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Microsoft Porting Applications To Linux (Really!) 616

Erbo writes "We've heard the rumors before, more times than we can count, but this time WinInfo claims they're true: Microsoft is working with Mainsoft in Israel and a small French development team to port their apps to Linux, and possibly other Unices. No estimates on availability, of course. Their strategy seems to be to use an "Office for Linux" as a bridge to Windows, similar to Mac Office."
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Microsoft Porting Applications To Linux (Really!)

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  • It's a shame it won't occur to anyone outside the geek community that the reason MICROS~1 can't port Office to Linux is that they can't write anything in an environment where they can't freely hack the OS to get around problems.
    Ah, it's right in front of you, and yet you don't see it: of course they can hack the OS. This is GNU/Linux, remember?

    Sure, Microsoft will release Office for GNU/Linux. It will run, but not very well... perhaps even worse than its native environment. And Microsoft will say, "Well, we tried, folks, but apparently Linux isn't ready for the world's most popular productivity suite. But we're real nice fellas, and we're innovative, see? So we'll see what we can do." And a year will pass, and doubt will creep upon the computing world like an ivy, and a few bold columnists will wonder if perhaps this was yet another of Microsoft's failed technology/business (they are one and the same, in Redmond) ventures.

    And then, rumours. Rumours are nothing unusual in this industry, but not always something to ignore. A keen ear can almost see the future by keeping abuzz of the Silicon Valley grapevine.

    "Did you hear? Microsoft will be releasing a new product soon..." "...supposedly some sort of competition for Apple's Mac OS X, that new Unix-workalike OS which..." "...been making a real comeback, yeah. It's like there's some sorta renaissance in the Unix world. I mean, with OS X, and then..." "...GNU/Linux has been slowly gaining a foothold, too. Remember when Microsoft tried to port..." "...What? You say the new OS won't be Windows? What could possibly..." "...trying to take part of the server market from Sun and IBM. They've got some nerve, after that business with the DoJ."

    The rumours continue for another year and a half, and then Microsoft amazes, intrigues, and impresses all by releasing their first non-Windows OS in over a decade: Microsoft Xenix 2005. It's SVR4... embraced and extended, of course. Can run your old NT software in "NT-compatibility mode", but is a full-featured UNIX development and server environment. The MCSEs will rally in their dank little holes ("How dare they expect us to learn a real operating system!"), but their spirits were broken after the Microsoft breakup in 2001, in which Microsoft Office Applications and Microsoft Internet Services were split from the OS division. And so what if the Xenix 2005 feels just a little too much like GNU/Linux? If pressed, Microsoft can just say they used some FreeBSD code... and never have to prove anything else, thanks to their license. Sure, maybe they used a little Linux code (and maybe some Sun code, too; isn't Solaris supposed to be partially open-sourced in the next year? ;), but why should we fight them? They're Microsoft, and we love them.

    Microsoft Operating Systems, flanked by its brothers Applications and Internet Services will slowly destroy their compeition, but instead of putting them out of business, they'll absorb them. Of course Microsoft/Oracle10i runs best on Xenix! Ditto with Microsoft EGCS. (Yep, they got FSF too.) And it all performs best on IBMicroSun hardware. And who will stop them? No one. Not the Federal government, who changed the country's name to the United Slaves of Microsoft in 2016. One day, every being on this planet will pay tribute to Wilhelm Gates the XVIII in their own soul. For what is a soul compared to the chance to use Microsoft Xenix 2172, whose paperclip pal gives you your daily schedule with a wry grin? ("10:20 - Act subserviant.") Where do you want to go today, bitch?

    All generalizations are false.

  • Last semester, I was working on a report (in Japanese) for my Japanese class using Word 2000. The cluster machines running Word 2000 with special input method editors had no problem, but my roommate's copy of Word 2000 had some problems. The Unicode characters displayed perfectly, but Word crashed when I wanted to print them. I had to trudge back across campus just to make one minor change and reprint the document.
  • C'mon folks -- MS Office and all its proprietary ilk are a short term threat for three reasons:
    1. For any sufficiently popular class of application, free alternatives will be developed.
    2. At least one free alternative will eventually be "good enough" for the majority of users.
    3. As application classes mature, it becomes harder and harder for proprietary software developers to find meaningful new features to add; ergo, the free alternatives will always achieve parity with their commercial equivalents.
    In the end, proprietary software ceases to have any advantage over free software. While this will probably seldom apply to more specialized software, it will be the rule for general purpose apps. In many cases, we already have parity except for the interface. Lout's typesetting engine is vastly superior to MS Word's engine, but no one has yet written a WYSIWYG front end for it. PostgreSQL and MySQL can outperform flippin' Access, but no one has yet written a RAD tool for them. And Gnumeric is within a hair's breadth of kicking Excel's hairy arse, and can arguably be said to have reached the "good enough" stage. And Evolution will almost certainly blow past Outlook, if you're into that sort of thing.

    We have a way to go, but MS would have to purchase enough congressmen to outlaw free software to prevent what is otherwise inevitable.

  • Nothing more annoying than receiving a word document in pine.

    In fact, nothing more annoying than receiving a word document. ;-)

    Seriously, amen to that... I just send 'em back. Saving them to your home directory, either mounting a windows partition and mv-ing the .doc or ftping them from the server under windows, booting windows, if you've got it, and praying you've got the right version of Word installed is just a little too bothersome to do often.

    Happily, I've never worked in a situation where people customarily mailed me .doc files, so I can afford to cop an attitude. My condolences.

  • Hmmm, a test version of a pre-release 2.4 kernel isn't stable? Go figure....
  • Red Hat Is Not Linux. []

    (But Microsoft would probably favor it anyway. "Awww, how cute! It's like Windows for Linux users!")

    All generalizations are false.

  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @01:07PM (#850643) Homepage
    Defending their 'freedom to innovate' for so long, it's nice to see they're actually doing something innovative.

    It'd be nice to have a modern cross-Win/Mac/Unix office software package (and emacs doesn't count).

    I'm looking forward to see what atrocities they try to implement in X11 just to get suchandsuch widget performing in exactly the way they want.

    Kevin Fox
  • Totally agree with the comment about Microsoft coders actually knowing how to write stuff outside of the Windows environment.

    I got to try Outlook Express for Solaris recently. It did work. But the default window size was too small. Tried resizing it, nada. Can't move it around either.

    Yeah, that's functional.

    "Nothing is so smiple that it can't be screwed up."
  • I used to be opposed to this whole "software subscription" thing, but I'm having second thoughts. There are some applications I'd buy outright, but when it comes down to it, there are a lot of applications I don't use often enough to warrant replacing with current versions except every 2-3 releases.

    Think of it this way, if I use, say, Corel Draw for 20 hours per year @ $5 per hour (I'm just guessing at pricing and billing here), I spend $100 per year on it. If I buy Corel Draw, it might cost me $350 -- I can use it all I want, but I can't afford to replace it when they release the "new" version six months later and stop bugfixing the one I bought. If I replace my copy every two years just to keep pace with bugfixes and OS updates, I'm spending $175 per year -- far more than it would cost me at a "subscription" level where I can always run the most current version.

    There's lots of wiggle room here, but it's kind of a win-win for everybody. Corel gets a more stable revenue stream and business from customers they might not get because the one-time purchase price is relatively high. I get access to a current software version without laying out a huge amount of cash all at once.

    I'm hoping that the subscription model isn't excessively greedy -- I'd like to see software vendors licensing their applications to lots of ASPs, as its the only way we'll see innovative pricing models. I'd also like to see old versions of applications available for metered usage at 1/2 or less of the current version pricing.

    Anyway, I think there's some room to be hopeful here. When I think about the zillion old versions of software that I spent a lot of money on and didn't use much, application renting sounds smart to me. Of course there's still room for the vendors to just rape us, but I don't think that's necessarily a given.

  • Don't kid yourself, people will still buy copies of MS Office for Linux if it comes out. Corporations that have some employees who use Linux and some who use MS Windows will buy licenses if only to ensure that 1 document format is in use throughout the business.

    Besides, as someone pointed out elsewhere, this is probably being done as a hedge against the possibility that the DOJ will succeed in their case against MS and the company WILL be broken up into two competing companies. If that happens, then the applications half of MS will no longer have complete access to the source for the various flavours of Windows. If they do it now, then if they get broken up the applications division is ready to take on the Linux desktop as a market as well. Its an awfully small market now, but if things keep going the way they are at the moment with Linux, it will become a large enough market for MS to want to play in and dominate.

  • how difficult will it be to port the Blue Screen of Death?

  • LOL, very good point. I'm primarily a UNIX goon, so when I recently started using NT5, I assumed that "Administrator" was like root: it lets you do anything, and because of this should not be used for normal everyday apps. I was half right. Turns out that I couldn't run most of my games (one of the major reasons I have a Microsoft platform around at all!) without being part of the "Administrator" group. Why the hell can't Diablo II find my CD-ROM unless I'm a superuser? Methinks DirectX 7 was thrown into NT5 at the last second. ;) It pisses me off. For instance, I use Outlook Express, because I think it's an awesome mail client, but I get nervous as hell reading my mail as root... what if ILOVEYOUTOO does more than kill my MP3s and reproduce? That's poor software design. (Should I be surprised?) I could care less about Microsoft's innovate implementation of Kerberos. I just want them to think about the basic stuff. Once you get that right, go ahead and innovate all you want. Shite.

    Microsoft Credo: Even real programmers can't always get security right, so let's not even bother trying. Instead, distract users by designing new, worthless, innovative features. Or, if that proves too difficult (thinking is hard!!), we'll buy some for you.

    And the customer's reaction: Hmmm, Explorer still crashes just like it did in Windows 98. So much for NT being so stable and... hey, look! The Start Menu has a new fading effect! That's so fucking cool! I just love Windows 2000!

    All generalizations are false.

  • "And who should enforce these penalties? An overpowerful government that is suddenly in control of the software market? Sorry...that's
    probably not what you want."

    Why not? regulation is not the same thing as control of the market is it. The government mandates auto safety, airline safety, elevator safety, food safety and zillions of other things so that corporations can't kill, maim, or enslave as many people as they want to. Why is the software industy so special that it alone should be free from government regulation?

    A Dick and a Bush .. You know somebody's gonna get screwed.

  • No no no... "(!Windows && !MacOS)".

    All generalizations are false.

  • UF was funny until Illiad sold out to SuSE.

    And that damn new "Geek Groupie" (i.e., want to appear smart but nothing intelligent to say) messageboard just pisses me off. I stopped reading a week after they started that crap. I quickly got annoyed with scrolling down and seeing insightful comments such as "Wow, geeks are so cool! Lnuix (whatever) rools! =) P.S. - Pitr is awesome!" and then about a thousand "I agree!!!!" replies. Sure, I didn't have to scroll down... but it's like a car crash. A '79 Chevy Stupidity colliding with a '92 Mitsubishi Poseur.

    All generalizations are false.

  • hmm, i see a lot of people confusing Microsoft OS and Microsoft Applications.

    If the split up happens, the M$ Applications groups might want to consider a port.
    Or not even a port, but a desktop replacement for X. Instead of startx, imagine cough...

    Maybe I'm just thinking windows 3.1.

  • The question therefore would be how Microsoft could change Linux sufficiently so that MS Office would only run on their version.

    Fortunately, for Linuxers, they can't. Any changes that they make to the kernel or any of the system libraries would require that they also release source code to their changes. Sure, they would almost certainly need to create their own libraries for things like win32 and such, but that would just mean that the Linuxer that wanted to run Office on his Debian GNU/Linux box would need to copy Office and the other necessary libs over to his Debian box.

    I suppose that it is theoretically possible that they could change the license to MS Office for Linux so that it was only legal to run it on MS Linux, but that wouldn't make it any less technically possible to run MS Office for Linux on your distribution of choice, it would only make it illegal to do so.

    It goes without saying that Microsoft won't release MS Office under the GPL, but that doesn't mean that it won't work under any Linux distribution with the right set of libraries. Heck, my guess is that within a week MS Office for Linux would run on FreeBSD.

    Of course, this is all just fun and games. Microsoft isn't going to release MS Office for Linux, if they are behind this particular story (which is doubtful) they are simply doing it to cut down industry enthusiasm for Sun's new GPLed StarOffice. An announcement like this is just the thing to freeze deployment of StarOffice on Linux. After all, why waste time deploying StarOffice on your Linux boxes when "in just a bit" you can have MS Office?

    Not that I would personally rate this particular story very high above a net hoax. One anonymous developer somewhere in Israel does not convince me that Microsoft has seen the light. Especially since this move would almost certainly seriously undercut Microsofts hopes for Windows 2000 on everyone's desktop.

  • by Restil ( 31903 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @12:24PM (#850673) Homepage
    I have been playing around with wine and the latest releases work VERY well with office. Running word, you cannot tell you're not sitting on a windows box. Excel also works great with a few minor cosmetic problems. Powerpoint still needs a bit of work, but its getting REALLY close.
    If wine becomes 100% effective for Office, then there may ben no real reason to hold out for a port, which probably won't occur anytime in the near future anyways.

    BTW, this was tested with office 97, not 2k. I haven't tried it with 2k yet.

  • So your argument is, it's a bad thing if Microsoft brings Linux users another choice, because they may take it away again later? I don't really buy that. You're not talking about them being able to take away anything we've got, only something we haven't got. Even "legitimacy" is a real stretch.

    Let's say Office does legitimize Linux in some people's minds (rather like hood ornaments legitimizing cars, but never mind that). Great. So P more people move to Linux than would have, and C more companies move to support it than would have. Now let's say Microsoft yanks Office... whom do we lose? P/X people and C/Y companies, where both X and Y > 1.

    This degree of blackmail might not work on RMS types but there is a level where it is frightening.

    In fact, it presumably wouldn't work on anyone who presently develops for Linux, since they already see fit to do so without Microsoft's badge of legitimacy. Maybe it'd intimidate some half-assed opportunisic newcomers; who cares? Maybe it could even work on the likes of Red Hat... that won't darken my day.

    I sympathize with you; MS certainly hasn't been good to the Apple community. But we have nothing to fear. There's no central point to attack, no board of directors to intimidate, no stockholders to panic. Unless MS decides to send hit men after Linux, Alan & Co., I'd say there's not that much they can do.

  • That baby's doing quite well given its prior death sentence.

    They might be able to convince a company or two to do some baby knifing, causing some funding to get cut. Overall though, most of the companies that are behind this baby are really fucking pissed at Microsoft and will no doubt take immense personal pleasure in seeing Microsoft try to face off the 10,000 pound angry baby that they want to create.

    In other words, they've got very little influence with anyone on those dev teams.

  • Mainsoft has been working on Windows-to-Unix solutions for some time

    And its "solutions" sucked all that time even more than Windows.

  • Dammit, you didn't have a thing to say... you just wanted to brag about the new boxen... not that I blame you. :)

    Seems like a pity to get all that hardware and then put frickin' Red Hat on it. Let me guess... it's some sort of support issue, right? Because the box is for work? If I were getting a new box it'd be Slackware, or possibly Debian (or more likely than both, FreeBSD)... unless it had more than four CPUs, in which case I would use Solaris or HP-UX. (For my needs as a workstation, real UNIX is usually too much... but once you get past four CPUs, using GNU/Linux is sort of silly, IMHO.)

    Oh, wait, I forgot, we're talking about your new shite. :) Have fun.

    All generalizations are false.

  • But then, by your logic, if a guy has the right to tell anybody anything they want, I have the right to tell them I couldn't care less about their opinion. Careful about double standards.

    So who are you to tell me what I can and cannot say, while criticizing me for doing the same?

  • They'd be sacrificing a lot more than they'd gain. MS tried the UNIX thing once before and we all know where that effort ended up. Most of the people running Linux now would not trust Microsoft, nor would the companies forging relationships to bring neat stuff to Linux.

    More to the point, the suddenly mixed signals would cause a significant amount of confusion in the marketplace. They'd be artifically splitting the market between radically different OSes and would run the risk of increeasing the flow of customers in the UNIX direction. They'd rapidly fall behind the mainline kernel in terms of features, and they'd antagonize a significant amount of the community. They don't need any of that sort of trouble, especially with the fed ready to crawl up their ass with a microscope. And if they make one little mistake in the context of dealing with the GPL, the community would no doubt demand that they open up their entire source tree. They don't want to risk that. No one wants to risk that.

    Moreover they'd be running the risk of their customers running mainline Linux apps on their systems. You can't make a system completely incompatable overnight or no one would use it. So some customers might try gnome out and like it. Then when the next service pack breaks it, those customers might move to a more "standard" Linux. They don't want to risk that either.

    Finally there's the question of the current court decision against them. If the supreme court upholds that, there'll be some question as to what the software side (Which will be the threat) will be able to do in the operating system arena. I'm guessing, nothing.

  • I think in the outer areas of the ice, they were only in ice up to their heads. In the inner areas, they were completely encased. I think.

    With Satan, of course, stuck in the center up to his waist, chewing on three people in particular. Lovely. :-)

  • Well, I just looked at the binaries and shared libraries and stuff on IE 5.0 for HP-UX, and I didn't see any references to CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT, but I did find lots and lots of debug symbols for what seem to be Win32 API calls. Meaning, of course, that Microsoft merely ported some portion of the Win32 API to UNIX.

  • Oh yeah, I should point out, to be on topic, that IE 5.0 Unix has this statement in the copyright: "Unix version contains code from Mainsoft"

  • Mainsoft have had a "wine-like" framework for porting Windows apps to Unix for years. In spite of its existence, almost all applications need some work on top of the basic use of that package, and it is this that takes all the development time, as the semantics of certain Win32 calls are very hard to reproduce on Unix. This presumably is what they are doing with Office just now.

    From what I here, a great deal of code in the Office apps is specific to office, and not available to other apps, simply because its not OS functionality, but office specific functionality.

    Incidentally: Mainsoft is an NT source licensee. Given that MS may not be reluctant to show them office source as well.
  • I didn't mean that, FreeBSD and MacOS X aren't competing. However, even though MacOS X is based on FreeBSD, and the changes they put in are OSS, the two are incompatible. That's what would happen if MS decided to "embrace and extend" Linux. Linux wouldn't be taken over, it would just lose relevance. People would program for the new MS-Linux, MS would have a super-stable new platform, and outside the free-software/dedicated OSS people community, Linux would lose relevance. Any apps written for this new MS-Linux wouldn't run on regular Linux, thus MS will have taken a challenger (Linux), embraced it, extended it, and killed (effectivly, imagine Linux's position 3 or 4 years ago) it.
  • I hate to point out the obvious, but this (anti-trust) is probably the only reason they bother to port Office to MacOS.

    After all, Apple only had 11% of the US Market in its heyday. I suspect it's somewhere near that now, but I don't know for certain. Heck, it may have even surpassed it with Apple's latest rash of cheaper-than-usual computers and brilliant ad campaign. MS Office is more useful on MacOS than it ever has been in the past (It only blows up once a week or so, requiring the ubiquitous re-install) and very interoperable with the Windows version.

    Bringing office to Linux, BSD, or even Solaris would be a brilliant manouver for Microsoft. A large percentage of Microsoft's Windows-using userbase is unregistered, but they still count towards the percentage of the market that Microsoft controls. Even if people do not pay for MS Office on linux, it will further increase the Office installed base (minutely, percentage-wise) and quickly own the entire "market" for office suites in general. This is Microsoft's chance to control the office suite market on every major operating system in widespread use today.

    Back to my original point; It can be argued that Microsoft is keeping Apple alive, if not by spending good portions of money on them, then by porting Office to Macintosh. It is a very Office-centric world we live in at this point, and if you don't have complete control over office documents, you're in trouble. Microsoft feeds this by bringing out new versions of Office with new file formats. As long as Apple is alive, then Microsoft can be said to have a competitor.

    I don't doubt for a second that Microsoft could crush Apple. I just think they now know better, and will merely keep them on a leash for the rest of eternity.

  • I think Microsoft is worryed for the future of Ms.Office and believe they can use it's current popularity amoung busness types to curve intrest amoung NON-busness types in develuping office like pacages.
    With Star Office and Gnome Foundation Microsoft is posably worryed about thies getting to far along.

    They are posably confused. They believe the demand for Office style applications will stall out once Microsoft Office arrives. If anything it will only increase it.

    I don't believe they see themselfs stopping Star or Gnome but rather preventing any future effors.

    KDE Office, Star Office and Gnome Foundation represent a trend.

    Making an operating system is a major effort. We have Linux...
    Making powerful 3D games a massive effort...
    There are some efforts to produce 3D FPS type games for Linux in open source...

    Making a group of office tools.. the kind that ran on the Apple ][.... is really not that hard.

    Microsoft Office is Microsofts hold on some users....

    Microsoft dosn't want to see to many open source office type efforts...
    It's not just what they'll see on Linux that worrys them....

    It's the Windows and Mac ports....

    Gnome Foundation and KDE Office may never see a Windows or Mac version....
    but if enough open source office pacages are made... one will.... and THAT will compleate head to head with Microsoft office....

    If someone can get open source out there and prove to the avrage busness man that open source is good.... We'll win a major battle against Microsoft..

    From there it's the slippery slope to open source...
  • Why not? Anyone can put together a distribution. MS sure as heck could spare a few score people to pull together MSLinux. Yeah, they'd have to live with the restrictions the GPL imposes... so what? RedHat, Caldrea, and the like seem to be making a go of it.

    So they have to make it freely available... and your point would be? They already overcharge on their OS sales by around 500%. So, let's say $2 to press a CD, $3 for packaging and simple manuals, and, oh, $100 for a 5-incident support contract. Sound familiar? MS already makes a habit out of charging for support; this would allow them to really turn it into a profit center.

    Actually the only thing that they would really need to do is release a disk containing the GPL'd sowftare, that can be redistrubuted. Any MS Linux2050 (asumeing that it get done) could be as propriatry as they want, all they have to do is include any binaries / librarys that are linked to stuff that does NOT REQUIRE the GPL to be viriied down through any software linking to it, and viawalla(?sp?) we can have MS-XWindows2050, includes whatever they want, and all they need include is a freely distibutable disk of ALL of the GPL stuff they used.

    I will be interested to see if they can (do) pull of a decent office suite for linux, hell even IE, i mean IE 5.0 on the Mac is sweet, as far as browsers go, and more stable than the windows one. But i think MS's biggest problem is not so much that they write commercial sowftare, but they WAY they write and market it?

    .sig = .plan = NULL;
  • But Sun doesn't have a pay-for version on their own operating system that they're trying to steer everyone onto, thus winning both more sales of their app, *and* more sales of their os. (Not that I'm saying that that's what MS are doing, but that was the original poster's theme)

    Of course, were StarOffice a commercial product on Solaris, (and Solaris have 80-90% of the market) it would be a different story...


  • This is why I don't put much store in corporate announcements of strategic partnerships blah blah open source blah blah.

    Corporate support for their own products dries up when the MS cannibals start beating their tom-toms because it relies on prevailing optimism about the product's future. How much can we expect the companys jumping on the open source bandwagon to stick with somebody else's open source project when it looks like the going might get rough?

    With open source this strategy doesn't work. Like a hardy weed it isn't to choosy about its environment, it isn't dependent upon a single energy source. It can use general optimism as fuel for growth but it can equally well survive on stubborness, well nursed grudges, or the simple joy of hacking to survive to fight another day.

    Personally, I don't think that the Linux MS office product is really seriously meant to see the light of day. It may be a skunkworks type project, or it may be meant to spread FUD.

    The idea that it will be a bridge product away from Linux is misguided for two reasons. First, it only makes sense to build bridges to products whose market share is stagnant or which are shriking -- if their growth is very strong it will just encourage people to use the bridge the wrong way. Also the proposition that "Office is better on Windows" will move people away from Linux is very dicey; by the time they are ready to ship something there will be several very nice free office suites for Linux. People could just as well conclude that office isn't as good as the competition.
  • The idea of "network effects" creating a de facto monopoly for Microsoft is one that economists such as Hal Varian try to teach us. It seems that no matter if GNU/Linux or another UNIX is techically superior, Microsoft as a monopolist hogs market share.

    This is interesting in light of a recent report from China at Salon magazine []. Even though Linux is free and the government officially supports it, Microsoft still has a huge market share in China. There might be a couple of reasons for this. One is that "everybody else uses Microsoft" and the network effects become predominant. Another is that the pirates actually make money marketing copies of Microsoft products, even though the price is very cheap--they don't make money marketing Linux, it seems.

    So there is a puzzling problem here: nobody can make and sell better software than Microsoft's, and even stealing it helps Microsoft by promoting their market share, because of the network effects.

    Consequently, Microsoft has no incentive to open source code, to port to non-Microsoft platforms, or to spend money to increase market share at all, since they own the market already.

    Therefore, the only way Microsoft would port to Linux any applications would be if it thought it could make a little money in a new market, similar to the way it writes applications for Apple computers. And it would not hurt if a small Israeli company would do all the work and take the risks for the big company, which can then come in and pick up the marbles whenever it wants to.

    The result--short of an enforced breakup of the company by the courts--seems to me bad in any case for GNU/Linux and Free Software. The dominance of this big company with closed, proprietary code and environments, would be harmful to the movement to empower users and small companies. It would just be another dinosaur that squashes new growth by thrashing around adding features and diseases. There is no chance for Microsoft to learn this lesson unless some asteroid like a Supreme Court decision lands on the back of this monster.

  • I don't following your reasoning. In fact, it seems that you've just given the most compelling reason I've seen so far for MS to port Office to Linux - if most of their revenue will be derived from subscriptions, the OS becomes less important.
  • The DOJ.

    If you look at IE 5.5, they don't seem to care much of what anyone else might think of them. The latest version of the Internet Explorer adds tons of proprietary stuff to HTML and they don't really support the existing standards. I'm not sure how much is left to see on any other browser of a page that was designed for IE 5.5, but it can't be a lot. And you know that people do stupid things like designing for a specific version of a specific browser.
  • I mean, people are already using Win(Something) but they cant switch to Linux, because most things don't work (In my case Visio), but when/if Microsoft builds Office/Visio/Money/etc for Linux, they be able to choose (now that's a new concept for M$)

    It is a new concept for Microsoft. :) It's obvious they haven't gotten it yet. But Microsoft clearly said that they were doing this (porting apps to Linux) solely to attract Linux users to Windows 2000. I, however, think it wass have the opposite effect.

  • I think that I covered that. MS would almost certainly have their own non-GPLed libraries. However, one would only have to copy those to your distribution of choice and you would be off and running.

    Technically it wouldn't even be much of a feat. Heck, Linux has been running random SCO binaries for years. Running Linux binaries is a piece of cake (provided that the proper libraries could be copied from the MS Linux CD).

    Now, there very well could be legal ramifications should Microsoft license MS Office (and it's closed libs) in an unfriendly matter, but that is a political rather than technical question.

  • Hmmm... I agree with the guy who's tag line says: a moderation "Insightful" says more about the moderator than the poster. :)

  • Microsoft can't freely hack Mac OS...
  • "Anyone who tries to get you to try Word documents isn't really your friend."
  • I found that statement confusing as well. The Mac version of Office is a much different animal than its Windows counterpart. They share some code, but not nearly as much as they used to. The Mac version is coded by a separate team and is written with what would now be considered the Classic Mac OS APIs and not Win32 ones.

    A Linux port of Office might be closer to a Win32 port because of the shared processor architecture (I seriously doubt there will be a non-x86 version; nobody else understands that Linux != x86, why should Microsoft?) but it would still be a Linux application. Unless they take the WordPerfect route (Win32 APIs running under WINE, IIRC)...

  • by Elkman ( 198705 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:36AM (#850819) Homepage
    Microsoft will leverage Linux as an entry point to Windows.

    If this report is true, then I think this strategy could really backfire on Microsoft. It's more likely that people will use this as an exit point from Windows to Linux. After all, there's probably quite a few potential Linux users who would switch in a heartbeat, but hesitate because the Office suite on Windows is more productive and more polished. Now, with the option of running Word, Excel, or Outlook on Linux, that objection goes away. (And that's my honest opinion, really: their Office suite is probably the best one out there, but the Windows operating system has plenty of architectural flaws.)

    At least it looks like they're operating and planning as two separate companies now. Maybe they think they're going to lose the DOJ case.

  • You could get a lot of good PR out of porting a single app to the linux platform and therefore perhaps dodge the anti-trust bullet. "See, we are good guys after all, we have our most popular app on our biggest rivel operating system. Now please dismiss the case and let us rape and pillage like we want to." Hopefully, the world will not be deceived.
  • good , maybe when i send you a word doc you can open it

  • The general concept is: they get you to install Office on your current equipment/OS, you get used to it, then a new version comes out and all your Windows friends are upgrading. You can't upgrade because your version is still several months down the road. You're looking to upgrade your equipment by this time anyway, so you buy a PC with Windows and the latest version of Office.

  • That brings back memories....

    Ok, I use Linux, NT, and 98 at work on a regular basis. 98 crashed just a week ago. I haven't had an X crash since I upgraded to RedHat 6.2. NT hasn't crashed in a year, but I usually need to reboot once a month because strange things start to happen (applications will start to crash for no apparent reason. Things will take forever to startup, etc.) but NT hasn't crashed!

    I'm about to get two dual PIII's both with a Gig of RAM to be used on some R&D projects. One will have W2K and the other RedHat Linux. I'll get these machines in October so I'm hoping that 2.4 kernel will be ready. Although they are going to be used for normal R&D research, I'll be doing my own research to see which one lasts longer.

    Steven Rostedt
  • by stevens ( 84346 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:39AM (#850833) Homepage

    If it's true, this is a very smart move on Microsoft's part. They've left Linux to its own devices for some time now, and the lack of an office suite has been one of the biggest shortcomings of linux as an office desktop.

    But now that viable linux Office suites are coming into their own, and the lack of one won't hold linux back much longer, they can jump in with MSFT Office and claim a big marketshare of office suite installations on Linux.

    Hell, if they port DCOM and a bunch of apps that use it, then they can run with the 'it works better on Windows' strategy that they have used with Apple.

    Plus, when you've got a few billion in cash, it's not a bad idea to have a few products in your back pocket waiting for hte right time to release.

  • It's a pitty it also works the other way around, use an Office for Linux as a Bridge from Windows. There is no one way sign on this bridge!

    To put a sign on this bridge, just (1) make the windows version much much better and powerful than the linux version. (2) Send out more service pack to fix more windows bugs than Linux bugs. (3) Enchanced documents created in the windows version cannot be opened by the linux version.

  • Here here. I've always said that IE is the one that's been innovating. Netscape has been in code limbo since 4.5.
  • The complicated undertaking, which has been a work in progress for over a year, requires the companies to map native Win32 API calls to the Linux equivalents so that Windows applications will run normally in that environment.

    Are you sure their job is to port MS apps? The way I read it, they're basically re-developing WINE, only with non-disclosure agreements... not specifically porting Office/IE/etc.

    Mainsoft's research and development team, located in Lod, Israeli, is working with Microsoft employees from Redmond and a small group of developers from France, [where Mainsoft originated]. The goal is for Microsoft's applications to run on Linux."

    Wow, that would seem to be WINE's goal as well.
    Anyone else read this interpretation?
  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:41AM (#850850) Homepage

    At this very moment, a SkiDoo dealer is packing up for his new position as VP of Marketing to Hell.

    At this very moment, pigs are growing wings.

    At this very moment... Ah, who cares. I don't want that damned paperclip on my Linux box.

  • by Enoch Root ( 57473 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:41AM (#850855)
    I don't buy it. Very simple reason:

    MS doesn't want what little there is of a Linux desktop market share.

    Sure, Linux kicks ass on the server side. But aside from loving geeks who devote all their CPU and HD space to Linux, do you know a lot of people who actually think, 'Well, I'd get Windows, but Linux is so much *better* for desktop applications'?

    Well, do you?

    Linux is still catching up on Windows on the GUI and desktop side. Just look at the Holy Grail of Linux-related GUIs: 'We'll make it as nice-looking as MS'. As long as Linux is running after MS and Windows, they'll never be a threat.

    Seriously, who would MS try to convince, here? If people are using Linux as a desktop, then there's something else aside from convenience and wide-ranging applications that they're interested in. Stability? Perhaps. But everybody else still figures stability is a small price to pay for prettiness, especially if autosave is on.

    Sorry. MS isn't porting anything to Linux because, let's face it, on the desktop side it's so little of a threat it's laughable.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:59AM (#850859) Homepage Journal
    This is one of Microsoft's classic plays. When they see something that they think might threaten them, they either make an announcement or "leak" information regarding some great new MS Vaporware that's coming up. The idea is to "freeze" the marketplace, and get customers to avoid buying or adopting the competing technology until MS has its own crappy version in "barely usable" mode.

    This is clearly a response to the Gnome Foundation announcements. The future of non-Microsoft desktops suddenly got a whole lot brighter this week. Microsoft must do everything it can to steer people away from this up-and-coming technology. If they can get people to say to themselves "I'll just wait for MS Office to arrive before I try Linux" then they've succeeded.

    Still, even if it's true, I can't see how it'd be very good if they're using MainWin (basically the equivalent of WineLib) to do the port. While the entire Gnome Foundation initiative is centering around CORBA and the Bonobo framework, a ported MS Office will still be using a ported DCOM. Furthermore, it'll look and feel like a Windows app, right around the same time that Linux apps are starting to take on a more unified look and feel. It'll only talk to itself. In other words, MS Office will feel as isolationist and foreign in the future standardized Gnome desktop as the current version of StarOffice feels in the current Linux desktop. Who wants that? More importantly, who wants that and at a cost of $500?
  • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:00AM (#850864) Homepage
    It's a shame it won't occur to anyone outside the geek community that the reason MICROS~1 can't port Office to Linux is that they can't write anything in an environment where they can't freely hack the OS to get around problems.

    Well, I love the admission that the article makes. I mean, my last time programming was assembly language on an Amiga 1000. But even with my woefully outdated programming skills, it's painfully obvious that M$ apps have had an interface to the OS advantage over everyone else.

    Why should Windows source code be required to port Office (let alone write it)? Corel certainly didn't get Windows source code to write WordPerfect 8.

    But the process is even more complex than it sounds, since most Microsoft applications--especially those in the Office suite--use a number of proprietary interfaces, and each application requires specific workarounds.

    Mainsoft has access to the Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 source code, a necessity for the work it is doing.

    (If M$ wasn't using their market dominance unfairly, wouldn't porting Office require only Office source code, not Windows source code?)

    If this article is true, it's just a far more blatant piece of proof that Microsoft is corrupt, and really has to be broken into an OS division, distinct and different from their internet and applications businesses.

  • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:42AM (#850865) Homepage
    When has there ever been something not true on the internet? Come on, if you can't believe everything on Slashdot, what the hell can you believe?

  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:03AM (#850885) Homepage Journal
    Soon they'll be able to tell individual Linux developers and development teams to 'knife the baby' just like they told Apple!

    For those who don't recognise that reference- first of all, furrfu- second of all, this is the real leverage that comes with having Office on a platform. Given the expectation that 'oh, Office is on platform X, therefore legitimising it', Microsoft can and does use this as a weapon. For example, they literally told Apple to kill off Quicktime or they'd kill Office for MacOS- the quote comes from an exchange like 'We think it would be better if Quicktime, uh, wasn't.' 'Let's get this straight, are you asking us to knife Quicktime for you- to knife our baby?' 'Yes, we're talking about knifing the baby'.

    Should MS apps be established on Linux it'd be like that only instead of dealing with a single point of development and control, MS would be dealing with little groups and individuals, threatening them that if they didn't stop work on their projects, MS would kill Office for Linux (and presumably blame said developer). This degree of blackmail might not work on RMS types but there is a level where it is frightening. Basically it's a sort of extortion, and the point is to engender a climate of fear and obedience. Some of us (mac people into development) have been able to watch this sort of thing going on in the real world for longer than you linux people have... and yes it seems to be illegal, the antitrust case nailed them for JUST this sort of behavior. Now we've got to see if that sticks, or if they get to ignore that as well.

    At any rate- there is no benefit from having Office available for your platform. None. There's no significant compatibility between versions, ports are never in synch, it takes large amounts of motivation for them to produce software even half good (i.e. IE for mac) and even if they do they take pains to use it to cut off your other options and change the 'territory' right out from under you so your choices are dead.

    The people screaming 'nooooo!' are, ironically, a lot closer to the mark than the people screaming 'yay' here. You've got to look at the business practices that inevitably go along with this sort of 'beachhead'. These guys kill markets- that is their whole schtick. Why would you want them coming over and killing your market too, even if your market is largely mindshare instead of commercial? All it will do is kill your choices without giving you the supposed benefits you think you'd be getting. And that's because, as was repeatedly found by the judge in the antitrust case, they really make a special EFFORT to kill your choices and kill your market- we're not talking about 'network effects', we're talking 'knife the baby'. An MS guy actually accepted those words, mid-negotiation, as descriptive of what they were trying to do. How can that be right? How can that be a market?

  • by JimDabell ( 42870 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:04AM (#850889) Homepage

    Most software has to be installed as root, especially if it's going to be of any use to its participents.

    Where did you get this idea? Virtually all software I have used in unix-like systems can be installed in home directories just fine. If it's autoconf/automaked, then ./configure --prefix=/home/user. RPM also provides relocation, and I assume Debian has a way, too.

    With a file disk quota of 5 megs standard on most machines, do you think most users will be able to install Office (or StarOffice, or anything for that matter?)

    5 meg standard? We're talking desktop systems here. If an entire organisation is using it, then individual users won't have to install it themselves. Home users probably won't be using quotas.

    What I think the OP was trying to say was that it would require root privs to run, i.e. it would have to be installed suid root. Isn't this the case with their Frontpage extentions for unix? There is absolutely no need for either to be suid root, assuming good design. However, MS aren't exactly consistent when it comes to good design :)

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:45AM (#850891) Homepage Journal
    It problably went something like "Oh SHIT! We're REALLY going to get broken up!"
  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:05AM (#850894)
    You know how people joke that MS-linux isn't far off? Well, is it? Consider this..,

    MS makes a Linux distro. They make a closed-source, propriotary DE that supports most of the Win32 API. They include support for DirectX, COM, and OLE. Now, all these changes require major changes to the kernel. While these changes are GPL'ed, MS has now effectivly forked the kernel.

    People start writing apps for this new MS/Linux. Because these apps rely on the modified kernel, and propriotary DE, they will not run on regular Linux.

    Everybody switches to this new distro, because it has more apps and better technology.

    MS has won, despite the GPL.
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:05AM (#850900) Homepage Journal

    The conspiracy-theorist in me believes Micros~1 is trying to steal thunder from LinuxWorld Expo without actually making the announcement themselves. However, such a move doesn't surprise me. Bill Gates has never demonstrated loyalty to anything other than making a buck. If he thinks he can make money selling Office to Linux users, he'll do it without the slightest hesitation.

    Those who remember the port of IE to Solaris, however, know that Micros~1 will not adapt their apps to the host OS, but will instead try to graft on enough of Windoze's "architecture" to make it work, just barely.

    For example, it wouldn't surprise me in the least for LinuxOffice to require a Windoze-style registry, needed to support per-user preferences. This despite the fact that .*rc files have been around forever. Also, expect a butt-load of COM/DCOM components to get installed requiring root privileges (though the need for these prvileges will never be adequately explained).

    But I suspect the biggest delays will come from trying to implement Micros~1's demands for copy protection and to prevent "unauthorized" use of "their" software. So, assuming they work out how to translate NT's methods of "license" administration, expect to be required to install a "license" manager that's completely incompatible with any other "license" managers you may have (and may even interact badly with them). Oh, and the CD key will have 96 digits :-).

    In short, this is FUD of the highest order, even higher than normal, since it doesn't come directly from Micros~1, thereby giving them plausible deniability. Even if it's true, I wouldn't expect anything to ship for at least a year and, like the initial release of all Micros~1 products, will probably work quite poorly. Thus, even if you're working on an office suite, this story may effectively be ignored.


  • by ndfa ( 71139 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:26AM (#850912)
    PaperClip meet my good old friend xkill

  • by infodragon ( 38608 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:13AM (#850948)
    Ok Mr. Troll I'll bite...

    NT itself is stable

    If NT itself allows applications, after they have crashed, to leave leaked memory or leve the system in a strange state or leave the system in a slowed state then it is not a stable OS. It may not fall/crash but it is not stable. Kinda like a ship in a storm, your footing is not stable but, hopefully, the ship won't sink. You may be flung overboard but, hopefully, the ship won't sink!

  • by softsign ( 120322 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:53AM (#850955)
    From the Mainsoft website []:
    MainWin is recognized as the premiere choice for creating UNIX versions of Windows applications. How do we know that? MainWin has been used to create the UNIX versions of some of Microsoft's most popular applications. These include Microsoft's Internet Explorer for UNIX, Microsoft's Outlook Express for UNIX, and Microsoft is using MainWin to provide DCOM on UNIX. Among the hundreds of Mainsoft customers who rely on MainWin for their cross-platform development and Computer Associates chose MainWin to rehost its next-generation enterprise and information management solutions on UNIX.

    So from what I can gather, these are the geniuses that brought us Unix IE. Yup. Just look at the explosion of IE users on Unix. If they do just as good a job on Office, then MS better watch out or their OS market will disappear overnight!

    My favourite part is how they say their software isn't a Windows emulator. They just build every single DLL that you'll ever need into a Unix library. And probably a registry too, for good measure.

    And you thought administrating Windows was bad enough on a Windows box...


  • by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:22AM (#850957) Journal
    It's already ported :) have you checked the xscreensaver collection?
  • by FoulBeard ( 112622 ) <chrisx AT speakeasy DOT net> on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:31AM (#850959)
    This post has some merit. Unix people pay heed. I know plenty of people that have high uptimes with NT. Think about it, do you run XWindows on you high availability Web Server, Office Applications, games. No. Ill testify to the fact that the majority of BSODs can be directed linked to bad 3rd party drivers. When properly administered NT can be be stable. I know its hard to admit to, but please try. I dont run NT on my servers for diffret reasons. I have a strong belief that mission critical servers should not run GUIs... period. There is no point for a serious machine, one that you stake you business on, to have a GUI. UNIX is also very easy to customize. REmote administration on NT blows. developing mantainance code in NT is pain (PErl vs. Win32/MFC). The artitecture for UNIX is open, as opposes to windows which pretty much ties you into an all window solution. My $0.02 -Nathan
  • by webslacker ( 15723 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:22AM (#850965)
    Break out the snowblower, Satan! There's a blizzard a'comin!
  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:54AM (#850973)
    No, the piont of running Linux isn't to "get away" from MS. If you're doing that, then your stupid. The point is to use a better product. Right now, MS Office is that better product. Very few people complained that WordPerfect for Linux was less than perfect due to LibWine, so why should they complain if MSs product has an OS layer around it? It can't possibly be more bloated than, say, star office, which has it's own DESKTOP!
  • by baka_boy ( 171146 ) <> on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:55AM (#850974) Homepage
    Microsoft, who has more programmers working for them in-house than freaking God, has hired some small, crack team of Israeli hackers to work on a Linux port of Office? Then, one of those developers has stepped forward to announce the project, blatantly ignoring the NDA-from-Hell the MS lawyers made him sign before he could come within a hundred yards of the Windows source code? Sorry, folks, I don't think so.

    Porting DCOM to UNIX is one thing, but Office is another beast entirely. Microsoft nearly destroyed their market for Mac applications when they tried to offer a weak port of the Windows version of Office -- people simply started refusing to upgrade. These days, the two have pretty much completely different code -- you can't really port the Windows version of Office to any other OS, because they're joined at the hip with DLL-Hell, private system calls, etc.

  • Their strategy seems to be to use an "Office for Linux" as a bridge to Windows, similar to Mac Office."
    Can anybody expand on what exactly that means?
    I take it to mean that the *nix versions won't be fully functional, thereby trying to lure users to Windoze for 'full functionality'. May or may not work, but it's a good bet that it'll go that way, since M$ programmers (or those hired by M$) are probably not good enough programmers to implement the full office feature set under X ... hell, they can't even make it work right on their own OS, most of the time...
    MS wants to introduce new audiences to its software, so it ports Office to the Mac or Linux, thinking those users will migrate to Windows?
    Doubtful that they're targetting new users. In fact that market is probably very close to saturation. Furthermore, I'd guess it's a good bet that pretty much 99% of Mac and Linux users have already fought the battle of Windoze, and know exactly why they have left the M$ platform. This may not be quite as true when it comes to other unices, but M$ has already had a go at (some of) them with IE. Evidently it didn't go quite they way they wanted, or they would be porting IE to Linux before Office ... at least that seems to make business sense.

    I think (one of) the other thing(s) M$ is trying to accomplish with this move is to shore up the lifespan of their proprietary data formats. The targets are coorporations who have licensed Office. One of the main things that seems to slow the move off of Windoze at a corporate level is the tremendous investment in M$ Office and legacy data that is already in the Office formats.

    The Office data formats are, after all, the key to keeping their current captive customer base captive. The office applications themselves simply aren't good enough on their own to do that. A *nix Office suite is a way to keep those formats alive, which is important to M$, since if the formats are dropped in favor or, say, an open standard, then there is really no incentive for corporate customers to stay with M$.

    M$, I believe, fears that as work goes forward to make format conversions easier, it will be more cost effective for a corp to invest in data conversion and move off of the Windoze platform than it will be to keep putting up with (paying for) the spew of M$ corp.

    Other office suite software vendors are targetting the office data formats and application functionality. If one of those outfits gets there (usable in a corp environment) first, M$ would be left with their collective asses uncovered. So, for M$ to produce a Linux Office suite is also a CYA strategy...

    it seems that the only way that becomes a good plan is when you make inferior ports of the product that are just good enough to make people want them (I understand that many MS ports to the Mac are pretty sub-standard), and boom, you give them some incentive to migrate. But it seems awfully disingenuous. Am I misinterpreting that, or is it more of a speculated, rather than overt, strategy?
    Heh. Disingenuous is M$'s middle name. Their contempt for users -- and everybody else, for that matter -- is huge. They really, really don't expect anyone to figure it out, and when someone does, they apply spin. I don't think you misunderstand.

    Also, note that this effort is going to be incorporated into the spin machine. 'See, we develop apps for Linux, too!' It's a good PR move for M$, since they will co-opt a certain percentage of *nix advocates with this move. Since Linux advocates in particular seem to be the most vocal and persuasive of the M$ detractors (often because they are former M$ users, I think), anything M$ can do to cut down on their number is a plus.

    All in all, it's about Leverage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:23AM (#850980)
    I was at SUN when they announced "porting office applications to the "javaStation" (SUN's NC) back in '96.

    Then of course they don't do it and everybody thinks there must be a problem with the JavaStations (which there was the OS sucked).

    Now they are going to try and do the same thing with Linux... tell everyone... we are porting to Linux when they are Scared of linux because linux is going to eat the mid server market of win2000.

    Then they will come out saying "It doesn't work" and spread FUD around it. I hope star office is as good as they claim, and I know MS can't diss the os like they dissed the javastation.

  • by joeboo ( 5182 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:23AM (#850988) Homepage
    Then no thanks. I tried IE for Solaris about a year ago. Any piece of software that seg faults because you hit the "compose" button is not for me. I'll stick with Gnumeri, AbiWord, pine, and vi thank you.
  • by anacron ( 85469 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:24AM (#850994)
    Microsoft doesn't invest in advertising unless they *know* they're going to get a 7% ROI. I would be willing to bet that their standards for software development are much higher.

    Ok, so they port applications to *x. It's just a business strategy. It's a new market space for them to grow into ... one that's really untapped by any major software house. Prime Real Estate.

    And the bottom line, for the current CEO, is that if it pays off, the stock holders will be happy. Also, it'll probably help their anti-trust appeal because they'll be able to show that they're not only in the business of OSs, but also in providing valuable applications to the entire user community.
  • by MrEd ( 60684 ) <> on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:17AM (#850998)
    ... and how helpful he will be!

    "Did you know: You can get all your office work done faster, with more multimedia excitement and internet connectivity with the new Windows Milennium Edition! Order today!"

    "Tip of the Day: In order to enable the remaining 95% of functionality, click here to install Windows over /dev/hda1! Windows Milennium Edition works hard and plays hard!"

  • by dougman ( 908 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:24AM (#851021)
    as strategic as this may sound, porting the MSOffice in its CURRENT form as you and I know it to Linux is totally contradictory to their plan to try and take over the world with .net, effectively being the one mammoth server for ALL productivity /office apps making each and every one of us nothing more than a SUBSCRIBER to Word or Powerpoint sucking down the precious functionality from .net like a glorified dumb terminal, constantly paying MS for the privledge of using their precious Office.

    Porting an installable, standalone MSOffice to Linux doesn't help them get there so I would suggest you're crazy if you think this will ever see the light of day.

    Now, they may VERY well be porting some sort of ".net client" stuff to Linux. I'd expect that.

  • by Mechanik ( 104328 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @10:18AM (#851022) Homepage
    I definitely can see this as being true.

    For those that don't know (you certainly wouldn't from the article), Mainsoft produces a toolkit (MainWin) which implements the WinNT/2k kernel and MFC on various flavours of *NIX, including Solaris and Linux. This enables one to take a Win32/MFC program that was developed on windows and (in theory) have it work on *NIX just by linking to their MainWin libraries. The toolkit has been discussed some here on /. before, but I thought I'd refresh everyone's memory.

    I/we use the toolkit here at work (a MAJOR hardware company) to port our dev tools to *NIX, and we've had quite a positive experience with it. Sure there are problems here and there, but for the most part they're due to our windoze developers making assumptions based on the program being run in a win32 environment (things like endianess issues, or the fact that windows uses backslashes for dir separators rather than slashes). It has enabled us to port a product consisting of over 300,000 lines of code without having to rewrite the whole thing. I don't imagine Mainsoft would be having as hard a time porting Office as people are making out, not only because the toolkit is good IMHO, but because in my dealings with them they have seemed like a very sharp bunch of people.

    "Now," you say, "why would Microsoft want to port Office to Linux? Isn't Linux their enemy?"

    1) Further entrenching the .doc and .xls formats into the market. Right now people are trying to compete with Wordperfect and StarOffice, but I am willing to bet that if Office made it to *NIX, that would spell the death knell for WP and SO (and who knows, maybe Corel along with them). Suddenly the few alternatives you have to office are gone. Not to mention that one of SO's big selling points is its supposed "MSOffice compatibility"... why would you bother if you could just run MSOffice natively?

    2) Doing this port will lend MUCH credibility in the public eye to MainWin. If they are lucky, then people will start organizing their multi-platform development strategies around it right from the get-go, and thus Microsoft will "lock them into" using the MFC development model. Right now people tend to use Mainwin to port apps they already have on Windows to *NIX... perhaps if MainWin got enough prestige people would decide right from the start that if they are doing a cross-platform app that they will do it in MFC and use MainWin to do the porting.

    Do NOT underestimate this... Mainsoft (and through them, Microsoft) makes some serious bucks off of licensing/royalties for products that use MainWin, as their code is actually linked into yours. If you just make your app on windows and compile with Dev Studio, you pay no royalties, but with a MainWin ported app you are shipping with compiled libs that implement MFC and the NT kernel... that means $$ for Mainsoft and Microsoft.

    It especially means $$ if people start deciding that they would like to forge off into the Linux arena because using MainWin is so much more attractive than doing a native port from the ground up. Companies that before were never even considering doing ports to *NIX might start thinking about it if this MSOffice port goes off well because they will say to themselves "shit, we hardly have to do anything ourselves to do this," even though that's not quite necessarily true.

    This is very good for Linux in a way too... it means that you will be able to get much more of your favourite apps on your favourite OS.

  • by Grelli ( 98061 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:24AM (#851023) Homepage
    Their strategy seems to be to use an "Office for Linux" as a bridge to Windows, similar to Mac Office."

    It's a pitty it also works the other way around, use an Office for Linux as a Bridge from Windows. There is no one way sign on this bridge!

  • here []

    MSFT has an established business porting its applications to Solaris and HP/UX. This does not mean they will port to Linux.

    Now hiring experienced client- & server-side developers

  • by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <> on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @11:04AM (#851034) Homepage Journal
    (Keep reading... the point hits about half way down... it's not an incoherent pro-MS rant)<p><i>I also wonder how many people will actually use Office on Linux... if someone was willing to pay the Microsoft tax and buy Office, wouldn't they be just as likely to buy Windows as well?</i>
    Well, this started me thinking - I use Linux because it's one more step into Unix; I've been using GNU and Cygnus utils long before Linux was around. I just like the paradigm.<p>
    But I also REALLY like Word for Windows. WfW 97 is my favorite, and I can whip out a document in less time than it takes most people to read it. All the keycombos are hard coded into my fingertips, and I have dozens of style sheets and macros that eat perl and/or PHP-generated data.<p>
    As an administrator, I loved Exchange+Outlook. My users dug it, building custom objects that they'd mail out, stuff like that. And of course, you need Excel and Word to really get the power of Outlook.
    But Linux -- now Linux I've had running as a server (before that, AIX or Solaris). I like the desktop, but miss Word. And I don't see anything like Outlook+Exchange out there, which of course requires...
    WAIT A SECOND!!! Why are they porting desktop Apps? Why not Linux Apps? Linux has a greater marketshare in the server arena, anyway, and Exchange or IIS for Linux would probably ship more units at a greater profit than Office.
    Unless... they don't consider the Linux desktop viable, and just want to make a show to the DOJ (of course, you have to run WinNT BackOffice to support the software on those Linux desktop boxes).
    Very interesting... Office is less useful without BackOffice, and BackOffice needs NT. Office keeps people in MS, and then once they go above just a few users in an office, they start racking up reasons to move to Windows. *Especially* if Microsoft.NET turns out to be way watered down (like most MS final releases) and is just a tighter, nicer BackOffice.
    No, I'm not paranoid, and I'm just happy that I can sed in a bash shell, not pro-Linux or pro-Microsoft, but IF a decision like this has been made at MS, it's after MUCH discussion, and both server and desktop apps were discussed, and you know DAMN well that MS thought long and hard about the long and short term consequences of every action.
  • by tm2b ( 42473 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @11:34AM (#851036) Journal
    Microsoft would be stupid not to have a project like this going on somewhere, but that doesn't mean that it'll ever see the light of day.

    Porting office to Linux is a huge project, and Microsoft has to be prepared for the contigency that Linux *does* take off in a market that Office addresses - if not the desktop, then perhaps in some embedded/appliance apps (imagine a dedicated Office appliance a la word processors).

    Given the lead time on such a project, they don't want to have to wait a couple of years if they decide to exploit such a market - so they have to do the dev work now.

    This doesn't mean anything other than Microsoft is hedging its bets.
  • There is a Port of DCOM [] to Linux, but if you look closely, you'll notice that you can cannot get any support for it, even if you pay money for this.

    "Microsoft Israel" (where they put together their clone of IBM's MQSeries, which is a pretty successful product) may be doing "a port," but that is a far cry from Putting Boxes On Store Shelves.

    It may be that Microsoft is leaking this stuff so as to diminish peoples' committments to the "more nearly native" alternatives of StarOffice, ApplixWare, WordPerfect, and such.

    People that decide to wait for whatever Microsoft might release are obviously not buying what the other guys have today. This is how IBM marketed the IBM 360 back in the 1960s, to the great detriment of many other computer manufacturers.

    IBM finally did release OS 360 and related hardware, albeit late, expensive, bloated, and buggy.

    The parallels should be obvious :-).

    Furthermore, the DCOM comments really are important; "modern" MS-Office software depends heavily on COM and COM+ components, which means that the first step to getting MS Office running on Linux would indeed be the port of COM/DCOM/COM+.

    And we don't know if this "announcement" represents a product that will actually become available, or whether it is a "vaprous" experiment, intended to use Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to discourage sales of the competing products...

  • by Igmuth ( 146229 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:25AM (#851051)
    What proof is there that this is more than a rumor? the only source is an annonymous Israeli developer... Does he even work for Mainsoft?
  • by Mr.Phil ( 128836 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:25AM (#851055)
    Well, this is good for the OS, and gives office users access to a stable os, but if MS Office comes out on Linux, we can kiss any of the other office apps like WordPerfect and Star Office goodby. Honestly, how many people will choose to use something that is "compatible", when the can use the real thing?

    Like no-one is going to pirate these apps, and I bet MS wouldn't care untill they have the market, and then they bring the hammer down. (Rings true of netscape, does it not?)

    This is news, that's for sure. We are still to find out if it's good or bad.
  • by devphil ( 51341 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @11:41AM (#851074) Homepage

    In Dante Alegheri's (sp?) Inferno, the center four regions of hell -- reserved for the worst kind of sinners -- are made up of a gigantic frozen ice plain.

    The sinners are frozen into the ice, completely unable to move or respond to external stimuli...

    ...kinda like my NT box right now. Damn.

  • by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <> on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @11:14AM (#851105) Journal
    The more applications the better. Why not have the most used, too?

    Anyway, all I want is IE5 (doesn't even need to be 5.5 -- 5.01 is fine) for Linux.

    As a web application developer using HTML/CSS/XHTML/ECMAScript/XML/XSLT/XSD I cannot make it without IE5.01+. (Yes, I grab the nightly builds of Mozilla but remain unmoved).

    IE 5 for Linux!

    Now hiring experienced client- & server-side developers

  • by kill -9 $$ ( 131324 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:27AM (#851112)
    ...drag them down with you.

    Seriously though, it might not be too bad. For instance, the corporation I work for's e-mail standard is Outlook/Exchange which I'd like to be able to run on Linux (my primary desktop). I haven't found a suitable Outlook clone yet so I can get my mail easily. Incidentally, I tried the fetchmail thing, they don't have NTLM enabled and won't turn it on.

    Not to mention how many times I've recieved e-mail documents containg Word or Powerpoint presentations that StarOffice couldn't convert very nicely.

    I don't know about it being a bridge over to Windows, however, some good could come out of it. You'd think they would start by helping out the wine project, but then again, thats not M$'s style. They'll probably take the wine code and make it proprietary.

  • by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @11:52AM (#851143)
    You miss the point. Say MS retools the kernel to support DirectX. The regular Linux kernel would have not point incorporating those changes, since they require DirectX, which (hypothetically of course) kept under closed source. They could do this, since the changes to the kernel would simply give DX hardware access, and DX would still be an independant library.

    A proprietary desktop needn't be integrated with the kernel to be dependant on a specific version. If MS retools the kernel, and the desktop is an independant entity, but requires those changes, then MS has essentially tied the non-free desktop and the free kernel together. Think of it like Aqua. The changes that Apple made to FreeBSD aren't really significant in itself, but simply enable stuff higher up in Quartz and Cocoa. If MS had done the same thing, except with Linux, then effectivly they would have gained control of the OS without violating the GPL.

    As for desktop antogonism, that's not possible. If you're going to write an application that supports all the features of a DE, it is nearly impossible to be destkop antagonistic without a whole lot of problems. If MS bases it's desktop on Win32 and Win32 only, a developer would be force to choose between that, and programming for GNOME or KDE.

    I never said MS has won. In the case that this hypothetical scenario happens, it will have won. And if you look at it pragmatically, Linux winning DOES require MS losing. By definition there is one winner. In terms of OSs, there is only one winner. Windows beat OS/2. NT largely supplanted Netware and UNIX. There has to be a winner. (Especially in consumer space where the number of apps a particular person needs is greater and much more diverse than in say server space.)
  • It is quite possible that M$ has several motives in mind for porting Office (and other apps). For example:
    • The Hedge Hypothesis: If M$ is forced to split into M$Windows and M$Apps, this gives the "apps" part of the company a leg up in breaking into a new market.
    • The Appeals Hypothesis: Office for Linux could give M$ a new argument to use in the Appeals Court or the Supreme Court: "see, we make Office for these other two operating systems, and we sell decent amounts of them, so we're not really a monopoly." Mac Office alone might not cut it, but Mac Office combined with Linux Office may tip the scales.
    • The Standard M$ Hypothesis: Shut down StarOffice, WordPerfect Office, the Gnome Foundation and their backers, etc...what do you bet that M$ gives out a "crippleware" version of Linux Office free?
    • The Poison-The-Well Hypothesis: Once you get Linux users (maybe recently switched from Windows) to embrace Office, use this as a lever to move them (back) to Windows. How? Proprietary file formats, faster upgrades available for Windows, etc., etc.
    • The FUD-Factor Hypothesis: If Linux Office turns out to be buggy, slow, etc., M$ can turn around and tell developers, "see? Linux really is hard to develop for, you should really develop for Windows instead."
    • The If-You-Can't-Beat-'Em-Join-'Em Hypothesis: This is actually a stepping stone towards a Microsoft Linux distro, which will be a replacement for one or more existing M$ operating systems. (Farfetched, I know, but...)
    I'm sure you can think of other possibilities.


  • by Tim Fraser ( 16824 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:30AM (#851151) Homepage
    > Microsoft is working ... to port their apps to Linux

    And in the anti-virus industry, there was MUCH rejoicing...

    - Tim
  • by / ( 33804 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @12:40PM (#851160)
    There is no one way sign on this bridge!

    Sure there is: down. Surely I'm not the only one who can't shake a mental image of the Tacoma Narrows bridge [].
  • Most software has to be installed as root ... show that supposedly buggy code can be run and not crash the whole system ...

    I'll bet you almost anything that a MS installation would chmod 06711 most of the files and make sure root is the owner.

    Buggy code will take down your system and corrupt the fs on the way.

  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:32AM (#851183)
    XBox gets announced TWO YEARS before it's SCHEDULED release to fud-up development on current consoles.

    Do you really think this isn't a direct response to the "GNOME foundation" [] announcement? I mean, come on people!


  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @09:33AM (#851185) Journal

    The article says they are having a rough time of it, even with the Windows source code. Maybe the strategy will be to flood the market with poorly written Linux applications. People will say stuff like "Office runs bad on Linux, Linux sucks".

    I have to admire Bill Gates as the PT Barnum of computing. He intends to use Linux as a gateway to get people interested in Windows. Maybe his Linux desktop will have a link on it that says "This Way To The Egress".

    Sure Linux is stable, sure it's free and all that junk. But where's the *showmanship*?

  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @11:26AM (#851201)
    Should MS apps be established on Linux it'd be like that only instead of dealing with a single point of development and control, MS would be dealing with little groups and individuals, threatening them that if they didn't stop work on their projects, MS would kill Office for Linux (and presumably blame said developer).

    The correct answer to this is "KYOFB"; "Knife your own baby."

    I think that most "little groups and individuals" would probably pay money to get Microsoft to kill Office for Linux. Threatening to kill Office for Linux isn't much of a threat. I know that if Microsoft came to me with that sort of threat, I'd laugh in their face and tell them to go ahead and kill Office. Would you do otherwise?

    Some of us (mac people into development) have been able to watch this sort of thing going on in the real world for longer than you linux people have...

    This says a lot about how "independent" Apple is ... but not much about Linux. Apple made the fatal mistake of trying to get cozy with Microsoft, and like every other software company that has made the same mistake, Apple has paid the price. Actually, Apple's developers and users are the ones who have paid the price.

    But Linux isn't going to Microsoft on hands and knees pleading, "Save our sorry asses by porting Office to our failing operating system", like Apple did. If anything, Microsoft is attempting to muscle in on Linux turf. Entirely different situations. Entirely different outcomes.
  • This is probably a pre-emptive action based on the assumption that the company will be split by the justice department. It won't particularly hurt the OS company, but will definitely help the Apps company.

    The Applications company will want to have access to *all* markets. They see the writing on the wall with all the new and improved desktop initiatives in the Unix world, and figure that there is going to be some erosion of market share for the Windows desktop.

    They probably are also trageting us geeks who have to do a lot of document shuffling for work. We'll be able to have our cake, and read Word documents too. They figure IS managers will say "Hey, it's guaranteed to be compatible, since it's Office."

    Still, it'll be hard to compete with free. Star Office is pretty good!

    bukra fil mish mish
    Monitor the Web, or Track your site!
  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <onyxruby@comc[ ].net ['ast' in gap]> on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @02:10PM (#851215)

    This makes sense, it really does. Look at the following, and I think you'll see where I am coming from.

    1. PR. The whole monopoly thing is starting to get to them. They face formal scrutiny in the US, Europe and India. If they do this, they can look and say "but we really do have competition". "We did a port at X number of millions of dollars to take advantage of this competitive market".

    2. They are a business, something that a lot of people seem to forget. If they can make money on this up and coming OS (now that it is starting to break out of geekdom), why not? People seem to forget that they also make Office (and other products) for the Mac.

    3. StarOffice. People use and buy Office (which is far more profitable for them than their OS's), because it is the defacto standard. Aside from a few die-hard types, it is accepted worldwide (except for China - different standard). StarOffice is being given away for free, and MS doesn't want people to get in the "habit" of using something else. Remember they considered Sun's intro into the browser market seriously enough to spend half a billion dollars (US DOJ figure) to combat it.

    4. They need to show the world that they can play nice. MS settled the lawsuit with Mac based on a cash investment (non voting stock) and a willingness to make MS Office 98. Without MS Office 98 (pre iMac), it is was widely considered that Apple would have gone belly up. MS had more to risk by Apple going belly up than Apple did. Take Apple out of the picture at that time, and their would be no perceivable possible competition (Linux was not nearly as popular than, keep in mind.)

    5. Market penetration. There are *nix shops that don't use MS. Once you port to Linux, it isn't that great of a leap to port to *nix. MS wants these markets, and this is a way to gain a foothold there. Regardless of what you think about the company, this would sell like crazy.

    6. Microsoft.Net. This is another way to sell monthly licenses. Once people start to see some of the "features" that work with Office, they will want access to the rest of the features. It's the "collection" syndrome, people can't stand to know something is available, and they don't have it. Enough users start to demand features that would work with say, MS Exchange 2000, and management just might listen.

    7. They are losing some customers to Linux. A lot of these people despise the MS OS's, but like the office suite. If they can see a familiar face in their new unfamiliar OS, many people would jump at the chance. I think that a significant number of the people who are former windows users would say that office is the 1 thing they miss most.

    8. If they are building MSLinux (which they certainly could), this would be a way to get people to switch to "their" flavor of Linux. Make the desktop similiar to Windows, maintain the "look and feel" that someone who has used Windows knows, and they could easily become bigger than Redhat. They maintain their standards and control, and the masses would flock. Before you bash this statement, look at the first fundamental rule of marketing. Brand recognition is what counts. It is well established that the masses will flock to a brand that they know. Remember this would not be ported for the geeks that use Linux, this would be ported for the masses.

  • Clearly (to me, anyway) they are simply doing the same thing here as they did with Netscape. First, create a free app that has the MS FUD and brand behind it. Give it away and destroy the marketshare of anything competing against it (such as StarOffice, etc). Wait until the development teams of StarOffice and all competing office suites disappear and all development of alternative Open Source office suites is dead and gone, all the while touting the benefits to be had by using MS Office for Linux.

    Then, start to make it suck and fall well behind the Windows version, forcing more and more users to switch over as they lose support. Finally, discontinue it altogether, leaving Linux users with nothing at all (when now they have alternatives), and crush all possibility of Linux reaching the desktop any time soon.

    For that matter, I'm truly surprised that there's no MS Linux distribution, which they would push and market heavily until Red Hat, Corel, and others went out of business, all other distros were ignored, and they were the only game in town (or at least had gathered like 97%+ of the market share). Then, again, just dump the damn thing. Kill it off, and leave everyone sucking wind. While it may not kill Linux off altogether, it would set the effort back a decade or so, and give MS Winblows the opportunity to actually grow into a stable OS that works sometimes, and cement an even greater share of the market.

  • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2000 @12:06PM (#851234) Homepage
    FYI, a year later it still sucks.

    I hobbled through the shared libraries and whatnot one day.

    Know what I found?

    Most of Windows! YEP! References to CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, instructions for how to configure Plug and Play devices, PCMCIA devices, a SYSTEM.INI, etc, ad nauseum.

    No wonder a Windows port isn't far behind -- the Solaris/HP ie/oe "port" isn't much of a port. It looks like they just sort of sandwiched enough shit into Solaris to give enough of a Windows-like environment to make their pathetic applications execute.

    Further evidence?

    They don't use X! Well, they use it, but they use the lowest level native (widgetless) output. No font server, no nothin'. It CRAWLS over a 1 megabit connection, and is barely useable of a 10 megabit connection. They render the freakin' fonts one bit at a time!

    HELLLOOOOOOO??!!! Microsoft! It's an operating system + Xserver, not HARDWARE! CHRIST! Do you have any unix-literate software engineers? As near as I can tell you've hired some "consultants" and a bunch of VB-mouse-click-wizard-totin' hacks!


You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...