Behind the scenes: Microsoft and Open Source – Gianugo Rabellino
Disclaimer: I have M$.
According to Gianugo, M$ knows a lot about open source. Sounds good? Maybe. “Know your enemy” ;-) Well, of course they know. OSS is a threat to their business model so they early applied their usual tactics of “embrace, extend and extinguish” to handle it.
When that didn’t work (and they found it wasn’t necessary because most people don’t understand OSS), they gave it up so they can now pretend to be “good guys” (or maybe “better guys” than they were before the year 2000).
My main objection is their definition of open: “Open” for them seems to mean “honest” or “listening to customers” or “doesn’t cost anything.”
That’s wrong. Open means: I can solve my problems myself. Example: Say I found a bug in Word. I know how to fix it. Will it be fixed? No. Why not? Because I’m just one of 300 million Word customers. My tiny complaint is simply drowned in the majority’s cry for more features.
Open source means: If I know how to fix it, I can. If I don’t, I can ask for a fix. If the original developers can’t help, and I still need the fix, I can hire someone to fix it for me! I have options. With M$ (and any other big company for that matter), I have none. For me, these people are an endless source of frustration.
Why I have M$ more than most? Because they make my life miserable every day for the past 25 years. Every day, I get Office documents that LibreOffice can’t open. And I can’t run Office on Linux. I could run it in a VM but that would infest my pretty secure computer with a viruphile OS that is hard to maintain, update and use.
Where was I? Oh yes, the presentation.
One slide said that they were open for interoperability and standards. M$ is member of a whole lot of standards committees. Which sounds great. But big companies usually become members of standards committees to make sure either theirunderstanding of the technology because the standard (so everyone else has to catch up and/or pay them royalties) or to make sure nothing is every agreed upon. Since every committee contains at least one member of both groups … you get the idea.
It’s like religion. Question: Who goes to hell? Answer: Everyone. Proof: There are at least two religions which believe that anyone who doesn’t share their specific belief goes to hell.
Anyway. M$ is driven by money. If there is money to be made, they jump. If not, they can’t be bothered. So if the customers want interoperability, M$ couldn’t care less. If the customer pays for this, sure, why not.
For these reasons, IE9 is not OSS. But at least they’re trying to be compatible to HTML(5) – since no one really is, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that customers are running away to other browsers like Firefox and Chrome. On top of that, FF and Chrome have been leading innovation in the browser market (I’m sure the M$ marketing department disagrees and next year, we’ll see a lot of ads says that “M$ invented HTML, the Internet and Walking Upright(tm)”).
What M$ also cares for is wasting money. Support is such an area. So they decided to split IE9 into the stable, basic product for John Doe. Developers can download all kinds of cool extensions from some website (links anyone?) to tamper with the bleeding edge. When the bleeding edge has been dulled from all the blood (= something has emerged and a lot of people want it), M$ can move it into the IE9 installation package (or an update) and claim to have invented that, too.
Nice idea. I actually like it, even though I worry what it means for fragmentation of web development. But making people “trust IE9″ because the base product is stable, fast and dependable, that should help to move people more quickly away from IE6 and that’s always a good thing. Of course, this mess is also M$’s fault in the first place. But at least for once, they try to clean it up.
The talk did contain two items which I agree: WebSockets are the best and the worst of HTML(5). They are a great idea and would solve a whole lot of problems that web developers face today. Unfortunately, they’re also a huge security risk.
The other thing is that cloud means “I don’t care.” Cloud computing really means that you want to concentrate on the few things that you do best and leave the rest (network administration, backups, fault tolerance, installing updates, etc.) to someone else.
Funny fact: All slides had “Microsoft Confidential” on them.
Conclusion: Gianugo sold his soul well. I talked a couple of minutes to him after the presentation. We didn’t agree but at least we did it in a civilized manner.