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Microsoft The Almighty Buck

OSS Officially On Microsoft's Financial Radar Screen 639

seldo writes "More news from Microsoft's latest quarterly filing: according to eWeek, Microsoft says it may have to lower its prices in response to competition from open-source software. From the filing: "To the extent the open source model gains increasing market acceptance, sales of the company's products may decline, the company may have to reduce the prices it charges for its products, and revenues and operating margins may consequently decline". This is a fairly major revelation from Microsoft, and if it happens, it may be one of the biggest wins yet for open-source software: what do you know -- competition works!"
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OSS Officially On Microsoft's Financial Radar Screen

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  • good news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by garglblaster ( 459708 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @08:39AM (#5221968) Journal
    Most definitely: It is good to not have a monopoly controlling a market.
  • by Op7imus_Prim3 ( 645940 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @08:43AM (#5221990) Homepage Journal
    for a copy of Lindows perhaps it is the linux distibutors who need to lower prices.
  • by rseuhs ( 322520 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @08:50AM (#5222018)
    Definitely good news.

    Here's my scenario:

    First, MS Office revenues will be hit and hit hard. OpenOffice does almost anything MS Office can do and it is not more difficult to upgrade from Office97 to OpenOffice than it is to upgrade to OfficeXP. - But a lot cheaper.

    Only after an organization has successfully converted to OpenOffice, we will see full conversion to Linux.

    Now we'll all have to see what Microsoft does without the hefty MS Office sales... Maybe XBox-gamers will have to pay a lot more because Microsoft can no longer afford losing millions over millions on it?

  • by Uninvited Guest ( 237316 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @08:57AM (#5222045)
    I suppose the continuing sluggish growth in the US economy has nothing at all to do with it either. Isn't this the same sort of argument that the RIAA used to explain the drop in CD sales? "The competition from free sources is reducing our sales!" In fact, slow growth in the economy impacts all kinds of sales, including Microsoft's products.
  • by PinglePongle ( 8734 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:09AM (#5222102) Homepage
    I don't think OSS is making a big dent in MS revenues - it's still virtually impossible to buy a new PC without windows pre-installed (and pre-licensed).

    Instead, I think MS is suffering from a lack of innovation. There is simply no compelling reason for corporates to upgrade their software anymore - Windows 2K is fine for business use, they don't get anything in XP other than support problems. You might upgrade Office to be able to read other people's files, but there are precious few "must-have" features to differentiate the current offering from Office 97.

    The most significant reason for users to upgrade in the recent past has been MS's change in licensing policy - signing up before the deadline gives "free" access to upgrades for a limited period. I know that many corporates bitterly resented this pressure. However, the next version of "Windows for Servers" keeps getting pushed back, and many corporates are only now upgrading their servers from NT4 to W2K - not to take advantage of new features, but because support is being withdrawn.

    So, while OSS is undoubtedly snapping at MS's heels, providing a much-needed alternative and nibbling away at the revenues, the bigger problem is that historically, Microsoft have taken ideas developed elsewhere and "embraced and extended" them. Right now, there are precious few radically new ideas to embrace, and the only way for MS to continue to grow their revenue is to find new must-have features. In short, they need to innovate under their own power.

    Welcome to the real world, Bill....

  • Crying Wolf (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KalenDarrie ( 320019 ) <jwatkins41 AT cox DOT net> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:14AM (#5222121)
    I don't believe Microsoft is being greatly harmed by this. There is no way to truly damage so large a company in any quick or irrevocable way.

    However, I do think that this is a good thing. Microsoft has always done business how it wants to without regard for competitors or allies so much as they were stepping stones to greater profit margins and superior dominance.

    I will be both amused and relived if OSS's success forces Microsoft to reevaluate its obviously predatory practices. I might even(loosely) suggest this is much like the situation with RIAA. Software is changing when it comes to how some things are done. Microsoft must either adapt properly or miss the boat.

    If they miss the boat, no great loss. Greater competition can only aid technological development and further thrust down Microsoft's prices.
  • by johnburton ( 21870 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:14AM (#5222127) Homepage
    Here's my scenario: Microsoft reduce the price of windows by 60%. The 90% of linux users who use it only because they don't have to pay for it decide they may as well use windows. Sales of office increase
  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:21AM (#5222154)
    ... or less then OSS is dead (unless it really starts embracing the making of Win apps). It's a lesson the music industry may learn as well if they want to truly end the Napster Clone Wars.
  • by rseuhs ( 322520 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:27AM (#5222181)
    The 90% of linux users who use it only because they don't have to pay for it decide they may as well use windows.

    Ha! I never paid for Windows, but have already paid a couple of hundred $ for Linux distros in the last years.

    Also, if you have 90% marketshare and lower your price to 60% of it was before, even if you go to 100% (which will not happen - see above), you still lost money.

  • by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:32AM (#5222199) Journal
    I always wonder about this nonsense talk about product's price being only part of the TCO.

    I agree that price of the box with OS/DB/whatever is only part of the equation, but since when MS/Oracle/whoever started to give away product support for free?

    I mean, whatever software you are using, it usually requires some helpdesk/administration. And support that you've got in the price of the software package is good for nothing.

    I know because I tried to get several times support for NT, MSSQL etc. About the only advice is to reinstall system, database, or (sic!) decrease the size of database.

    And paid support for Oracle or MS SQL... Don't get me started. Prices of that software even in the highest version with unlimited users, processors etc are nothing compared to costs of those support contracts.

  • by Patoski ( 121455 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:36AM (#5222233) Homepage Journal
    You don't list things on your 10-Q that are complete nonsense though. Investment analysts use a company's 10-Q as a standard research tool and putting unnecessarily negative information on your 10-Q risks a lot. I would dispute the notion that "This comment doesn't mean MS thinks there is a threat." Certainly when one reads MS' 10-Q with Ballmer's statement that Linux is MS' #1 threat I think one has no other choice but to conclude that MS is very worried about competing with a lower cost alternative.
  • by Patoski ( 121455 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#5222262) Homepage Journal
    If a person is unwilling to pay $100 for an operating system what makes you think they'll be willing to pay $40 for the OS and $500 for Office? This scenario is unlikely at best.
  • Re:Prices??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:40AM (#5222263) Homepage Journal
    And of course, who actually pays list price for M$? Every company I know manages to negotiate through one of those 3rd party sellers so they think that paying $200 for a $300 copy of office is a steal.

    Of course M$ is still practically giving software away to educational institutions. We pay about $60/copy for Windows, and $90/copy for office. Cheap enough to not make it worth our Institutional while to change. (Much to my chagrin.)

    Folks who buy it shrinkwrapped at the store will certainly make out like bandits, but I can't thing of anybody who would be buying the Win2K datacenter at Best Buy.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:46AM (#5222296)

    > So this means that Microsoft will be reducing their margin, not becoming unprofitable.

    Yep, and they're <Smaug>sitting on one hell of a piggybank</Smaug>.

    Still, it's kind of expensive to subsidize a loss-leader game console and buy off wayward governments. Price cuts are going to bite.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @09:49AM (#5222311) Homepage
    As shown in previous reports, Microsoft's only profitable areas are the products directly threatened by OSS. The other Microsoft activities are currently losing money and are being propped up by profits from Microsoft's OS and Office products. If those products are going to achieve lower margins, then will the ventures losing money be cut? And if so, any predictions on which ones they will close first?
  • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @10:04AM (#5222413) Homepage
    First of all, OSS can't "die" as you put it. The vast majority of OS/free software is developed because people want to develop it. OS developers are not competing with windows; they're just developing SW because they want to. The majority of them don't care about getting money for their SW.

    What you're referring to is companies like SuSE and RedHat, which sell Linux distributions. These might be more vulnerable, but I believe that this step is "too little, too late". Many people simply don't trust MS. Windows' abominable record on security really doesn't sit well with responsible administration of PCs, even on the desktop. Non-geeks seem to "get" this in a way that even 12 months ago they did not.

    There's also the fact that Windows isn't the only cost. I bought my copy of WinXP for £120 (~$200) in the UK. For that I got Windows XP and not much else. My copy of SuSE 8.1 cost me £60, for which I got the OS on DVD. The rest of the DVD is occupied by thousands of SW packages. Even if Windows had cost £60, the SUSE would still be an outrageous bargain in comparison. The point is that it would cost a LOT to replicate that other SW under Windows. Even if I just use the Office-alike packages, I'd still need to pay £250 for the real thing. I do a lot of development work, so I'd also have to shell out for Visual Studio, or whatever it's called as well. The cost quickly mounts up.

    Obviously I'm just an individual, and £400 or whatever it would be doesn't really matter either way. But if I'm buying 100 PCs for an office somewhere and I need to pay even £150 for each copy of Office, that's still FIFTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS. That's a lot of money for software which still seems to crash rather a lot, and which seems to act as a magnet for viruses and worms.

  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @10:13AM (#5222452)
    The fact is, Microsoft could probably still make some changes internally that would allow them to profit off of Windows if it sold for almost nothing, and THEN what would open source have to bank on? Moral righteousness? HAH. That'll sell.

    Most people already pay for Windows for each of their machines, whether they want to or not. I certainly have a Windows license for each of the dozen PCs that I have, and only one of them actually runs Windows.

    So, your notion that people use open source because they have to pay for Windows flies in the face of reality. People use open source software because it simply works better for them.

    Depressing for Microsoft, isn't it, that people throw Windows away even though it is pre-installed and they have actually been forced to pay for it and wouldn't incur any additional costs by just using it.

  • Re:OSS out of focus? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@g m a> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @10:14AM (#5222465) Homepage Journal
    I cant agree with you more on that. While i hate them (obviously) i dont want them dead. What i do want is a nicer kinder Microsoft who could behave like a sincerer nicer company without world domination no1 on their agenda.

    Sadly though this is probably going to make Microsoft starting to fight and stomp all over linux, my favourite thing in life (wife, bah! she doesnt vim!). If they start to mess with linux and tries to destroy it with the slightest shoddy practices instead of cooperation i will hate them furiously. Compete is ok but most of us oldies knows that MS has mixed up compete and nuking a competitor to the stoneage.

    If we just ignore them and let them have their way while we code chances are we arent able to use the internet once they are finished up at Redmond. Some of us will have to fight the legal side of things to.
  • by mitchskin ( 226035 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @10:28AM (#5222559)

    This is not big news. Companies don't want to be sued by shareholders if their business goes bad, so they mention everything they can think of that might hurt them in their SEC filings. It's just an ass-covering exercise.

    In fact, this is from their last quarterly report [], in November:

    To the extent the Open Source model gains increasing market acceptance, sales of the Company's products may decline, the Company may have to reduce the prices it charges for its products, and revenues and operating margins may consequently decline.
  • No... unfortunately. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YinYang69 ( 560918 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @11:12AM (#5222813)
    M$ still has a stranglehold on the hearts and minds of the business public when it comes to Office applications. They have had years of power to "innovate their software" (ie: lock-in, screw-over) for their customers, over several iterations of office suites. None of the innovations are really huge, IMHO, mostly interface changes, no real, tangible improvements on the core itself.

    I say this because, like most of you, I'm the sole IT staffer in the office. People get scared as I smile and wink that everyone will run (Open|Star)office one day. They love their Windows products. They're used to them. In fact they're so cozied up to the Windows products that they second office application they've always mentioned is Lotus. As in, "Well, I have run the Lotus applications as well." I don't know what they are trying to prove to me, that they know more than once office application? I mean, come on, LOTUS? ;)

    The OS desktop war is, actually, an easier nut to crack, because of the buzz it generates. People know what Linux is. People are interested in things that do not crash. Its in the news a lot in our industry, almost like a miracle drug for your computer. Office people in our field know these things. They hear about these things. And by osmosis, they'd try it eventually.

    But the OS component of the OSS/FS thrust is easy. People hate Windows. Computers crash. And if we've put a man on the moon without a computer crash, then dammit, a home computer running Mp3s and pr0n shouldn't crash either. Home users will put up with a bit of pain to get things going.

    But office workers are interested in not seeing things break, even for a second while trying to figure new stuff out. They're also interested in their software not getting in their way, especially about productivity. M$'s office applications don't get in their way the way M$'s OS does. "I made this Excel spreadsheet, it was perfect, it did everything. I would have never needed to write another Excel spreadsheet again! But then the operating system crashed and I had to start practically all over again." True story, very illustrative, says I.

    And there's no real buzz, remotely like the Linux buzz, for any office suite. Not yet.

    So ladies and gentlemen, the conversion starts with you, all Jehovah-witness-like. If you're an IT staffer, running Linux, I hope you're pumping out a shitload of Word-compatible docs and Excel-compatible spreadsheets. (Whether needed or not.) If you can integrate well with your business administrators running (Open|Star)office, then you're showing them that there is a low-cost and quite effective alternative. And then you can talk about it and win converts. Buzz over the app and the conversion will have to follow.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @11:36AM (#5222930) Homepage
    and better yet you can for most office computers replace them with X terminals (or that old-nasty-horribly out of date P-III 866 with 1 gig of ram and only a 180Gig of hard drive gawd, how people work with horribly outdated hardware!... ok ok sarcasim over)

    Running 3 linux servers as terminals servers and application servers reduces the IT overhead by almost 80% when coupled with a migration from Microsoft based products to Linux based. I have set up a 100 user system for a local charity that had the equipment and NO budged for IT staff. Now after getting it operational I maintain it in my spare time (2 hours a week) and can dial-in to remote maintain/upgrade.

    the users can't believe how much easier linux is than windows. Their entire desktop and profile roams with them (can be done but requires massive resources under windows) they never need to backup anything as it spools to the DLT tape library every night, and they CANT BREAK their computer.

    (yes i've had windows users hose a NT4.0 and W2K system enough to need a wipe/re-install.

    Linux + terminal serving is the only smart solution for any business with a large number of office workers.. anything else is purely a waste of money and work-hours.
  • by bimmergeek ( 606201 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @12:10PM (#5223177)
    The Anonymous Coward raises a great point. My brother in law is a rabid anti-MS zealot. My best man in my wedding joined the Sun jihad (his term, not mine) against Microsoft.

    Both of them have ranted for years about how MS suppresses innovation. They cite examples of how MS embraces by buying out and extends by either shit-canning the competing product or assimilating it into an existing product mix.

    My challenge to both of them has been: Show me an example of suppressed innovation. Neither of them have been able to do so.

    My in-law keeps telling me that Linux is the future, and that Amiga runs circles around MS. So, finally, in order to maintain credibility in the debate, I used a Pentium 133 to build a Mandrake Linux box.

    While I was amazed that Linux would set up on a 133 with 128MB of RAM, and that it ran quickly on that hardware, I was not impressed with the GUI and open source software. The GUI looked like Windows and the OSS GUI had the sophistication of Win3.1! My first response on viewing the GUI was an audible: "This is it? This looks like Windows?" And the OS software had nowhere near the sophistication of commercial products.

    Is this because the OSS programmers suck? Not at all. It is because OSS programmers need to eat. Consequently, they devote their best time and energy to the things that put food on the table.

    The whole OSS/MS debate is a philosophical battle measured against price and the romance of open-source, self-organizing communities of programmers who do some really cool stuff but who don't have the money or bandwidth to truly innovate.

    The key problem with open source software is economic. It's very difficult for people to make a living writing free software with the hope that people will contribute money to the cause. It is impossible to go to the grocery store and take home a cart full of groceries in exchange for job satisfaction or status as an open source programmer. Grocery stores, car dealerships, malls, dry cleaners, gas stations... capitalist bastards all of them. They want money for their products and services.

    The only way OSS can flourish in its ideal incarnation is in a socialist economy. OSS will struggle in a capitalist economy because of the nature of competition, purchaser motivations and the basic material needs of OSS programmers and businesses.

    In fact, the idea of an "OSS business" is a paradox that I haven't seen many /.'ers honestly address. Businesses need to make money - that's why they exist. Yet the mantra of OSS is free, open and innovative. I just don't see the full expression of this mantra to be possible in a capitalist economy. On this point, many OS advocates are silent and strike me as a bit dishonest. Or naive.

    OSS may find itself on the cutting edge of the Innovator's Dilemma. However, I suspect that there will be market space for both OSS and commercial software. Further, they will balance each other and lift one another to higher levels: OSS will cause price drag on commercial software and commercial software will require OSS to rise to increasing levels of usability. And, though both camps shout loudly that they corner the market on innovation, both will motivate each other to innovate in pretty cool ways.

    Fortunately, innovation is a commodity that flows from the limitless expanse of creativity rather than from a particular ideology.

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @12:12PM (#5223193) Homepage
    This is the argument AGAINST open source. I'm a company that relies on software to work, that means I want a company that provides effective support. The actual COST of the software is of secondary importance to the cost of support and the quality of that support. This is why IBM doing Linux is a good thing as they book massive revenues offering that support.

    THAT is what MS are worried about, not Joe Schmo installing a free copy of Red Hat. Its IBM charging zip for the software and loads for the maintainance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @12:19PM (#5223243)
    Open source as a competing business model?

    Micorsoft owns a complete and utter monopoly on desktop users. I haven't checked lately, but I'd be willing to bet that it also owns the vast majority of corporate users as well.

    They currently haven't penetrated web serers as much as they'd like, but that's only a matter of time as they bring more and more cash to bear on the matter.

    Open Source suddenly "threatening" their business model? Hardly. What better way to hide your monopoly and disguise your financial shortcomings than to claim non-existent competition? What better way to prove in a lawsuit that you are NOT a monopoly? Showing press releases, stock statements, financial records, that all show losses and then linking those to the open source community.

    Look see? We don't have a monopoly. We have competition in the form of the open source community who work for no profit!

    I'm not a Microsoft basher, but the title of the slashdot article is tantamount to the blind leading the blind.

    Mod: 1 Flamebait of course.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @12:20PM (#5223255)
    > if Microsoft starts taking heavly losses, ... Bill Gates remaining stock would become worthless

    No kiding. And I thought all of the news media thought that each and every share of MS he owns is directly convertable into cash at any moment.

    There's a small demand for buying MS shares and Gates would cause the stock to lose 1/2 its value if he tried to sell all shares at one time.

  • Re:WinXP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jimsum ( 587942 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @12:47PM (#5223566)
    I have to agree with you about XP enabling companies to control your machine. Microsoft hasn't even tried to make things easier for the user.

    For example, consider product activation. I had to reinstall my upgrade copy of XP. During reinstallation, I had to supply my Windows ME CD (before you laugh at me too much, I bought ME but used 98). Why the hell did I have to do that? Microsoft knows I can legally use XP - I've activated it, they already know enough about my computer to know it is just a reinstall! Activation is for Microsoft's benefit (of course), but they could at least use it to make reinstallation a little easier!

    I was reading an article at yesterday about what "phone home" features in XP you could disable (I'd give a link but you need to register). There are some pretty scary things in there, especially to do with DRM (Digital Restrictions Management). Apparently there is an "enemies list" in the software that can prevent you from running programs if secure DRM contents are compromised. This means that XP has the power to prevent you from running any program that Microsoft doesn't approve of, now or in the future; and XP will automatically look for and apply new lists. I don't know how well this will work, but this sure is in the interest of companies, not users.

    We are really seeing companies pushing every advantage they have and screwing the users at every opportunity. I see it already with DVD players. Companies have the right to protect their property from being copied (but only when such copying is illegal). But, companies have exploited their protection mechanisms to also disable the fast-forward button on any DVD player whenever they want, and introduce other customer-hostile features piggybacked on the copy protection.

    At least my DVD player doesn't have upgradeable firmware, so the companies can't take away any more features. When it comes to Windows however, there is no guarantee that anything it does today will not be disabled tomorrow. Companies that want more of my money are in charge of the software on my machine, and recent history makes it hard to believe that they will change things for my benefit.

    With OSS, the user can be in control. Companies can't play the same sort of games. Even with automatic updates, I can always modify the source code to disable the company's latest tricks, or simply revert to an earlier version. That advantage isn't quite enough to tempt me away from the easy path of using Windows, but Microsoft is one very short step from driving me away.
  • by Vicegrip ( 82853 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @01:01PM (#5223724) Journal
    Wow, if thats all, excuse me whilst I don't jump up and down in excitement.

    Ordinary people don't install their OS. Period.

    Calling the graphical desktop in Windows simpler is very debatable-- ask my dad how much fun he has trying to figure out how do things on that 'simple' desktop. Although, I'd agree with "more familiar".

    System rescue tools are available in Linux. This is a 100% wrong. You just need to know what they are and how to use them.

    Advanced tools are hidden.... please define what you mean by hidden... and why this is an advantage anyways??....

    System files are protected from inadvertent change because all users run as Administrator... duh... files are protected by default in Linux because people are expected to run as regular users. Protected files aren't a bad thing, but an advantage???

    Anyways.. I can't believe your vague, largely debatable 'advantages' got modded the way they did. Bah, what am I saying..... all pro-Microsoft disinformation seems to be getting +5ed these days on Slashdot.
  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @01:11PM (#5223808)

    I'm hoping that this will force Microsoft to re-examine some of their rediculous initiatives, like Palladium, and its current software activation model. NONE of this plagues the Linux platform, so this in itself might be an excuse for people to consider switching - no invasiveness, mandated upgrades, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @01:54PM (#5224195)

    Yes, they won't be able to take the insane losses that they are taking now with just about every product they have out there.

    They have two profitiable divisions, with the bulk of their revenue coming from 2 products, and if that monopoly is broken they can't support all the losses that they are taking.

    In other words, buy an X-Box and mod it to run linux, and help give M$ a taste of it's own medicine, "Gee, thanks for the great technology! I'm going to give you nothing for it!"

    M$ is in trouble, and those cash reserves can't support them forever once their profits begin to drop. And M$ knows it too, that's why they are trying to buy several markets outright right now. The fact that the PS2 is killing the X-Box has got to have them freaking out. But they are slowly managing to kill AOL and "brand" a ton of web sites with the MSN mantra. This to me is extremely dangerous and I'm hoping that the snowball of OSS is going to help to end M$'s hegemony.

  • by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:41PM (#5224634) Journal

    The price of VB may pain individuals who cling to M$, but that individual pain does not collectivly match...

    The risk associated with VB is that you will be assimilated. Those guys that get started with VB, and not with a real language are a royal pain in the ass to me. My boss seems to think that the only programmers out there to hire are ones that program with VB, so a decision to use a language like C#, Java, or Delphi is shadowed by that belief. There have been actual studies that show how resistant VB programmers are to real languages. I could have told anyone that without the need for money for a survey. VB peeps just don't get the whole programming thing.

    :end rant:

  • by exhilaration ( 587191 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @02:52PM (#5224716)
    I hate to tell you this, but 99% (and I'm NOT exaggerating) of MS Office users will never use a macro, write a line of VBA, or develop custom applications using Office.

    People want to type documents, make spreadsheets, and give cheesy presentations. The "power users" want to make graphs in Excel and produce reports in Access.

    When it comes to MS Office, the Slashdot crowd falls into the "guru" category - our needs are VERY different than the general population's.

  • by adamfranco ( 600246 ) <adam@adamfranco . c om> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @03:45PM (#5225330) Homepage
    "Is this because the OSS programmers suck? Not at all. It is because OSS programmers need to eat. Consequently, they devote their best time and energy to the things that put food on the table."

    As a programmer employed developing OSS, I must say that this is not true. While many OSS projects are developed in programmers spare time, many (if not most of the large projects) are devoloped by people paid to do so. My employer (a university) needs software to do a particular function. Often either no commercial software exists to do this function or said software is too expensive/no customizable enough. So, they employ me to write said software. Now, they could market what I make, but the time and resouces involved in setting up a sales division would not be worth it. Instead, we release it open-source and thereby get both many thanks from other institutions with the same problems and help improving the software to make it better for us to use.

    All in all its a win-win situation (and I get to make money to eat too).

  • by lildogie ( 54998 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @04:09PM (#5225567)
    Paraphrasing a quote (by whom, I forget): an Operating System, by definition, does nothing.

    The point being, an OS is a platform for applications, which do the work.

    MSWindows notoriously bundles lots of applications into the platform, so it doesn't really count as a bare-bones OS.

    Ideally, there would be one OS as a middleware between applications and hardware. Then applications could be platform-neutral. Linux is the closest thing we have to such a definition. Unix tried to be that, but it fragmented into vendor-specific releases. It's yet to be seen whether Linux does the same thing.

    See also: difference between a Linux and a Distro.
  • Solid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ajole ( 132756 ) <> on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @04:41PM (#5225879) Homepage
    I love kde, I live innovation, I feel like freebsd is a close friend or familty member, but microsoft makes the widest range of _solid_ products. They get their fingers into every last bit of marketplace, and they aim to do it well.

    Windows is slightly boring, but that's why my freebsd box sits next to it. When I have problems with zope, I read the source. when I want zope up quick and running fast, I put it on windows. WHen I want to get my design document for my senior project done, I do it on windows. When I want an industry-superior real-time audio application running on a state of the art driver sbstraction layer, I comply with ASIO on WINDOWS. fact.

    I love facts.
  • by Slicebo ( 221580 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @04:46PM (#5225927)
    This is not really signifigant news. When preparing to post financial news, publicly held companies (as part of the "full disclosure/safe harbor" process) are required to state any risks, however remote, that may impact future earnings.

    Some smart lawyer in Microsoft's legal department probably said "Hey, we'd probably better start quoting open source software as a possible financial risk to avoid shareholder lawsuits in the future."

    This is probably just typical legal boilerplate stuff, not any signifigant change in MS's assessment of the impact of OSS.
  • by andrewjjenkins ( 617179 ) on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @05:46PM (#5226447)
    System files are protected from inadvertent change.

    Of all the things you got wrong, this is the most painfully obvious. The home series, through Windows Me at least, has NOT been this way. UNIX, and thus Linux, has had permissions on files since before I was born, protecting them from inadvertent change. Plus, the fact that Linux config files are human readable (Picking through XML with cat is still easier than juggling different GUIDs!) means you have less chance of screwing up. Also, Linux configuration has a much clearer file->objective setup - I know that lilo.conf is the configuration file for lilo. If I need more help, I can look at lilo.conf.sample, or try man lilo.conf. In windows, finding the registry setting for whether Office uses landscape or portrait by default could be in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Office 97\Config or a million other places. And there is still no man command!

    In built support, from time of consumer device launch, for peripherals and card types (PCMCIA, USB etc. - Linux got late to market here).

    Again wrong - Windows doesn't support my Linksys LNE100TX ethernet card, linksys does. And, I have to download new drivers from their website to do it (not possible if i use the card to get broadband internet). Whereas all modern linuxes detect and install the driver themselves, or at most a "modprobe tulip" is needed. Plus, if I have trouble, I have a handful of tools - lspci, modprobe, cat /dev/* - at my disposal, whereas in windows, its "reboot into safe mode, delete all your drivers, reinstall them all. IF that didn't work, do it again."

    Simpler setup with very few questions.

    My latest install of RedHat 8.0 asked me significantly fewer questions than Windows 98. And I didn't have to find 30 damn license keys! Packages were installed by group - do I want graphical internet? Sure - check that box and I get the normal mozilla, gaim, xchat. Do I want to add mozchat? Click details, then click mozchat. This is similar to Windows, but adding the Gimp is easy, in windows, I have to find my Adobe CD(s), load them in order, type in the license key, la la la. Oh and don't forget the magical reboot. Adding XMMS is easy, but I'd have to go download winamp (version 2, because 3 locks up all the time) and run that setup program. Reboot again. While you're wearing out your BIOS with all those reboots, I'm on AIM and MSN at the same time, cruising the internet with no pop-ups, pumping the MP3s from my girlfriend's computer across campus, and playing Wolfenstein on my second (or third) display. And I saved a few hundred bucks.

    I'm not trying to flame, I understand where you're going, and for the most part, you're right. I just don't think you're right in all respects. I love linux configuration, because for the first time, I can DO something for myself. I love having tools to diagnose problems and probe my computer. I love not having to crawl manufacturer's websites for drivers, or end up with dud cards because the drivers are not available for download (Creative Dxr3, for instance). There are two ways Linux can take over the world: We realize Linux is not windows, and try to make it like windows, or we realize Linux is not windows, and try to keep it that way. Many seem to suggest number 1 (but I don't want to put words in your mouth), but I'd hate to see Linux commercialized and watered-down too much.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 04, 2003 @08:50PM (#5227755)
    In this case "account" means liquid cash, not stocks... So the stock could evaporate but they'd still be sitting pretty. This doesn't even count the money they could secure from a bank on a loan. (With over 10B cash- I think it might be like 15B or 18B- a bank would probably give them at LEAST that much if they asked for it).

In 1869 the waffle iron was invented for people who had wrinkled waffles.