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Former Windows Chief on Microsoft Vs. Open-Source 387

Posted by simoniker
from the versus dept.
prostoalex writes "Brad Silverberg, former chief of Microsoft Windows division, who left the company in 1999, is being interviewed by the Milestone Group, on Microsoft specifically, and the software venture capital world in general (Silverberg is currently working as managing partner for Ignition Partners). He provides an interesting viewpoint on Microsoft's understanding of open source: 'I don't think they have figured that out yet, I think that is clear. They are struggling with not so much open source, per se, but rather they are no longer the low price solution. In the past Microsoft was the low cost solution and Microsoft was then competing and attacking expensive proprietary systems from below. Now for the first time the tables are turned and it's Microsoft that's being attacked from below by a lower price solution. Microsoft needs to figure out how it can demonstrate better TCO to justify its higher prices. Another aspect to that, which is an area I think Microsoft is also struggling with, which is when you are as successful and dominant as they are, how do you continue to foster that ecosystem? What really propelled Microsoft Windows success was an ecosystem that they created that allowed other people to benefit from your success. Actually your success was really a side effect or byproduct of their own success.'"
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Former Windows Chief on Microsoft Vs. Open-Source

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  • Bzzt (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:23PM (#9741488) Journal
    I don't think they have figured that out yet, I think that is clear. They are struggling with not so much open source, per se, but rather they are no longer the low price solution.

    Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution? I'm sure I'm not the only one who laughed at the whole "they haven't figure that out yet" part. They haven't figured *anything* out yet. That's why we got rid of the feudal system -- because government, on all levels (including corporate management) should be for the people, by the people. My point is that Microsoft, being ruled by King Gates, is behind the times while they are trying to be ahead of the times. They are a working paradox. Open Source is to Closed Source, as Hive Societies are to Kingdoms; one clearly is better than the other and I think we can all agree which one it is.
    • Re:Bzzt (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Zo0ok (209803)
      I beleive I work for a company where MS is choosen because they are the low-price player.
      • Re:Bzzt (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That's fantastic, how did you manage to get MS to pay you use their software? Since Linux and/or BSD is free, the only way to be "the low-price player" is to pay you to use it.
    • Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rd_syringe (793064) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:34PM (#9741593) Journal
      This article is basically what people here on Slashdot have already said ad nauseum. Microsoft is struggling to compete with something free, and Microsoft is struggling to compete with itself. I already knew that from countless discussions on the subject beforehand.
    • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Insightful)

      by djp928 (516044) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:34PM (#9741599) Homepage
      Yeah, back in the day when proprietary UNIX OSes running on proprietary hardware ruled the data center, Windows really *was* the low-cost solution--it ran on commodity hardware, and its licencing was often less onerous and expensive than their competitors.

      Now that they're no longer really competeing with proprietary UNIX in the data center (they've pretty much taken all they're going to get in that market) along comes a new OS that also runs on commodity hardware, but has the added benefit of being (mostly) free as well.

      Once upon a time, they really could argue that they were cheaper than the "big boys". Now, in the portion of the data center market they control, that's not true anymore.

      -- Dave
    • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Funny)

      by stratjakt (596332) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:36PM (#9741614) Journal
      Microsoft still is the low price solution. A linux liscense runs $699 from SCO, whereas XP Pro retails for 200.

    • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 4of12 (97621) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:36PM (#9741617) Homepage Journal

      Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution?

      Yes, they were.

      Back in the 1980's when they were first coming out.

      The new standard IBM PC with MS-DOS was a low price solution compared to the alternative of mainframe applications.

      Now, however, as hardward costs have continued to plummet, the market really wants the established technology to fade into an open standard with insignificant cost.

      The IT decision makers are asking themselves the hard questions like:

      If Ethernet and TCP/IP are open standards that have no cost and are essential to my business' operation, why then is it that Windows, a standard, and essential to my business' operation, has a cost associated with it?
      Rewrapping Windows with added new features to justify charging for it can only go so far. It's actually come a long way for MS, but arguably their "innovation in the OS" theme has been pushing the bounds of the credible for a while.
      • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Funny)

        by k98sven (324383) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:54PM (#9741843) Journal
        The new standard IBM PC with MS-DOS was a low price solution compared to the alternative of mainframe applications.

        Yes, and a Big Mac is a low price solution compared to the alternative of a 5-course dinner banquet.

        The PC didn't compete with the mainframe. It still doesn't, really.

        I think you were thinking about minis, e.g. PDP:s, VAXen, and the like.
        They competed for the same space as the PC, as an office computer. Those were killed off by the PC:s, obviously to the extent that some have even forgotten them completely!

        As for "Low cost alternative", I do agree. The PC was a low cost alternative to a mini, and Microsoft Windows made the PC a low-cost alternative to the Mac.
    • Re:Bzzt (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Angostura (703910)
      "Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution?" Oh yes. You have to cast your mind back to when they were the guerilla under-dog with an 'open OS' on an open PC platform up against big iron mainframes with proprietary architectures and closed, obstruse OSs. Plucky MS users fought against monolithic controlling IT policies to introduce machines that *they* could control.

      I hadn't thought until I read the article just how good the parallels were, and how Microsoft's role has been recast since those days.
    • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Informative)

      by RealAlaskan (576404) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:46PM (#9741736) Homepage Journal
      Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution?

      Yes, once upon a time, they were.

      Back in the mid-80s, I worked for a little value added retailer which sold medical billing systems. They sold Xenix/Altos and Pick/General Automation systems with several users on several terminals, and competed with IBM, which sold mini computers which cost far more than the tens of thousands our systems cost.

      When IBM PC compatibles became a major force in the market, we were able to undercut our old systems dramatically. We weren't selling MS systems, but every PC system we sold had MS-DOS on it. We were able to undercut ourselves, and cut our own throats.

      Microsoft gets a bit of the credit for this, because they provided the standard and open[1] (but proprietary) base that companies like Peachtree, Kaypro and Compaq could build on. Suddenly, there was no need to support a group of engineers and programmers in your home town who could integrate hardware and write software to get the job done. Peachtree and the clones did it from the Bay Area, cheaper and better, as long as better meant cheaper.

      MS was always cheaper than what it replaced, jsut as the platform it ran on was cheaper than the minis. MS was making it big on volume. Today, they've got more volume than ever before, but the new competition is able to cut prices all the way to zero, forever, and that's just the opening salvo in the price war. MS aren't stupid. They may figure it out eventually, but they may stumble badly on the way.

      [1] The PC BIOS sourcecode was listed in the manual. Command.com was simple enough that you could figure it out using debug.exe.

    • Re:Bzzt (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cmacb (547347)
      I think they were the low-price-spread back when people still used a variety of word processors. There were a number of word processing alternatives to WordPerfect for a while and I don't think it was crystal clear that Word was the best of them. But as people gradually started getting computers that were capable of running the early versions of Windows, Microsoft used those secret API calls as well as low price as a way of making it a no-brainer to go with Office. Unfortunately some of those aging DP
    • Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution? I'm sure I'm not the only one who laughed at the whole "they haven't figure that out yet" part.

      Remember, we are not talking about home computing or hobbyist type things here, we are talking business computing. For example, the big HP and DEC machines that the noobs here think of as "mainframes" (now, the Cyber 70 was a "mainframe", but the DECs and Control Data refrigerators where just "minis"). Remember, there was a time, long long ago, about the time Microsof

    • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dasmegabyte (267018) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Monday July 19, 2004 @06:01PM (#9741915) Homepage Journal
      I think you're behind the times, kid. Microsoft hasn't been ruled by "King Gates" in some time...he's moved on to more of an advisory roll and delegated most of the company's decisions to Balmer. Furthermore, there are a number of markets in which Microsoft still has the low price solution...for example, if you want a reliable load balanced database, SQL Server kicks the price pants off of Oracle and DB2. Sybase is languishing and open source doesn't have anything remotely near the feature set of these four (no, we can't all use MySQL).

      You're also apparently unaware of some of the options Microsoft was faced with on their way to becoming the "huge, oppressive, evil monopoly" that made my second favorite operating system. Back in the day, you could drop $300+ on a copy of Word Perfect, or get Word for something like $100. Like Open Source today, Word was the inferior solution from a feature set and usability standpoint, but it was cheaper and offered enough functionality that most people didn't care. Later, Office sprung up as a way to further lower costs by offering the most common pieces of software for one low price. This left Lotus and WordPerfect scrambling to put together a package that was similar and/or better for a similarly low price. In the end, Microsoft's suite was better integrated, interoperated better (e.g. AmiPro/WordPro could open MS documents well but not visa versa, leaving MS as the defacto standard) and above all cheaper than its competitors.

      Of course, this was well before they were officially a monopoly, back when Lotus and Word Perfect still had a chance to make a decent product, a chance neither of them was capable of. Microsoft won this war because they had better businessmen. The problem is, they didn't change their policies once they won...and you can't play the "exclusive contract" game once you've out-stripped your competeition.

      Finally, your government systems analogy is kind of foolish. Hive Societies may be "better" idealistically, but historically have never really worked beyond a certain population level. On the other hand, kingdoms have been quite stable and succesful, especially in parts of the world where individual wealth and education are too concentrated to promote an egalitarian society. In fact, on the micro level almost all systems break down into localized oligarchies, with a single set of localized idea-men and a series of lackeys doing what these men say. A single charismatic ruler will always have better luck at efficiently organizing people and delivering services than a committee in a constant power struggle -- this happens so reliably, I think it is safe to assume that it is a genetic predisposition in the human animal to choose a definite vision when available.

      Extrapolating from this, since user education in the computer field will always a bigger issue than price, and most Open Source packages are by definition indefinite, open ended entities, I think we can safely assume Open Source isn't going to revolutionize the proletariat's desktop any time soon.
      • Re:Bzzt (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tzanger (1575)

        Furthermore, there are a number of markets in which Microsoft still has the low price solution...for example, if you want a reliable load balanced database, SQL Server kicks the price pants off of Oracle and DB2. Sybase is languishing and open source doesn't have anything remotely near the feature set of these four (no, we can't all use MySQL).

        PostgreSQL? It doesn't have quite the feature set of Oracle but IIRC it does support several forms of load-balancing and along with pl/sql and several language A

    • Re:Bzzt (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jekewa (751500) on Monday July 19, 2004 @06:30PM (#9742280) Homepage Journal
      Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution?

      As answered 100 times already, yes, the really were. Even now, allowing that "low price" includes ROI considerations like my time to setup systems, train users, and maintain networks, MS is a decent alternative. I'm a big fan of the LINUX potential, and hope that this or something like it kicks into high gear and gets in all those little places, but until "dumb users" (we all have them in our offices) get over their FUD of not Windows, it's here.

      Consider that to the average Joe (think's he's computer savvy, but isn't really) that walks into his local mega-outlet to buy a ready-to-use computer-in-a-box, Windows is installed (although I have seen Lindows-installed PCs on the shelf, now), included in the price. Realistically, yes, the price is in there somewhere, but to Joe, it's "free" (as in "already done for me"). To change the OS, assuming Joe can figure that out, there's at the very least download and install time, if not a direct purchase of an OS box from the shelf to use. In this case, Microsoft can be argued to be the low-cost winner. Before you bash me, yes, this is where MS has been playing badly...monsters in my box.

      To another Joe, the really-savvy computer guru, like you, dear reader (who assembles his system from scratch picking the best components money can buy and lovingly screwing them together in is l33t modded case...), looking at the Suse, RedHat, and Microsoft OS boxes on the shelf, no, Microsoft is not the clear winner in the low-price category. (Especilly to the l33t users who say "screw the shelves" and get their latest from BitTorrent.)

      Consider also Joe, the manager of the mega-corp IT department, who licenses and maintains 10,000 desktops. MS is again arguably a low-cost winner, again, especially considering the simple ROI factors.

      Note, no insult intended to anyone actually named Joe, who may or may not know how to do any of these things...

      MS did a great job of figuring it out early. Although it's since been kicked for unfair practices, they started out selling "irrelevant" software to IBM, who only wanted the hardware money, and became a giant. While their own APIs are closed, they've done plenty for the developers who wish to create software to run on their platform. They rallied the world and got basically anyone who makes hardware to provide (either MS or OEM) drivers that work. They did OK figuring plenty out.

      Open Source is to Closed Source, as Hive Societies are to Kingdoms

      And can someone point out a "Hive Society"? Surely you don't mean some kind of bee-like or Borg-like collective or commune... The "kingdom" (more of a republic, really) I live in is doing pretty good, despite all of the bees buzzing around in Michigan and Montana. However, I think I know what you mean. In the long run, yes, the hives may outlast the big, fat kingdom, but in the meantime, the kingdom will, well, get big and fat...MS posts billions of dollars of revenue, and the collection of your favorite other software manufacturers is a shadow of their tax liability...

      Now, I know it looks like I'm on the MS bandwagon; I just believe that you can't bash them just because they're the biggest. Pick on them because they behave monsterously; that they do.

      • Re:Bzzt (Score:3, Interesting)

        by yuri benjamin (222127)
        Consider also Joe, the manager of the mega-corp IT department, who licenses and maintains 10,000 desktops. MS is again arguably a low-cost winner, again, especially considering the simple ROI factors.

        Do the ROI figures include worm/virus/spyware cleanup?
    • Re:Bzzt (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0x0d0a (568518)
      Was Microsoft *ever* the low price solution?

      Microsoft has produced:

      * MS SQL Server (cheaper than the golden Oracle standard)

      * MS DOS (cheaper than CP/M and friends)

      * Windows 9x+ (when in a Wintel configuration, traditionally significantly cheaper than an Apple Macintosh setup)

      * Windows NT+. This competed heavily against *IX workstations, as it was cheap and easier to use for folks that knew Windows 9x but not *IX. It ate a lot of the CAD market and the 3d graphics market.

      * Microsoft Mouse. While M
  • Let TCO wars begin.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by silverbolt (578120) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:23PM (#9741493)
    Microsoft is likely to agressively start publishing TCO comparisons in various media outlets. Like all statistics, TCO numbers can be fudged too, but most customers will still believe whatever numbers are pushed to them. Open Source folks need to go out there also and start publishing their cost ownership numbers, with real life examples.
    • by golge011 (720796) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:40PM (#9741662)
      Todays TCO comparisons are useful only to cloud comsumers mind. There should be a better and preferably an objective way of comparing OS costs. Maybe when OpenSource solutions become much more mainstream, a way to compare will be found. But till that time the company who has more resources will win.

      (Or are there such methods, or standards?)

      --
      Not a native English speaker.
    • by mm0mm (687212) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:54PM (#9741829)
      I believe that the TCO studies may have valid points IF they are unbiased, but the data MS releases is partial and everything else that doesn't make Windows look good will be disregarded. they are the one who conduct the study, so they can choose only the desirable results to be released to public.

      another problem is that MS funded TCO studies do not accurately anticipate downtime caused by malware or virus outbreaks. windows may be the winner in some studies, but statistics on paper can't guarantee a lower TCO in real life. If MS wants to be more credible, they should conduct a research on average downtime and estimate of financial damages caused by malware/virus last 6 months. My guess is that the world biggest marketing company won't do.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah here are the TCO "real life examples" from the unemployed 19 year old slashbot crowd:

      + Linux is always $free.
      + Linux Support Contracts are never required
      + Commercial Linux products are never needed, because there's always a free, no-support replacement.
      + Administration costs aren't important.
      + Beowolf clusters solve every imaginable problem.
      + Corporate installations are as simple as the HTTP server running in their basement.
      + Business care about their open source ideology.

      Of course, once you graduate
      • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Monday July 19, 2004 @07:31PM (#9742939) Homepage
        One doesn't need to ignore administration costs to see that Windows is more expensive. In fact, it HELPS to include administration costs, provided the study doesn't lie about them. One Windows admin is typically cheaper than one linux admin, this is true. But Linux doesn't need as much admin time as Windows, so it doesn't have the same servers-to-admins ratio.

        Here's the real truth of TCO:

        If the business is not computer-related, and thus the people in the company are not computer literate and shouldn't be expected to become computer literate, then Windows has lower TCO because it lets you do the simple things simply. If the business is computer-related, or large enough that it is expected to grow some in-house expertise, then Windows has higher TCO because it ONLY lets you do the simple things simply, at the expense of making the complex things really painful to deal with.

        • by killjoe (766577)
          Here is the real TCO.

          No matter how much MS spends money on advertising reality does not change. People who have ever used linux know what the deal is. For example ZDNET australia once published a study showing that an average linux sysadmin controlled many more servers then an average windows sysadmin. Until MS makes windows easier to manage en masse this fact will not change.

          The real problem with MS is not TCO. It's that the people don't need to go through a procurement process to download and install fr
    • by jeffehobbs (419930) on Monday July 19, 2004 @06:07PM (#9741977) Homepage

      They already have; if you go to getthefacts.com [getthefacts.com] and if you fill out a form there, they'll Airborne Express a rather expensive-looking packet filled with facts about Windows and Linux, including:
      • Linux was invented by Adolf Hitler in 1934.
      • The name "Linux" comes from a Native American phrase meaning "Outrageous TCO Going Forward".
      • Windows 2003 Server was first mentioned in the New Testament, to glowing reviews.
      • Exposure to Linux makes one out of every fifteen people break out in itchy yellow-greenish sores.
      • At night Linux servers often grow robot arms and robot legs, trash your office, and leave beer cans around.
      ...I didn't know half of this stuff!

      ~jeff
      ____________________________
    • by gregmac (629064)
      Open Source folks need to go out there also and start publishing their cost ownership numbers, with real life examples.

      By "Open Source folks" I assume you mean "companies that sell services centered around open source software"? Keep in mind that most of the developers and people writing OSS don't really care who uses it (though they certainly like when people do). They're not out to destroy Microsoft (well, not most of them, anyways ;) ), they're just writing a tool that is useful to them, and making it
  • Kinda interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cloudkj (685320) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:24PM (#9741503)
    It is kinda interesting to note - when thinking about the battle between Microsoft and the Open Source movement - the decentralized nature of Microsoft's main "enemy." The article states that Microsoft used to be the inexpensive alternative to the more expensive proprietary solutions available on the market. However, with the tables turned, they are now facing a multitude of cheaper alternatives rather than one. Thus, I think Microsoft is not so much as facing cheaper alternate solutions in the same markets, but rather facing the different ideologies that are underlying in each of the respective markets of which the Open Source movement has spread into. To me, this is never a battle driven by competition leading to lower prices. Rather, it has always been the ideologies involved.
    • by Lord Kano (13027)
      I respect your opinion on the matter, and for many people it does make a great deal of sense, but I see it differently.

      I use OSS/Free Software when it's the best tool for the job. Right now I'm using Opera on Windows XP, but my servers run Linux.

      OSS being cheaper($$$) than propriatary software is just one aspect of it being better in certain situations. As much as is possible, I leave my religion and politics out of my professional life.

      For RMS and the like Free Software could be called a religion, the b
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      In terms of adoption, it's not the ideologies of the developers that matter so much as those of the users, except when they differ to such a degree as to be incompatible.

      Users want something that gets the job done that costs as little as possible. Generally speaking they could give a shit if it's open source or not, if it's Free Software or not.

      To the user, this is a battle over prices, driven by competition. If Microsoft gives them Office, they probably won't bother with OpenOffice.org, due to the i

  • by Y2 (733949) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:25PM (#9741511)
    There are damn few large businesses that can handle a large change, let alone a fundamental change. Those that survive change (GE, e.g.) are generally so massive that they can lose some divisions' whole business model and carry on.
  • Two points: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bold Marauder (673130) <[boldmarauder] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:29PM (#9741541) Homepage
    In the past Microsoft was the low cost solution and Microsoft was then competing and attacking expensive proprietary systems from below. Now for the first time the tables are turned and it's Microsoft that's being attacked from below by a lower price solution.


    That is certainly true, but there's also a pscyhological dynamic as well. In the past (up until 1995) to some degree Microsoft was seen in two ways - the underdog (compared to the still-seen-as-evil IBM) and the platform of geeky freeware tinkerers. You used to have entire cottage industries that catered to the nerd contingent (eg JPSoft) of people who would sit at home
    and -on thier dos computers- see what they could contruct on their own and how they could push the performance of their 386sx computers.

    So, not only does Microsoft suffer from signifigantly higher TCO, but they also have lost any sort of "outsider" aka geek cred that they may have had pre-1995.

    I believe that this, along with the ill-will from Microsoft's more famous stumblings (eg, crushing netscape) have gone a long way to erode any kind of good will that computer users may have once had for them.

    What really propelled Microsoft Windows success was an ecosystem that they created that allowed other people to benefit from your success. Actually your success was really a side effect or byproduct of their own success. If they saw a way that they could develop your platform, make money for themselves and build big businesses.


    Actually, the reverse is true. By and large over the last 11 years -starting with the assimilation of disk compression and one or two symantec technologies- Microsoft has built their success on the successful deployment of third party technologies. The pattern has typically been that a signifigant technology will get a small foothold on the windows platform, and then when it starts to look promising, MS will either buy it out (in the case of many of its' office products) or clone it and make the original redundant (as was the case with netscape).

    So, yes, they 'allowed' other players to grow on their platform, but I think it was more a matter of fattening them up for the kill!

  • "Microsoft needs to figure out how it can demonstrate better TCO to justify its higher prices."

    By funding more objective [adti.net] "studies" [theregister.co.uk], no doubt?

  • by Nakito (702386) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:31PM (#9741558)
    Silverberg says, "In the past Microsoft was the low cost solution and Microsoft was then competing and attacking expensive proprietary systems from below."

    In the realm of personal computers, I do not think this observation is accurate at all. Microsoft's approach was not to compete on price in the normal sense of the word. Rather, Microsoft's approach was to bundle applications with the operating system. Since these applications and utilities were thus already "paid for" (or included for "free" in people's minds), people had less incentive to buy competing applications, even though the competing applications were often better.

    I think the distinction is important. If a particular application becomes popoular, Microsoft just rolls a copy of it into the OS, thereby gutting the market for that application. How many people buy Eudora anymore? Or Netscape? Or Trumpet Winsock? This is not the same thing as competing on price.
    • by prostoalex (308614) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:36PM (#9741616) Homepage Journal
      You're thinking of late-day Microsoft. The early-day Microsoft was often a pretty reasonable solution in terms of price.

      WordStar and WordPerfect charged plenty for the word processors, plus if you wanted spell-check, that thing alone would cost you extra $300 or so. Then Microsoft came around with Word, which wasn't all great, but sufficiently functional and way cheaper.

      The same with Windows NT - Novell is jumping the Linux bandwagon now only because it got its ass kicked by early Windows NT sales, which made Novell look way over-priced. True, early Novell was technologically superior to early Windows NT, but as the market expanded, NT got better and Novell became the bottom-feeder.
    • by SpooForBrains (771537) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:44PM (#9741711)
      Well, then, what happened to this strategy? Office doens't come bundled with Windows, in fact I don't know if it ever did.

      When you buy a well packaged linux distribution, on the other hand, it comes with a software package for (as far as possible) every application already covered. Since installing SuSE 9.1 I can't recall having to download a single package, excepting mplayer for DVD playback support, and there are very good reasons why that's not included in the package.

      In fact, this is an arguement that is increasingly being used by Linux advocates (like myself) who argue that the total cost of installation is considerably lower than a Windows setup with all the applications required.
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:32PM (#9741569) Journal
    I think it case could be made that very few people actually benefited from Microsoft's success that weren't inside of Microsoft. Yeah sure, a few developers here and there who made some apps, but most of them were then bought up by Microsoft (see: Visio). I think Microsoft is struggling, because for the first time they're having to actually sell their software on its merits. The customer has real choices. They can use Open Office that costs them nothing, or they can spend alot of money on Microsoft Office. Microsoft has to convince those people who use 1% of their products functionality that the product is worth the cost. As free or low cost alternatives come of age, that argument gets harder.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CmdrTostado (653672)
      **snip** very few people actually benefited from Microsoft's success **snip**

      I can buy a good personal computer for $500, and I am sure the price would have never came down to this level if someone hadn't come out with a universal operating system, with ease of use, to drive consumer demand, and therefore hardware production to the high levels we see today. In 1990 I could walk into WalMart and play a game on a computer(Solitaire), having very little experience with anything other than BASIC on a TRS80 b
  • huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why do people act as if Microsoft's ship is sinking? Is MS not GAINING in the server market? I could swear it was. Is MS not DOMINATING the desktop market? I could swear it was. Have I suddenly awoken in the fabled "Year of Linux"?

    The only market MS seems to be slipping in is the web browser market. Even there, with 2(+?) years of doing nothing to improve their browser, they dominate the market.
    • Re:huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why do people act as if Microsoft's ship is sinking?

      Because Microsoft is afraid. Microsoft has campaigns where Microsoft is telling that is it better than Linux. Microsoft is saying bad things about Linux. Now, ask your self. Why is Microsoft doing this if they are standing on solid ground?
    • Re:huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is MS not GAINING in the server market?

      No, just more servers sold! Look we already replaced 2 entire racks this year, not 1 server came with a preinstalled OS.

  • by nkntr (583297) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:33PM (#9741586)
    Microsoft, the (one time) king of software, believes it's own BS. The fact of the matter is, whatever the kids (high school and college) use is where the industry is going. Forget TCO and stuff like this. Back in the days of Windows 3.1, you could easily make the installation disks, and give them to your school mates and buddies, and so all the local kids had a copy. Sure, Apple was in the schools, but kids couldn't afford Apple (Macintosh) OS, so people stayed with Microsoft. Well, hello XP and such, where each and every user has to register.. kids can't get their hands on it and pass it around and such anymore. Enter Linux... :) In my opinion, Linux is going to win because kids can get it cheap, College students can get it cheap, and it is the kids that drives the next wave of OS's, not the price or TCO.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:35PM (#9741613)
      If the kids are smart enough to know about linux.. theyre most certainly in the know enough to pass around a pirated copy of windows.
      • by nkntr (583297) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:42PM (#9741681)
        I don't know. The reason I wrote my comment was due to observation. I was outside the computer science department at a local junior college and overheard a discussion.. one kid was asking another kid where he could get an os for the computer he had just pieced together. The knowledeable kid suggested Linux...free and cool and it's against the evil empire Microsoft. Well, as far as I know, they went away and loaded Linux. If it happens once, how many times does it happen? I just remember back when I was in college and having this exact same discussion about Mac and Windows, and I proved my point by making a set of disks and handing them the guy arguing with me and said "do that with a mac". Of course, he could not.
        • nkntr [slashdot.org] wrote:


          I just remember back when I was in college and having this exact same discussion about Mac and Windows, and I proved my point by making a set of disks and handing them the guy arguing with me and said "do that with a mac". Of course, he could not.

          Not that I really disagree with your conclusion, but this part of your argument is bullshit. 'Back in the day' making boot disks for MacOS was as easy as pie.

          Up until System 7.5 MacOS came on only a half dozen disks, without any kind of copy-pr

    • by Redrover5545 (795810) <r.geoghegan@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:47PM (#9741748)
      Yeah, but most kids these days are interested in computers for one reason: games. And as long as all games will be released on the windows platform (including cracked versons of Windows XP), kids will keep on using windows.
    • "Back in the days of Windows 3.1, you could easily make the installation disks, and give them to your school mates and buddies, and so all the local kids had a copy."

      That much is true. The fact that Linux is easier to distribute will certainly help it become more prevalant amongst kids and student types that can't afford to purchase new OSes every year or two.

      "In my opinion, Linux is going to win because kids can get it cheap, College students can get it cheap, and it is the kids that drives the next
    • >The fact of the matter is, whatever the kids (high school and college) use is where the industry is going.

      You don't think kids want to play PC games? And what about IM? Run XP to get the latest IM functionality (try to get the webcam running in the MS IM on Linux. Now try it with XP)

      And have you've seen MS seminars at colleges? They give away the OS and compilers.

      >Forget TCO and stuff like this.

      Business methology isn't going to change in 20 years. You will still need to justify decisions and
  • Why vrs Why Not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:33PM (#9741588)
    Why? - Because MS filled a need, a need for businesses to become more productive.

    Why Not? - Because they are no longer meeting all IT needs, in fact they are basically the problem. Security is more important today.

  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:34PM (#9741596) Homepage
    Microsoft has expanded into many markets that they didn't need to. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is even pragmatic, but it is not conducive toward encouraging others to prosper with you. The truth is that Microsoft has merely allowed others to live. It's easier to let Adobe exist than to build a competitor to Photoshop, but Microsoft has the resources to do it.

    Look at how with Longhorn they're systematically attacking Macromedia by going after Flash and Shockwave. They're already trying to demolish Dreamweaver and if they take out Flash, Shockwave and Dreamweaver then Macromedia will be at best a shadow of its former self.

    The problem with Microsoft's attitude of "only the paranoid survive" is that it causes companies to see competitors where they don't really exist. Netscape didn't compete with Microsoft and a business agreement with Netscape probably would have worked better. Same thing with Java. Microsoft should have worked hard to be "the best Java platform provider, period." If Microsoft did that then no one would want to run Java on any OS other than Windows because anything else would be second rate.

    The only thing Microsoft needs now is an answer to IBM Global Services. Unfortunately they're too busy attacking the trees to realize that the forest is moving in to kill them. Linux is just a few trees in the greater non-Microsoft forest that IBM GS is the vanguard of. The stronger they get, the weaker Microsoft's position gets, and IBM is playing hardball with Microsoft here.
    • by Mr_Huber (160160) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:55PM (#9741850) Homepage
      I believe you are incorrect. Both Netscape and Java were deadly competitors to Microsoft and, by their philosophy, nothing was to be spared in crushing these companies.

      Netscape presented the vision of making the operating system irrelevant. Let's look at two of the most popular software products of the last few years: Google and Amazon. Yes, these are software products and each is completely platform agnostic. When I use Google or Amazon on Linux running Firefox, I get the exact same user experience as I get on Windows using IE. If this trend had continued, with the browser and its associated control of the user interface firmly in the hands of Netscape, Microsoft's monopoly position as the operating system of choice would have been lost.

      Java was a danger due to a similar argument. Windows is popular because the most popular applications run on it. If Java delivered on its promise of platform independence, a whole new class of killer applications could have arose that were independant of the operating system. Microsoft would then no longer be the operating system of choice. Worse, it would not be the choice for the developers making new killer apps.

      Killing Netscape and Java were not paranoid manoevers, they were carefully considered and rational defenses of one of Microsoft's two core strengths, the Operating System. Combined with the other strength: Office, Microsoft presents a huge barrier to entry for anyone attempting to wrest monopoly control over desktop computers from Microsoft.

      The problem for Microsoft is they took out the companies, not the ideas. By the time they noticed, the idea of a universal browser was too well entrenched to go away. They have not yet succeeded in converting the Internet to a Microsoft only product (despite the best efforts of ActiveX and IIS).

      Building a better Java is not an answer. At some point, the competitors would catch up to a standard such as a language, then how could Microsoft compete? Add features? To Sun's language?

      And what happens when someone reimplements 80% of Office in Java? And suppose this new version runs just as nicely on Windows as, say, Mac? What's to keep people on Windows then?

      No, these companies had to die. Nothing else would defend Microsoft's monopoly. That they attacked these companies is unfortunate, but part of our system of business. That they did so by exploiting their monopoly position is illegal and should have got them more severly punished.
  • by DeadVulcan (182139) <dead...vulcan@@@pobox...com> on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:34PM (#9741602)

    There is a lot of emotion and a lot of psychology in the market and I think we are starting to see some of that again. We are encouraged that the market is growing warmer, but it is not time to throw caution to the wind.

    Oh, that's good to hear. I just need my advisor to tell me when it is time to throw caution to the wind.

    Wheeeee!!

  • by Giant Ape Skeleton (638834) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:38PM (#9741639) Homepage
    From the article:

    "What really propelled Microsoft Windows success was an ecosystem that they created that allowed other people to benefit from your success."

    I think that MSFT has in fact figured this out, and that's why they devote so much technology and marketing talent into Windows as a development platform.

    Say what you will about Windows as an operating system, but the application development toolchain is really, really slick.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2004 @07:07PM (#9742678)
      I've been programming for close to 30 years now, and I used to say the same thing about MS development platforms. Well I realized one day that I was spending 80% of my time coding around the crap that MS intentionally puts into their code to keep me from writing something that would compete with what they have. Sure if you are only writing front-ends to access db's or just duct taping objects together VB and Delphi are excellent tools (though I prefer writing the db front-ends as web applications myself because it offers a more heterogeneous approach.). As you grow more programming skills you will learn that their tools (although shiney and pretty up front) actually get in the way of writing code that will still be in use 10 or 15 years from now. Most business dont like the idea of having to completely rewrite code every 2 years because MS decides to change the API's so that developers have to go out and buy a new version of Visual C++. This whole backward compatability thing is a red herring if MS wouldnt keep changing their API's there would be no backward compatibility issue. Old programs would just not be able to take advantantage of new functionality.
    • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Monday July 19, 2004 @10:38PM (#9744481) Journal
      Say what you will about Windows as an operating system, but the application development toolchain is really, really slick.

      I admit that I have less experience with Microsoft's tools than I do with with the Linux ones. However, I was fairly unimpressed with what I saw. Perhaps I'm missing something -- I'd love to be enlightened, as I see a number of MS people talking about how great the MS development environment is, but it seems to, well, kind of suck to me.

      * The build configuration manager in Visual Studio is not very good. You create a new build (I think the defaults in a new project are "Debug" and "Release"), but if you want to maintain several configurations (Build, Release, non-GUI, etc), it gets to be a pain in the ass, and you have to copy options around from configuration to configuration. GNU make is much more flexible.

      * A number of people seem to like the editor. I'll concede that it has a reasonably nice interface for completion, but I use xemacs as my editor, and Visual Studio really does not compare, now that I have xemacs set up *just* so. xemacs has similar completion (though without the argument descriptions and with an indexing pass) via etags.

      * I've gotten errors/warnings during compilation from VS that I've found unclear before. I will concede that this may just a matter of the fact that I am very familiar with gcc and know its warnings well.

      * VS apparently has a debugger that lets you modify code at the source level while debugging (that's one heck of a hack). Haven't played with it, but a few people have spoken of it positively, so I'll fly with it there.

      * As GNU make runs, it prints out all the commands that it is executing. If a build step fails, you can see exactly what command was executing and what previous commands did. I've had times when Visual Studio said something like "Tool Command Failed", and I was reduced to commentin out lines in the pre- or post- build environment until the errors changed to determine what was going wrong.

      * VS creates a ton of temporary and other files when you create projects. That's a little annoying.

      * Pre-.NET version of VS use pseudo-text project files (.dsw). They *look* like text files, but VS cannot handle alternate line terminators on them. This is a pain when checking files into a CVS repository.

      * I've had VS crash on me a during builds or other activity fair number of times. I haven't had gcc, GNU make, or xemacs crash on me in a long time.

      * Free or bundled-with-VS diagnostic tools on Windows are relatively poor. I've cobbled together a set of tools that I generally use on Windows (filemon, regmon, Dependency Walker), but they don't really compare to the excellent free diagnostic software available for Linux.

      * RAD tools -- I'm not a big fan of the Access or other RAD tool interfaces in Microsoft's development tools, but then I don't like glade and friends much either, so I can't really call out either.

      I dunno. I'm just curious as to what I'm missing that people think is so fantastic.
  • Commodity Value (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:40PM (#9741663)


    '...What really propelled Microsoft Windows success was an ecosystem that they created that allowed other people to benefit from your success. Actually your success was really a side effect or byproduct of their own success.'


    Let's not forget that Windows was also running on commodity hardware. In the early years, it wasn't "Windows" - it was Mac or PC. People were buying a platform with all the advantages of commodity hardware; price, selection, customization, etc. The PC platform had considerable draw from the market. It was able to provide value to customers that previous proprietary computing products lacked. And in the end, the commodity platform "won".

    That's not to say Microsoft didn't do a good job with supporting developers. They did better than Apple in many ways. But in those days, that simply ensured that "Killer App Version 2.0" was available for the "PC" as well as other platforms.

    The real success for Windows was in it's being the catalyst for commoditization of the hardware market. And then riding the ensuing wave.

    Now we're facing a possible next wave in IT; commoditization of the OS. Microsoft would clearly have issues with this. And they would rather fight it than try and ride this one too (or at least not start paddling for it until the very last minute). It's interesting to see that one notable who was plowed under by the earlier wave is now trying to set up to ride this one; IBM.
  • Har (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:41PM (#9741664)
    What really propelled Microsoft Windows success was an ecosystem that they created that allowed other people to benefit from your success.
    Bah humbug. What propelled Microsoft Windows sucess was preloads, pure and simple. Without the preload deals that they made, Microsoft would be just another name in the history books.

    As long as Windows continues to be preloaded on a majority of machines, Windows will continue to sell (duh) and some of their apps will continue to sell.

    On another note...

    Now that Microsoft has expanded into so many different areas there is reluctance from some developers to continue to invest in a Microsoft platform because they wonder how do they build a business? How does it become their business and not Microsoft's business?
    Ha! I remember a sentence in 'Undocumented DOS' so many years ago: "Your product may be a DLL in the next version of Windows." So the developers are finally wising up, eh? About fucking time.
    • Re:Har (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What propelled Microsoft Windows sucess was preloads, pure and simple. Without the preload deals that they made, Microsoft would be just another name in the history books.

      So why don't you start your own Linux company and preload your stuff? You should be rich by about Wednesday, judging your expertise in the field.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:41PM (#9741675) Homepage Journal
    Presenting The Lord of the OS featuring:

    Bill Gates as The Dark Lord (aka Sauron)
    Microsoft Corp as Mordor
    Balmer, et al as The Nine
    Linus Torvalds as Elrond
    RMS as Gandalf
    Tux as Frodo
    Microsoft Windows (TM) as The One Ring
    and Darl McBride as Gollum

    Sorry, just thought of the parallelism while I was R'ing TFA.

  • Paradigm change (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:44PM (#9741713)
    How many times has this been written? MSFT is the master of the binary CDROM release code. But its not a binary CDROM release world anymore. Its a world of ASCII-based protocols accessing the most important services over the network against constantly evolving codebases, which are more often than not free and open.

    If MSFT really wanted to latch on to the future they would buy Yahoo, Google or Ebay. The era of anyone really caring that much about a document editor (enough tp pay gobs of cash for it) are over.

  • by fluor2 (242824) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:47PM (#9741759)
    Microsoft:

    1980: "Every house should have its own MS OS home-computer"
    1990: "Every house should have its own MS OS home-computer, and every company should have our server system"
    2000: "Every house should have its own MS OS home-computer, every company should have our server system, and every large-scale company should replace their existing UNIX systems with our stuff"

    Linux:

    2000: "Every company have our server system, and every large-scale company are replacing their existing UNIX systems with our stuff. Now how about this thought: Shouldnt every house have its own Linux home-computer?"

    Linux is allready there at all levels, except for the average home-computer.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:49PM (#9741772) Homepage Journal
    Have falling sales due to open source? How about changing your 95% profit margin to a 50% profit margin?
  • by lcsjk (143581) on Monday July 19, 2004 @05:54PM (#9741842)
    The reason for MS's success is that they had a useable system that would work for most people. Then, they starting upgrading and forcing use of upgrades by requiring companies to preload and sell only the newer versions (which were not backwards compatible but could easily have been).

    This "forced" revenue stream continued until just recently when some companies started preloading Linux. MS no longer controls the forced upgrade market. If they stop supporting their older systems now, the 'big' users will start investigating other lower cost operating systems. MS is threatened by Linux because people do not like to be controlled and basically extorted.

  • ...by doing what Apple did: Build your wimpy OS on top of something strong, like BSD, Linux, or some other flavor of *NIX.

    I keep saying this and I am surprised that MS is not going that route somehow. I thought for sure that this Longhorn project would be some sort of MS implementation of *NIX. (Not Xenix).

    We all know MS can do it if they wanted. We also know they like to copy Apple (Look at WIN 95)....it makes so much sense, from MS' perspective, I cannot fathom why MS doesn't build it's next version of
  • by defishguy (649645) on Monday July 19, 2004 @06:03PM (#9741945) Journal
    Microsoft never put RTFM on technet!
  • this article alluded to evolution I cant help think of microsoft as the archosour postosuchus [bbc.co.uk] and the various linuxes/bsd's as coelophysis [bbc.co.uk] competing for space in the late triassic (220 million years ago) as shown in the bbc's walking with dinosaurs [bbc.co.uk]. The fight for users is hotting up with the nimble carnivorous open source systems eating away at application space and users.

    the fact they (MS) dont get it doesn't really surprise anyone. I don't think MS is worried so much about the techno~weenies for example

  • by Krunaldo (779385) on Monday July 19, 2004 @06:52PM (#9742515) Homepage Journal
    These words have server a lot of people well and it should serve MS well to.

    As many here have said, Linux won't go away.
    So if MS can't make Linux go away they should simply become like IBM. With there power they could really influence the Open Source community in any direction they want.
    The first step is to port Office to linux(it's already working on mac os X, so that wouldn't be to hard to port). Then you make a killer GUI that will smash Apple's aqua to bits and finaly stopping all those switchers from the x86.
    The important thing is to keep people on the x86 with office, Space GUI(space is cold and dark you know , gotta keep there old image ;)or whatever they want to name it and linux (The kernel that rules the x86 ;)).
    Then when they are the employers of 90% of the linux kernel coders (which they surely will be).
    Now they have the power to control the way linux moves.
    Becuse they employ the mayority of the kernel and surely most of the developers to X and all the other important liberaries.
    Now they can optimize the whole system for there killer GUI, office, smb(Don't remember the real name of the protocol :(), misc apps.

    And they can become the biggest distro :D.

    Ofcourse they have to do this slowly, phase out windows first in the server area then in the coperate area and last the homes.

    They have to understand that there kernel is CRAP and would cost more money to develop to a better kernel then linux then to use the linux kernel.

    Remember, there are som really great minds employed by MS. They just need to let them lose.

  • by easyfrag (210329) on Monday July 19, 2004 @08:58PM (#9743639)
    When they bought the cool Outlook searching tool Lookout it looks as though they bought into some open source components [dashes.com] as well.
  • by johnrpenner (40054) on Monday July 19, 2004 @09:04PM (#9743680) Homepage

    > your success was really a side effect or byproduct of their own success

    that's why its called 'the collective'... ;->

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