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Why Windows Must (and Will) Go Open Source 555

Posted by timothy
from the lacks-the-ring-of-inevitability dept.
Attila Dimedici writes "Charles Babcock of Information Week published an interesting article suggesting that Microsoft will have to at least to some degree take Windows open source if they want to stay in business. He suggests that the money to be made from the things MS builds on top of Windows (Office, Server, SQL Server, Exchange, Sharepoint, etc.) is so much greater than what can be made from Windows itself that MS will have to give up the revenue stream from Windows in order to maintain these other, more valuable, revenue streams."
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Why Windows Must (and Will) Go Open Source

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  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:05PM (#26730899) Homepage

    Having to give the OS away for free in order to sell the apps only makes sense if you don't already have a stranglehold on the OS market. Sure, MS has gotten some bad press lately but they still enjoy the overwhelming share of the OS market, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

    The fact that they are not making a lot of money selling Vista does not mean people are moving away from MS in droves...they're just sticking to an older MS product for now. MS is still entrenched as simply the way people expect computers to work, and it's going to take a much longer series of much larger screwups from Microsoft to change that.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BorgAssimilator (1167391) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:10PM (#26730983)
      I tend to agree. Granted, they're going to have to change something or they'll _eventually_ fall behind. It'll take a while though... They may even need to reduce the cost of the OS at some point. However, that being said, I don't think they'll ever _need_ to open source any of it to stay in business.

      Disclaimer: I'm not a business expert and the above statement could just be coming out of my ass.
      • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by againjj (1132651) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:45PM (#26731395)

        Exactly. I read the article as follows:
        1) MS does not get nearly as much revenue from a copy of Windows as it does from a copy of Office. (This is per copy revenue, not total, and besides, even if it is smaller, it doesn't mean it is insignificant.)
        2) People are turning away from Windows because they do not like to pay for Windows, at least on the business desktop or in the server room. (Come on. Price is not the only reason for choosing an OS. Not even cost is.)
        3) Ergo, Windows will need to be free(gratis) in order to keep market share. (What? Why? There are other ways to get/keep market share than competing on price. Windows is a nice case study.)
        4) Windows needs market share so that MS can sell apps. (Why? They can't make apps for other operating systems?)
        5) The author can't see why MS will make Windows free(gratis) without also making it free(libre). (What? Where on earth did that come from?)
        Conlusion: Windows is going to go open source!

        The premises are shaky, the logic is faulty, assumptions abound, and even if it were all true, MS is not necessarily going to be logical!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I don't have an opinion on this subject, but there is a problem with your points.

          When you are talking about a 100% proprietary stack you are talking about a massive development cost burden. While MS could attempt to target other platforms for their programs their costs will not scale favorably.

          At first blush the author is simply making the mistake of going one step too far with the analysis (that MS must choose Open Source). The underlying economic reality of maintaining a 100% proprietary stack tied to a

          • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @09:58PM (#26732491)
            The biggest problem with Microsoft making anything open source would be that everyone will laugh.
          • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Weedlekin (836313) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @07:04AM (#26735275)

            "The underlying economic reality of maintaining a 100% proprietary stack tied to a proprietary foundation seems to dictate that MS will need to do something, but not necessarily this."

            A more probable scenario is that they'll follow Apple's example of using and contributing to a steadily increasing number of open source projects for some parts of the overall stack, while keeping others proprietary to prevent third parties from building competing Windows "distros".

        • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by slyn (1111419) <ozzietheowl@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:17PM (#26731703)

          Exactly. I read the article as follows:

          1) MS does not get nearly as much revenue from a copy of Windows as it does from a copy of Office. (This is per copy revenue, not total, and besides, even if it is smaller, it doesn't mean it is insignificant.)

          2) People are turning away from Windows because they do not like to pay for Windows, at least on the business desktop or in the server room. (Come on. Price is not the only reason for choosing an OS. Not even cost is.)

          3) Ergo, Windows will need to be free(gratis) in order to keep market share. (What? Why? There are other ways to get/keep market share than competing on price. Windows is a nice case study.)

          4) Windows needs market share so that MS can sell apps. (Why? They can't make apps for other operating systems?)

          5) The author can't see why MS will make Windows free(gratis) without also making it free(libre). (What? Where on earth did that come from?)

          Conlusion: Windows is going to go open source!

          The premises are shaky, the logic is faulty, assumptions abound, and even if it were all true, MS is not necessarily going to be logical!

          On point #4, the Macintosh Business Unit [wikipedia.org] has been rumored for years to have the highest profit margins of all units in Microsoft's domain. Though I question the veracity of that claim, they still have an estimated $350 million dollar yearly revenue according to wikipedia. If Linux continues its slow rise to fame expect a LinBU to complement the MacBU.

        • Price IS important (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @09:47PM (#26732383)

          I recycle old computers for various social organizations that dont have any money and money IS important to them, just like it is for the people who come to the food bank where I work on weekends.
          Money is not important to you but in many countries it is. Heck, in your own country it is.

          Just this winter, I had a single mother of two whose kids go at my son's school ask me about the costs of software since she heard I knew computers. She told me she could afford a second hand computer but that the prices of Windows, Office and Norton more than she can budget for. I let her use my backup laptop for a week to see how she liked OO instead of Office on her laptop and she was amazed that for $120 I was able to find her an Intel 2.66Ghz desktop that would run Gnu-Linux nicely.
          She's not poor by any stretch but she still has to count her money carefully and a few hundred bucks is a big deal.

          Try to think of people who arent in your financial situation when you say no one looks at price or cost.
          We do pretty well but I hate spending money when I dont have to.

        • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOsPAm.beau.org> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @10:17PM (#26732615)

          > 1) MS does not get nearly as much revenue from a copy of Windows as it does from a copy of Office.

          More precisely, the take from Windows is destined to trend towards zero. Netbooks are only part of the problem. The only barrier to sub $200 desktops is the price of an OEM copy of Vista. You never want to be "the only barrier" when talking about opening up a new lower price tier, especially in a down economy because all the pressure is on vendors to find a way around the barrier and gain an advantage over the chumps who didn't. Especially small hungry vendors looking to take a chunk out of Dell, HP, etc. Of course exactly the same argument will eventually be made about Office, SQL Server and all the rest. The existence of Open Source drives per unit pricing towards zero.

          But for the short term the origional article has a point, Windows revenue is nice but it's ability to drive the larger revenue streams is more important.

          Once HP broke the unwritten rule and displayed multiple operating systems in the same dropdown menu, with prices beside each option, the was cast. Windows will soon be going for near $0.

          > 2) People are turning away from Windows because they do not like to pay for Windows, at
          > least on the business desktop or in the server room.

          Not exactly. It is the difficulty of maintaining the per copy licensing in a virtual world that is also a problem. But price is a factor, as noted above. So long as people either thought Windows was "free" in that it was an invisible and non-negotiable part of the price of buying a PC the price wasn't an issue. That is no longer true.

          > 3) Windows will need to be free(gratis) in order to keep market share.

          It won't have to be zero instantly but the price must be very low and heading towards zero. When a PC was $2,000 the cost of DOS/Windows was easilly borne. As the price plummets to where Windows is easilly the most expensive component it becomes an unstable situation. The smart thing would be for Microsoft to get ahead of the curve and try to control the process.

          > 4) Windows needs market share so that MS can sell apps. (Why? They can't make
          > apps for other operating systems?)

          With the sole exception of Office for the Mac they have zero record of doing it successfully. That has to scare the piss out of em.

          > 5) The author can't see why MS will make Windows free(gratis) without also making it
          > free(libre). (What? Where on earth did that come from?)

          Ask Sun. They did it a good five years too late and look at em. Microsoft could learn from that mistake.

          My advice to Microsoft would be to submit to what must be and doing so while there is time to control the process. Don't do it all at once, attack the biggest problems first.

          Stage One: Shared Source. Us RMS Pure types often forget that source code can be published under a normal copyright. So publish the source to Windows, stick it in the standard MSDN stuff. This gives developers many of the advantages of working on Linux, they can Use The Source when the published docs disagree with the actual code. Move all development to a public repo, available only to MSDN subscribers of course. This lets them see the direction the code is going, download development snapshots, etc. Accept contributions of code, but only with a copyright assignment. Be sure to loudly credit outside contributors.

          Binaries wouldn't change much, but discount slightly reduced function copies ruthlessly to keep the netbook and budget PC markets from slipping away. 70% market share on netbooks is a disaster in the making.

          Stage Two: Release free binaries. Not Free mind you, just free copies for 'non-commercial use', then free but unsupported (service contracts and per incident support available) when the OEM market demanded the move.

          Stage Three: GPL. Move the source to the GPL (or other strong copyleft license) keeping the requirement for copyright assignment on contributions. This allows a more fun

      • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:06PM (#26731607)

        MS is in no danger of going out of business, or becoming unprofitable, provided they manage their corporate affairs responsibly. They don't have to open source squat.

        Now a question one might ask... would their profits be higher if they open sourced or made the Windows platform available for free?

        Maybe so. But if they weren't very careful in choosing which components they open sourced, they'd be in danger of enabling a superior competitor.

        One thing it could do is make their OS a better candidate for use in cloud computing and virtualization scenarios.

        I.E. There could be custom virtual appliances based on _Windows_ that interoperate with the Windows-based desktop OSes, without hefty license costs.

        Currently almost all virtual appliances are based on something like FreeBSD, Knoppix, Ubuntu, or JeOS.

        It might make sense to open source the "core" of Windows, just enough, so virtual appliances like file sharing devices could work with Windows desktops, and be managed using windows tools (like the MMC), and be distributed without hefty licensing fees.

        But still keep things like retail Desktop OS packages proprietary.

        It would erase some of the competitive edge alternate OS solutions have.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mozk (844858) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:14PM (#26731027)

      I'd like to point out that open source does not have to mean free.

      • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

        by eln (21727) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:19PM (#26731077) Homepage

        That's debatable, but the article (or at least the summary, since no one reads the articles) claims that MS will have to "give up its revenue stream" in the OS (meaning giving it away for free) in order to protect the revenue stream from their other apps. This is a ridiculous assertion given the current climate in the software business in general, and in the OS market in particular.

        • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Tiger4 (840741) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:37PM (#26731279)

          MS's revenue stream will increasingly become the annual license fee. The difference between NT5/2000 and XP was more in the nature of a major enhancement. "Stepping up" to Vista or eventually Win7 will likely be much the same for the average user. They may have completely rewritten the internals (or not), but the user will only want to see that all apps run smoothly and reliably and securely. They will not care about new features they do not perceive they need. Therefore, no new OS purchases.

          On the other hand, users more or less understand that they need patches and bug fixes in the OS. MS bundles those with purchase at the moment. But they do sell extended support beyond the basic EOL. Expect that to increase so that the EOL horizon comes closer, and extended support becomes a series of 1 - 3 year support agreemnts.

          MS will eventually become the IBM, DEC, Burroughs, etc. service and support dinosaur that it replaced, so many moons ago.

          • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

            by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @10:29PM (#26732699) Homepage Journal

            MS's revenue stream will increasingly become the annual license fee.

            If they can actually keep up with it. They've tried software subscriptions already; it was a failure. They couldn't keep up release cycles for their monolithic software.

            I think really only web application providers can do periodic software licensing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          MS will have to "give up its revenue stream" in the OS (meaning giving it away for free) in order to protect the revenue stream from their other apps.

          This is what I don't get about the whole article. Microsoft makes about 99.999% of their actual profit from variations of Windows and Office. Everything else is just window dressing to keep the accounts from being too boring. Saying they should stop charging for Windows so they can maintain their revenues from all those other things is like saying car makers should stop charging for cars so they can maintain their revenues from cargo nets and foot mats.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tubal-Cain (1289912) *
        And I'd like to point out CentOS.
        • Yep (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770)

          Open source, when used to mean GPL style OSS, means that it will be free, like it or not. You are perfectly welcome to charge for it, however the first person who buys it can redistribute it freely. Thus you can't make money selling software.

          An observant person will note that RedHat doesn't make money selling software, they sell support. Likewise other companies in the Linux market make it not on software, but in other ways. When Linksys used Linux on their routers, the money was made on the hardware, not o

      • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Adam Hazzlebank (970369) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:49PM (#26731435)

        I'd like to point out that open source does not have to mean free.

        And free does not have to mean open source. The article gives several reasons why MS might want to give Windows away but no compelling reasons why it should make it open source. Closed source isn't just about getting paid for software it's about control. They control the APIs and all the little gotchas that make producing a windows clone difficult. If Windows was fully open sourced, I'd bet we'd have a fully working Wine within months. At that point MS Windows just becomes "another Windows API implementation". You could say "so what!? they just start targeting the windows API for Linux, it's an even bigger market!". The problem is that controlling the API gives MS unique advantages. Exchange integrates tightly with active directory MS get to add features to the operating system API simply to make their apps work better. If the API is open they don't get to do that and in general they get pushed toward open standards rather than proprietary ones. No more "you can't get feature X,Y and Z unless you use Outlook", no more lockin.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thaelon (250687) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:17PM (#26731053)

      They have clear market dominance now, but it's slipping.

      We'll probably say "This is the year of the linux" desktop for along time, but when the time finally comes it won't be news anymore.

      These kinds of things happen so gradually no one notices. Try and find any historical headlines about "the year of the lightbulb", "the year of the telephone", or the "year of the internet".

      • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Funny)

        by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:24PM (#26731137) Homepage

        They have clear market dominance now, but it's slipping.

        [citation needed [wikipedia.org]].

        Wishing doesn't make it so. The shift, if any, is to MacOS, which took an open source OS and locked the fucker down. I want a family sized blunt of whatever the article author is smoking.

        • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Informative)

          by Retric (704075) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:32PM (#26731227)

          "Windows market share as of Dec. 1 is 89.6 percent."

          "Meanwhile, Mac OS X posted its largest gain in two years, with 8.9 percent market share at the end of November."

          "On the browser side, Internet Explorer's market share dropped below 70 percent to 69.8 percent for the first time in more than a decade. IE slid 1.5 percentage points in November, totaling a 5.8 percent market share loss for 2008, according to Net Applications."

          From: http://www.cio.com/article/467916/Microsoft_Market_Share_Slips_Pressure_s_On_for_Windows_and_IE_ [cio.com]

        • by Rob Y. (110975) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:06PM (#26731605)

          Sorry folks, Linus essentially conceded this just yesterday. There will never be a 'year of the Linux desktop' because there will never be a single Linux desktop. Nobody seems to want it - or even to want to try to get as close as possible. Not the various distros, not Linus, not a hell of a lot of Linux fans.

          Of course ISV's still want it. Businesses with a need for low-cost IT want it. I want it. So do [some of] you.

          But Linus has a point. Yes folks, it is true that diversity is one of our strengths. It has been responsible for Linux becoming as good as it is as quickly as it has (and that's pretty damn good, and pretty damn quick). But let's face up to the downside of that strangth. Incompatible distros and a chaotic development cycle are non-starters as far as mainstream desktops are concerned. ISV's won't target you - ISV's can't target you. But most desktop users still want at least some 3rd party software that's not available from their distro's repositories.

          I want it, and so, probably do you. Well, actually I don't want it so bad. I don't run TurboTax or Quicken (though my partner does run them via dual-boot on my machine). I don't run Photoshop or 3D games. But if Flash weren't there, I'd bail. Well, maybe not. Still, you get my point. My desktop essentially is an internet appliance. And (don't shoot me) I was given an iPod for my birthday a few years ago, and I actually like it - and dual-boot to Windows to maintain it. Even used it as an excuse to upgrade to an XP-based box so I could maintain it (linux worked fine on my old 1998-vintage PC before that).

          For now, we in appliance land are lucky that there are enough non-desktop'y devices that can use linux that hardware gets at least grudging support from manufacturers. Better where the device applications are more obvious.

          I'll end with what should be an obvious point. Why do you think Vista has failed so spectacularly? Because XP is still completely useable 8 years into its life cycle. Of course, if it weren't, then Windows may well have failed too. Backward compatibility is Windows' biggest strength - perhaps its only strength compared to the competition. And Linux will never have it, because it's creators don't want it, or don't understand why it's important, or just don't care. They're having a grand old time rewriting KDE and GNOME from the ground up every 2 years.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Mr. DOS (1276020)

            And (don't shoot me) I was given an iPod for my birthday a few years ago, and I actually like it - and dual-boot to Windows to maintain it.

            Psst, that's mostly unnecessary, unless you're purchasing music off of iTunes. AFAIK, Amarok [kde.org] can sync with iPods just fine, and I believe Rhythmbox [gnome.org] and various other Linux-native players can too.

            --- Mr. DOS

            • by Rob Y. (110975) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:30PM (#26731809)

              >Psst, that's mostly unnecessary, unless you're purchasing music off of iTunes

              Yes, I know that. But since I already have my XP partition, and because y'know what, I just want to listen to the thing, and because iTunes makes it really easy to get podcasts from various sources. (yeah, amarok probably does too - I kinda like Songbird too).

              Anyway, thanks for the help, but do you really think I was writing about iTunes? The issue isn't finding piecemeal workarounds for all the proprietary stuff in our lives. Ths issue is making Linux a mainstream (enough) platform that it doesn't matter. Let Apple figure out how to make iTunes work with Linux - why should I have to? Linux is far enough along, and if it were on a trajectory to large-scale desktop adoption, Apple would have to support it (well, maybe not Apple, but you get the picture...).

          • by Tweenk (1274968) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:27PM (#26731785)

            Backward compatibility is Windows' biggest strength - perhaps its only strength compared to the competition. And Linux will never have it, because it's creators don't want it, or don't understand why it's important, or just don't care.

            1. This is just FUD spread by people who want to ship binary drivers for Linux. Application level compatibility is actually quite good. For example you can still run GTK 1.x apps on modern Gnome desktops.
            2. Backward compatibility mostly matters for legacy proprietary apps. Since there aren't too many of those for Linux, this issue is not an important factor in Linux adoption.
            3. Stable kernel ABI would actually be harmful for Linux, because manufacturers wouldn't be as willing to release open-source drivers. Right now they do mainly because it takes considerable manpower to maintain a closed-source driver.

            • by Rob Y. (110975) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @11:04PM (#26733003)

              1. This is just FUD spread by people who want to ship binary drivers for Linux. Application level compatibility is actually quite good. For example you can still run GTK 1.x apps on modern Gnome desktops.

              If GNOME has that level of compatibility, kudos to them.

              2. Backward compatibility mostly matters for legacy proprietary apps. Since there aren't too many of those for Linux, this issue is not an important factor in Linux adoption.

              So backward compatibility doesn't matter, because there are no proprietary apps, because there isn't backward compatibility... Fun.

              3. Stable kernel ABI would actually be harmful for Linux, because manufacturers wouldn't be as willing to release open-source drivers. Right now they do mainly because it takes considerable manpower to maintain a closed-source driver.

              Finally the truth slips out. We don't want stable API's, because we don't want closed source code. Okay. So then say it. We don't want 'the year of the Linux desktop'. Or not enough to compromise ideological purity.

              Sure. Open source drivers are definitely better than closed-source ones. But there are better ways to coax device makers along than by making their lives miserable when they actually *want* to support Linux. Like actually gaining enough marketshare so that they *really, really* want to support Linux...

              • by bitMonster (189384) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @02:24AM (#26734207) Homepage
                Alright, you're just displaying your ignorance at this point. There are plenty of closed-source proprietary apps that I use on Linux for my job, and the vendors manage it just fine. These are applications for chip design, and Linux is really the only platform at this point that anybody uses for this kind of work. You might argue that they are server apps, rather than desktop apps, but most of them have very sophisticated GUIs in addition to shell-like interfaces. Many engineering and science disciplines rely on proprietary desktop apps like I am describing. This is the traditional workstation software market, and it is almost entirely Linux on x86 or x86-64 hardware now. Has been for several years. The software developers have sufficient stability because they worked with RedHat to get it. For example, most of the software I currently use supports, meaning "runs without modification", RHEL3.x and RHEL4.x. The latest versions are supporting RHEL5.x and they are dropping RHEL3.x. That's a huge span of time if you look up the RHEL release dates, and RH, the software developers, and the end customers are dealing with this just fine.
      • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

        by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:36PM (#26731277)

        The year of the telephone is 1884.
        You got the first long distance call, and you got the biggest change in momentum in uptake as AT&T was gobbled up by American Bell.

        The year of the light bulb is 1918.
        World War I ended. All those factories that had been set up were then used to deliver electricity to surrounding neighborhoods. It was the clear turning point in the availability of electricity for the masses.

        The year of the internet is, sadly, 1993.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:20PM (#26731087)

      The fact that they are not making a lot of money selling Vista does not mean people are moving away from MS in droves...they're just sticking to an older MS product for now. MS is still entrenched as simply the way people expect computers to work, and it's going to take a much longer series of much larger screwups from Microsoft to change that.

      Unfortunately MS is pushing people more to open source than anyone else. People have legacy systems and documents that need support while MS is pushing them to buy the latest and greatest. XP is still in such demand that they had to push back the date to stop selling it. Need to open an Office 97 document? Some of the best compatibility comes from OpenOffice not Office 2007.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:23PM (#26731127) Homepage

      Most people don't "buy" Windows. They buy a PC and it just happens to be installed.

      Until they're aware that they're paying for it then it makes no difference whether or not it's free.

      If things get rough Microsoft can drop the price to $20 and nobody will care either way.

      In short: Article fails.

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by theolein (316044) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:30PM (#26731207) Journal

      ...Sure, MS has gotten some bad press lately but they still enjoy the overwhelming share of the OS market, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

      ...

      I think that Microsoft might face some significant challenges with the recession. The daily news reports of enormous amounts of people being laid off at very large companies, traditionally Microsoft's major source of income, indicate to me that almost all comanies expect to lose large amounts of money in the next few years before, and if, the economy starts to pick up again.

      I think that the way these companies operate in such times is that IT dpartments will be under great pressure to economise as much as they possibly can. If that using Linux and Open Office means they can save 5% a year, after retraining and reequipping, I'm pretty sure they will do it.

      What I'm almost sure practically no big company in their right mind would do right now, in these times, is upgrade to Windows Vista or Windows 7. Those OSes require greater hardware resources than WinXP does and more than Linux does. I am sure that companies will try to use the very cheapest lowest cost hardware they can find to run their businesses.

      I am aware that many companies will not find it cheaper to migrate to Linux in these times, but sooner or later, as support for XP starts to die out, they will be forced to move one way or the other. I think very few will be willing to spend big on new expensive hardware and software in the next few years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        What I'm almost sure practically no big company in their right mind would do right now, in these times, is upgrade to Windows Vista or Windows 7. Those OSes require greater hardware resources than WinXP does and more than Linux does.

        Most companies work on a 3-5 year replacement cycle. So ca. 2010, pretty much every machine in any business will be quite capable of running Vista or Windows 7. Unlike nerds, companies aren't shopping around to try and save $10 (or even $50) on a $500 machine.

        It boggles my

    • MS Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Foofoobar (318279) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:33PM (#26731233)
      It would make more sense if they released their own version of Linux. They could EASILY sell support, books and rake in money for it. and if they sold their apps for Linux, again, they would have a huge market as their product would run on Macs as well with little re-engineering.

      The damage they would do to the other Linux resellers would be enormous (in the short term) and if they could do a good enough job, they could become a huge longterm player and maybe even kill off the other players.
    • losing grip (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Onymous Coward (97719)

      MS still have their hands around the market's throat, but they can't seem to get a good grip.

      The "operating system" substrate has grown slippery. Virtual machines, API emulation layers, web, multi-platform development frameworks ... Applications find it increasingly easy to run in numerous places.

      The "communications system" substrate has grown slippery, too. Web standards and office document standards are at a practically workable level. Boom, like that, IE has slipped from de facto standard to mere com

    • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:57PM (#26731499)

      Sure, MS has gotten some bad press lately but they still enjoy the overwhelming share of the OS market, and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

      I respectfully disagree.

      When you start talking about something as complex as an operating system, your biggest problem is managing the code base. This is best illustrated by all of Vista's canceled features - Microsoft simply can't manage the code in-house anymore. At least not in a timely manner. They might solve it temporarily, but it will just grow beyond their control, once again.

      In a closed-source Microsoft, developers really only have one itch to scratch - their pay check. So the best ones move on once they have accomplished something, leaving someone to pick up where they left off. Even if this someone is worth their salt, it will still take them a lot of time to pick up the pieces and become productive. If they are really good, then rinse and repeat.

      With open source, the developers are scratching a different itch. Often, they'll work on something out of passion alone, at which point some commercial entity may decide simply to start paying them full-time for doing what they enjoy. Recognition, pay - what could be better?

      The speed at which some open source projects have progressed is astounding. Compiz went from nothing to everything in no-time flat (speaking from a business perspective) while it took Microsoft a LOT longer to pound out aero, which doesn't have nearly as much eye candy.

      I think that it is more important to look at the rate of progression than it is to look at where we are today.

    • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:04PM (#26731581)

      You do realize that is basically a business model doomed to failure, right? They need the revenue from upgrades to recoup the princely sum wasted on Vista. If people don't upgrade, there's no more revenue until after - they hope - the next version release. Sure, there is still a trickle of new sales, but it's the revenue from repeat business - the upgrades - that really keeps everything afloat.

      This is precisely why software publishers are aggressively pushing "Web apps" and even universal thin clients again: it would guarantee no flakes who only pay once and then take the ball and go home. In a subscription model, people either pay them money every month/year, or they don't get to use the software, PERIOD. There's less accountability for bad design in that model.

      Given the current software business model, it's VERY bad for business when customers hold developers accountable for mediocre upgrades and simply choose not to buy them. Amazingly, apparently a lot of people do in fact refuse, and hang onto their bucks until an upgrade is offered that provides features they actually want enough to pay for them. Don't believe me? Try asking Philippe Kahn about how it hurt his wallet when people ignored Borland's manic upgrades.

  • Not likely (Score:4, Insightful)

    by burning-toast (925667) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:05PM (#26730905)

    Just look at Gates' earlier comments about how open source ruins development models.

    Something tells me that ship might sink rather than adapt (assuming the opinion piece on the direction of the market is correct in the first place).

    - Toast

  • by wicka (985217) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:05PM (#26730909)
    Maybe this guy has different stats, but last I heard, Microsoft made something like 1/3 of their revenue from Windows and 1/3 from Office. It's not like they don't make any money from Windows.
  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdotNO@SPAMexit0.us> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:06PM (#26730913) Homepage
    Gosh, I laughed so hard at that.
    Oh goodness, that is so funny. Microsoft going open source with Windows.
    Snort
    Man, it hurts to laugh now.
  • Sure (Score:3, Funny)

    by should_be_linear (779431) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:06PM (#26730929)

    and first step towards FOSS crowd, almost finished after 10 years in MS research labs, is FUCKING GRUB SUPPORT.

  • New John Dvorak (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hwyhobo (1420503) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:10PM (#26730977)
    Are we witnessing new John Dvorak being born?
  • Incomplete Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meatmanek (1062562) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:15PM (#26731029)
    Honestly, can't the summary tell us at least "Why Windows Must (and Will) Go Open Source?" The summary doesn't explain why, it simply counters one reason why not.
  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:22PM (#26731109) Journal
    The problem with Windows is its backup software is Veritas. Its disk defragmenter is ... I forget who, I think it may be Disk Keeper. Most of the internal tools are licensed from companies that Microsoft doesn't own; you can buy a much better Veritas backup system or a full Disk Keeper license and get network control and everything. They can't open source this, and they can't give it away for free because they have to pay it back somehow; free Windows would be "Windows LE" or "Limited Edition" ... limited in ability to do anything but run programs you'll have to buy.
  • by KGBear (71109) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:24PM (#26731129) Homepage

    I believe the author means 'free', not open source. There are lots of reasons why MS wouldn't do either, but even if you buy the argument, all MS would need to do would be drop the price to $0. That doesn't mean GPL'ing the code! Gosh!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sfing_ter (99478)

      They wouldn't charge $0 they would charge the regular price and work in a $300 rebate for every M/W/C in the US for their next DOJ violation. With the rebate they will recoup the cost in tax breaks/deductions via the BackScratch clause they have when the DOJ/US Govt. "Punishes" them.

  • Not so much, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Patch86 (1465427) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:24PM (#26731133)

    While I really don't see MS taking Windows open source anytime soon (read: hell freezes over), I have sometimes thought what would happen if they did.

    Linux would probably be sunk for one, as hobbyists and big business alike dig in to Windows source code. Apple would be annihilated too- theres no way they could compete with free, not if they had a 90% market share to beat. Thoughts of MS ever losing their monopoly would be right out.

    The world would be stuck with Microsoft domination forever. Not a happy thought.

    Good job Ballmer's on our side.

  • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker AT gnu DOT org> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:27PM (#26731177) Homepage

    FTFA:

    To neutralize the advantages of Linux and other open source competitors, Microsoft will have to make Windows more like them. If it doesn't, it risks losing the 6-million-plus developer base that's made the Windows platform great.

    Uhmm... why would the developer base run away? I don't get it. Because everyone else has? Then what starts them?

    Also, why would Microsoft open-sourcing things be good for Microsoft? Either people shift to Linux because they drink the RMS kool aid (that'd include me), or because it's the better product for them (I then found out this also included me).

    If they shift because they drink the RMS kool aid, then we can assume that they prefer a completely free OS (including application stack), which MS won't give out (according to the article, at least).

    If they shift because Linux is the better product (technically, that is), Windows being open source(d) won't change the fact that Linux is the better product.

    In other words, Windows may be what established Microsoft, but Windows can't sustain the company.

    Why not? Where are the figures to back this up? I think you'd need to make an assumption about the relative number of OEM XP licenses vs. OEM Office licenses sold with new computers to just get something linking the claim back to the article.

    The proprietary file formats that have protected Microsoft apps have been offset by Office Open XML

    Here's the spec: if the document says jump, you jump as high as this other unspecified program. I have heard (but beware of echo chamber effects) that it's nigh impossible to write two implementations of the OOXML spec that renders identical outputs. So if people are going to look at $COMPETITOR Office and say "but my documents look all wrong, let me go back to Microsoft", how was the consumer really not locked in?

    Blargh. I'm just going to judge this book by its first page. You can find some statistics in the article if you need them, but they seem loosely connected, and the article fails to specify why its predictions are likely to come true.

    Article: -1, Overrated.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:27PM (#26731179) Homepage

    title of article: Why Windows Must Go Open Source

    Fourth sentence of article: "[...]Windows will never become an open source project in the same vein as Linux[...]"

    Sixth sentence of article: "[...]I'll concede that some Windows source code probably will never see the light of day."

    I think what he really wants to say is that the cost of Windows has to approach zero. That's completely different from being open source. It's the classic "free as in speech" (or as in freedom) versus "free as in beer."

    I think it should be fairly obvious that MS can't open-source the whole OS. For one thing, I doubt that they own the copyright of every single line of code in Windows, and they've surely had to license a gazillion patents, make deals involving trade secrets, etc. Look at the situation with Linux and GPL 2 versus GPL 3 -- even if Linus changed his mind and wanted to make it GPL 3, it can't happen, because you won't get thousands of programmers to agree. With Windows it's bound to be even more complex.

    Okay, so let's imagine that the price of Windows becomes zero dollars. So what? Then the US would be like China, just another country where everybody runs Windows and nobody pays for it. You'd still have banks telling you their web interface only works with IE. You'd still have people with hard disks full of documents that are in proprietary formats, preventing them from switching to Linux. Things like video encoders and color management would still be patent encumbered. The main effect would probably be to boost MS's market share, and that would probably allow them not just to sell more copies of Office, etc., but to abuse their monopoly more effectively for competitive advantage. That's essentially what the author of the article is talking about by the time he gets to pages 2 and 3.

    And is anyone under the illusion that every version of Windows would cost zero dollars? No way. They'd very carefully set up a tiered system of price-differentiated versions of Windows in order to maximize their profits. Then it's like drug dealing: the first hit is free. This is what they're already doing in the third world, turning a blind eye to pirated versions of Windows because it helps to make those countries dependent on MS. The article says preinstalled Win XP is about $34 worth of the price of a new computer, and $34 is close enough to zero that I'd say that we're essentially already in that regime.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @07:39PM (#26731313) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft, in the middle of one of the worst depressions since The Great (Old) One, is still reporting a profit. Not a loss, not even a small loss. It wasn't even a significantly lower profit than the ones they usually post. When companies like Intel were posting that their profit margins had slumped 90%, Microsoft's losses went from 4.5 billion to 4.1 billion.

    Yes, Microsoft's bosses own a lot of Microsoft's shares, but the share prices will return to what they were and they get to buy back more now at discount rates. So they not only were richer than God to start off with, they'll be richer than most of the major pantheons combined once the market picks up.

    So what possible incentive does Microsoft have to go Open Source? They have almost total control over 95-98% of the world's desktops. They have almost total control over virtually every OEM and every hardware manufacturer. People could boycott their entire product range for a decade and Microsoft would still be wealthier than every other OS vendor combined.

    But people CAN'T boycott Microsoft. Virtually all manufacturers add in the cost of Windows into their systems. Even bare-bones systems likely carry some of that cost. I don't know how much Microsoft charges for permitting something to be classed as "certified", but no commercial company is going to permit the use of trademarks or promotional labels for free, which means all components will carry a Windows overhead as well.

    So if you add up all these overheads that Microsoft gets for Windows, regardless of whether or not you actually buy the damn OS, my suspicion would be that you've paid the development costs long before you've paid the sticker price for the software. In which case, buying the OS is sheer profit for them. They can get along just fine if nobody actually buys a separate boxed copy ever again.

    Sure, you can say that that means they have no motive to not switch to Open Source, but given their distaste for the methodology, I'd argue that it gives them even less motive to do so.

    If the world's biggest software company can afford to underwrite fines larger than the GDP of some small countries, to the point where they're willing to keep infringing in total defiance of any rulings against them, and can swan through a severe global depression with a workforce cutback less than a third of either IBM or Panasonic (who have alternative revenue streams and no outstanding multi-billion-dollar fines), it's clear they are feeling next to no pressure to change their methods.

    In fact, before this recession is over, it would not surprise me if Microsoft kills off the antivirus vendors (through questionable tactics, already well underway) and has made a bid for the software arm of IBM or Sun. They probably have more in loose change in the break rooms than Sun has in the bank, right about now. They might easily buy up Novell as well, crippling any competition SuSE might offer in the aftermath.

    If they take out any two of those three, who precisely is going to form the competition?

    • by Shados (741919) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:11PM (#26731647)

      Not only they're making a profit during a recession, but they're making a profit during a recession even with all the bad publicity from Vista (while I love Vista, one cannot argue the bad reputation it has).

      Thats something.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ignavus (213578)

      They have almost total control over 95-98% of the world's desktops.

      More like 90-95%. Apple's share has grown significantly over the last few years, and Linux is still chugging away, and even growing through "netbooks".

      And Google, Apple (iTunes, iPods, etc) and Mozilla are eating into some of that Windows desktop control. Imagine if there was any market shift towards OpenOffice - that would scare them. Hence the big battle over ODF and Microsoft Office's XML format.

  • They'll do it by redefining open source. After all, they can wrap a proprietary file format up in XML so that instead of being a bunch of undocumented blobs in a binary stew they're a bunch of undocumented blobs in an XML stew, and manage to convince people to say things like this...

    The proprietary file formats that have protected Microsoft apps have been offset by Office Open XML, the default format for Office 2007 and now an international standard.

  • by davidsyes (765062) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:02PM (#26731557) Homepage Journal

    I hope Open Source and Linux, and Sun and Apple can bring ms to its crouching duck-walk position as much as many others would like to see. But, MANY open source developers are simply going to have to come up with more polished user interfaces. App installation is STILL going to have to:

    -- become as simple as click on the .tar, no yum /apt-get/ whatever
    -- be as smart as installing with a click (after permissions have been determined valid and authorized)
    -- and the installer will ALSO have to be smart enough to know how to just search for the Internet-available-but-signed-trusted choices of file are

    I have on occasion probably used yum and apt-get and to a greater extent rpm and tar files. It SHOULD be easier. I am sure it IS easy. But, for me, it does not always work. If I have a need to get Rhyme working, and not all the deps are there, it's a show-stopper to face "repository not found", "dependencies (collide/incompatible...)"

    But, that's just me and i have to sort these things out so i have less to complain about. BUT...

    Joe Brockmeier has, :

    http://ostatic.com/blog/open-source-windows-dont-count-on-it [ostatic.com]

    "Open sourcing Windows wouldn't be a simple thing -- it took Sun years to comb through Solaris to start open sourcing it. If I recall correctly, Sun announced the initiative about a year before any code was released as open, and then other bits have been coming in dribs and drabs since. Windows would probably take even longer -- so, going from closed to open would take a couple of years and cost the company momentum even if they chose to do it.

    There's also the legal bits. It would probably take Microsoft a very long time to review the code and ensure that it can be open sourced. I also suspect the company would be hesitant to show its code to the world in its present state -- no doubt, it'd take a while to go through the code just to scrub the comments. There's also the matter of third-party code that would need to be rewritten or relicensed to open source it. It's much easier to start a project using an open source license than it is to go from proprietary to open source."

  • by auzy (680819) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @08:59PM (#26732023)
    It wouldn't make any sense for Microsoft to go open source at this time. Firstly, the only people who should care about open source should be developers. You hear a lot of people whining in linux about how everything should be open, but barely any supporters (companies and individuals alike) look at the code. And if people aren't going to modify or analyse the code, what's the point? Secondly, developers can already do everything they need to in windows without seeing the source code. What do you guys honestly think developers can add, that they can't now? Windows is quite extendible...

    I think most people misunderstand the difference between freeware, and open source. Microsoft may possibly make windows much cheaper one day to eliminate the competition (Mark Shuttleworth himself said, its difficult to compete when windows is free). However, Microsoft has enough developers, they certainly don't need community help. I don't mean to call the author of this article an idiot per say, but he clearly doesn't understand the benefits/cons between open source and freeware. Windows is already extendible enough these days to not require it being open sourced.

    Furthermore, OSX Darwin is open, and nobody cares! The only reason Apple cares about open source is because they essentially take a lot of code from the community, but give very little back.

    Microsoft isn't going bankrupt anytime soon so its not as though you will be making a risk by purchasing windows, and be unable to maintain it in the future!

    Theres very little reason people would need to look at the source code.. Must go Open Source?? HAHAHA. NO! There is little point, both for Microsoft and users. Maybe it will go freeware though...
  • Decade of the Tarpit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday February 04, 2009 @09:54PM (#26732461)

    It is very interesting how this article compares with http://www.cyberconf.org/~cynbe/rants/lastdino.htm [cyberconf.org]The Last Dinosaur and the Tarpits of Doom, which is just this month a decade old.

    If you just look on the surface, the Tarpit predictions were clearly wrong. 2010 is only 10 months away, so if Windows is going to be "as dead as CP/M", it had better get started.

    On the other hand, a lot of the predictions in there do seem to be in the process of coming true. For instance, when Tarpit was written, MS never bothered to pay stock dividends because investors were always more than pleased with just the stock's growth. That has changed, and now they are having to pay a relatively huge dividend just to keep stockholders happy. This is the classic sign of a http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2009/01/microsoft-stock.html [latimes.com]dead growth stock. To top it off, TFA makes a lot of the same predictions. Both have as their thesis that Microsoft will have to OpenSource to survive. The main difference in tone is that Tarpit's author thought they probably wouldn't, and TFA's author thinks they probably will.

    You could argue that their logic is just as much BS now as it was a decade ago. Could argue it well in fact. However, one could also argue that Tarpit's main flaw was in trying to "extrapolate the exponential" in the optimistic way it did, and that the rest of the argument is sound and in the process of becoming reality.

  • by chord.wav (599850) on Thursday February 05, 2009 @09:33AM (#26736031) Journal

    And Coca-Cola should open source their recipee too! Cause they already have such a big market share that it would be impossible for anyone to beat them... C'mon!

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

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