Is open source for Windows worthwhile?

Is open source for Windows worthwhile?

Summary: Open source companies can't act the way Microsoft does. They can't isolate themselves from the communities they serve. They can't keep aces in the hole or up their sleeves, because all the cards -- the code -- in open source is on the table.

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Joe PanettieriOver at Seeking Alpha, uber-schmoozer Joe Panettieri (left), now running Nine Lives Media, has one of those pieces that makes me go "waah?"

Short version: open source is Microsoft's secret weapon.

Billgatus of Borg close-upThis is not another paeon to Firefox or OpenOffice. Panettieri is talking about Microsoft's Windows Server business, its true crown jewel, and the effort to make sure open source projects work on it.

Specifically he's talking about working with Spikesource, whom I wrote about earlier today, in certifying programs to work with Windows Server.

Open source, he says, is how Windows will kill Linux.

That's the "waah" bit. It's breathtaking in that, by conflating the operating system competition between Windows and Linux with the business operations battle between Microsoft and open source, he's both making and missing an important point.

The made point is that Microsoft probably looks at the world in just this way. Both its business model and its business are under threat, so accepting the work of one to win the other is all part of the same war.

The missed point is these are not the same war. Microsoft is competing with Linux in the operating system arena based on features and value, not values. Enterprises can make a rational choice there without making a moral choice.

The choice between open source and closed source is something quite different. Open source is a business model, not a communist plot. But it's a business model which requires adoption of some key values.

Microsoft could, if it chose, become an open source company, and in some of its recent actions it has chosen to do just that, giving more visibility to some of its code and enabling interoperability with open source projects.

There remains, however, this philosophical difference. Microsoft competes to control customers, and those who've bought-into its products are controlled, their barrier to conversion rising every day.

Open source companies can't act the way Microsoft does. They can't isolate themselves from the communities they serve. They can't keep aces in the hole or up their sleeves, because all the cards -- the code -- in open source is on the table.

This difference exists regardless of how much Microsoft seeks to cooperate with open source projects, and have its software interoperate with them. It abides.

It's a divide which cannot be bridged. It's not a business battle which can be won.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Open Source

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23 comments
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  • Open Source can help temprarily

    Open Source can help maintain the monopoly for a little while longer. But in the end, the compatibility (and cost) will actually open the door for people to move to other platforms.

    If people get used to open source tools, it will be easier for them to move to (for example) Linux, since the tools will look the same no matter what platform they are using.
    wackoae
    • Yup, and even the "cheapest" IT salaries

      of Windows only educated folks will be seen as the false economy that they are by most businesses before too long ...

      There's an old saying : You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
      fr0thy2
    • Is Open Source for Windows?

      MSFT execs have stated that open source will run on MS O/S. This is a good marketing move, especially that they have licensing arrangements with open source providers. The marketing strategy involves the FUD implying that open source is something of an app, not a full OS.
      MSFT has consistently developed or purchased software companies in a strategy of a one stop shop. Getting non-MS software to work on a closed source OS is a key strategy MS has exploited to reduce competition. Based on this, and stated goals of bundling IE into the OS, the thrust of MS is not to allow interoperability. If it is not MS, then no reliable support is available except for a fee.
      The above, if resonable, seems to point in the direction of a no interoperability position. MS currently enjoys the better mousetrap, a point and click envirionment enjoyed by non technical people, which it seeks to "improve" in its own vision, to the exclusion of other systems.
      There is no reason to believe that the view MS holds that they will be the sole provider will change. The goal is to embrace (Novell licensing agreement), extend (code and charge a fee), and extinguish (main competitor, Linux). There seems no reason MS should view open source worthwhile.
      jns_45K@...
  • the other way

    Running opensource from Windows is the event that drove me to Linux 7 years ago. I was in charge of an Oracle. IAS, based on Apache, while looking at documentation I discover this great world of opensource software and then realize that Linux was better.

    There is no question, I am witness of most of open source server software to perform better on Linux. LAMP vs WAMP is an example.
    emromero@...
    • Windows' moves address your concern

      I really think that what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows Server right now is make those LAMP vs. WAMP comparisons less onorous....but the two OSs are very different.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • It's always a lot more twitting about on Windows

        The only people who think Windows is easy are the people that only know Windows.
        fr0thy2
  • Dubious strategy

    What MS has historically encouraged is the production of software that works *only* under MS operating systems. There's plenty of open source software for Windows, of course, but that's not much of an advantage to MS because it's highly portable and therefore runs on any number of platforms.
    John L. Ries
  • RE: Is open source for Windows worthwhile?

    Actually, I never said Microsoft will kill Linux. Rather my exact words were: "[Microsoft] needs Windows Server to continue to compete effectively against Linux servers."

    Kill linux? Never. I blog all day from either a Mac OS X or Ubuntu Linux PC. I don't pretend that Microsoft's bad software (Vista) is good. But I also don't pretend that everything MSFT does is bad, and everything open source is good.
    -jp
    joe_pan5@...
    • Agreed

      What you said (and it's at the link) is that open source is Windows' secret weapon in competing with Linux, on behalf of Windows Server.

      Kill Linux isn't in quotes.

      I also don't pretend everything MSFT does is bad, either. Whatever gave you that idea? In fact, I've heaped praise on many of its open source moves.

      Thanks for writing, and stay in touch. Always good to hear from you. (I thought you'd be madder about the schmoozer comment, which I got from reading your bio which brags on your "gets". Honest, I was just being snarky there.)
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: Is open source for Windows worthwhile?

    I don't get mad. I get even. Kidding aside: I think your blog post stirs healthy debate. Not everyone agrees with my views. Fortunately, open source and the Web have freed us to express our views.

    Again, no harm, no foul. Thanks for the reply earlier.

    Best
    -jp
    joe_pan5@...
  • WinSource?

    While I doubt Windows will do much 'real' open source work, I think they've seen that it's in their best interest to make file types (i.e. Office documents, etc) in an open-source fashion to keep them in-line. After all, what's so secret about a Word document?
    Norcross
    • You missed the whole OOXML debate

      I'm guessing ... LOL.
      fr0thy2
    • RE: "what's so secret...?"

      You ever try reverse engineering a MS Word file?

      That SOME MS office documents can be opened by Openoffice, Abiword etc has nothing to do with MS.

      The closest thing to an 'open source fashion' feature of office is that Office allows to save in txt or rtf, and the source files can be accessed outside of the office application.

      Or perhaps that's what you meant...?
      AndyCee
  • Worthwhile in what way?

    If the premis is free and open code then I don't see that it matters what platform it runs on. I mean there has been "open source" for Windows since, well, since there has been Windows and that community has done nothing but grow over the years.

    Sorry but I just don't see your point.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Of course you wouldn't see the point No_Ax

      http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2008/04/03/conservative_open_source/
      fr0thy2
      • And that's your best thought out and articulated reply?

        That is very sad.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Surely 99% of the article must have gone over your head

          Look, we know that you don't "get" open source, but at least some of our political leaders do (finally) ;-)

          You'll catch up eventually, but it'll take time to understand.

          Try picturing a world where not every piece of software comes on a CD with Microsoft Corporation written on it. Imagine not even caring what where you left the license key, because their isn't one.

          Visualize a world where everybody works together for the better of all ...

          Sorry, can't really help you any more than that ....
          fr0thy2
      • NAG is right

        There's lots of open source for Windows already and has been for years. GNU software has always been highly portable, which facilitates this.

        Only reasons I can think of for MS to give greater emphasis to open source development on Windows itself would be public relations, Visual Studio sales, and possibly trying to hook people into MS-specific programming (developers, developers, developers). On the whole, the campaign strikes me as rather silly and not likely to accomplish much. If politicians like Cameron want to use open source for governmental purposes, it probably won't be on Windows, no matter what MS does.
        John L. Ries
  • Open source on Windows is good. It gives Windows users an easy migration

    path to Linux. Just change the applications on at a time to open source applications that also run on Linux. Eventually, you can unplug all of the Windows servers, or at most, keep one in the corner for a while for those one or two Windows only applications. But, the Linux kernel is improving faster that Windows, so, sooner or later, Windows servers really do not make much sense at all.

    Also do not forget open source applications to emulate Windows applications like Samba and Mono. Those also help with the migration.
    DonnieBoy
    • Naw, its good because its cheap

      Has nothing to do with migration paths.
      No_Ax_to_Grind