assimilate or overtake it because it's too large and has too many players. Google is just one company. Yes, it is a huge company. Yes, it is very successful. Yes, it is rolling in money. That's not the point though. It's huge but not infinite. Google has certain limits because it is a company. It is driven by profit and therefore will tend to follow leads which are most assured or most profitable in the short run. It won't always do this, but it will tend to.

    The fact that Google is huge doesn't count for much long term. They do a great job at what they do and make lots of money doing it. But the same could be said for Western Union or Remington-Rand or Ma' Bell. The point is that beating Google is possible. You could take Google to court or slash prices to undercut their products or something like that.

    But you can't sue the entire open source community. You can't assume the open source community will follow one strategy. They're too big, too diverse. And therefore the threat can never go away. It's a much different and much more omnipresent threat.

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins

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