Thought Experiments

Microsoft and an OpenSource Operating System

I had started thinking about this today just before I started seeing articles hitting around the subject

Neo: do you think that if msft released a open source vista that people would edit it to make it more stable? or just try to put hacks in it and release it as a error fix
wizard: both…i dont think the opensource community would trust msft to follow the GPL
Neo: hmm…well, I am refering to a genuine effort on msft’s part, for the speculation, to follow the gpl…it may not be the best os that they release as opensource
wizard: i still dont think the community would embrace it
Neo: rgr… I don’t think they would either…I think an effort like that would tank, except for the .NET fanbois
wizard: i think it would be too little too late, it’d take years for the OS to be developed into something worth using over ‘nix
Neo: yeah, unless they relased like Windows XP or something, and gave people the source to upgrade how they saw fit to fix instabilities and security flaws. I think it’d have to be something current, and useful for the people to thinker with
wizard: ..yes but also, i guarantee you that if XP went open source today, there’d be millions of hacks by this time tommorow because people just have not found them yet without getting a look at the code
Neo: I concur.

What if Microsoft actually released an open source project? What would that do for them? What would that do for Google and Linux? How would the open source community react to such a move? How would the view of the company change in the eyes of the consumer?

I put some thought into it, and talked with [wizard] to get his thoughts too, and while I lean more toward the positive side, he leans more toward the pessimistic/realistic side.

If Microsoft would release, say Windows XP, after Vista’s predecessor comes out (which I believe to be Windows Live) for the open source community to tackle and work on, we’d have an interesting situation on the internet.

Firstly, there would be the fact that the long-held proprietory code of Windows would now be visible to the world. It’d be like Microsoft comming out of the closet, so to speak. Not only would we see the bloated processes that define Windows, but we’d also see the lack of security that plagues it.

There’s the train of thought that the .NET fanbois would support Microsoft in helping make the system more secure; while at the same time, the “other” fanbois would start writing code to hack it, or exploit it. For speculation purposes, I tend to hope that the .NET people would be more willing to help secure it, than the other people would be to exploit the flaws.

How would that change Microsoft’s image? It would probably give the people something new to talk about for months on the web. It could probably be compared to the “school yard bully” turning into the “nice guy” that we all know he can be. Of course it would come with lots of speculation that Microsoft “wouldn’t stick to the GPL” as my friend [wizard] suggests. Or that they’d use the new software to build their next post-post-Vista version. As for the stock prices and corporate image, it’d just look like they’re trying to play catch up, as they did with the Search effort.

Well, what would that do for Google? Would it give them a platform to work with? Would they even want to work on a Windows Platform? Probably not. They’be more likely to use a Linux distro, or even an Apple OS rehash before they put their name to a Windows system. The “Don’t do evil” mantra they go by flies directly in the face of Microsoft (and other companies), but on a side note, is also falling apart.

And Linux? It would give the Lindows folks a way to finally create seamless applications that work for both systems without the emulators. It would give the people who have done all they can with Linux something else to work on…a new project to make secure, or new code to port to linux (not that there is much you have in Windows that you don’t have in Linux – except for the fact that everything runs on Windows).

No, I think what Microsoft needs to do is release something else first, to see how well the opensource community takes it. Maybe MSN Messenger? (Nah, too many people connected to it)….Maybe server software for things like SQL and ASP (Probably not…too many businesses use it)….Office? (Probably the safest bet, but also their biggest money maker.)

What could they put into open source to change their image and create the “nice guy” that they’re trying to with their 2006 ad campaign? Nothing. They started out proprietary, they’ll most likely die proprietary. They’d have to come out with new technology that they start from scratch as open source; stick with standards, instead of creating their own; and “not be evil” about it. All their proprietary software is buggy and has security holes, but is too widely distributed to be put to open source. Hacks and cracks would surface faster than you could spread a torrent.

For Microsoft to stay ahead, their business model needs to change but as [wizard] put it, “it’d be too little, too late.”

By [[Neo]]

I am a web programmer, system integrator, and photographer. I have been writing code since high school, when I had only a TI-83 calculator. I enjoy getting different systems to talk to each other, coming up with ways to mimic human processes using technology, and explaining how complicated things work.

Of my many blogs, this one is purely about the technology projects, ideas, and solutions that I have come across in my internet travels. It's also the place for technical updates related to my other sites that are part of The-Spot.Network.

One reply on “Microsoft and an OpenSource Operating System”,1759,1975848,00.asp

thought all that was interesting since microsoft is sounding more and more like they care about the open source community.

my question is… are they in it for better support of their software by a much larger community than they can afford, or are they just in it for the money that comes with cheaper software and a large community seeming willing to support a product for free?

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