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What is Bill Gates Learning From Open Source? 194

christian.einfeldt writes "In the world of Free Open Source Software communities, Microsoft is often viewed as the very epitome of the Cathedral-style model of software production. But is Bill Gates learning from the software development phenomenon that he once compared loosely to communism? In commenting on the results of a Microsoft-commissioned survey of approximately 500 board-level executives about the importance of interpersonal skills versus raw IT coding skills, Gates starts to sound a bit more like a member of the Apache Foundation than the take-no-prisoners king of cut-throat competition: 'Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.'."
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What is Bill Gates Learning From Open Source?

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  • That's easy ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @10:13AM (#21708048)
    Microsoft is always bad, and always will be ... that they occasionally (and largely by accident) do something good doesn't make the organization any less bad.

    That said, you have to understand that Gates is far from stupid. His public comments about open source have, historically, been just what you'd expect the CEO of Microsoft to make. That doesn't mean that he doesn't privately understand the issues perfectly, and now that his role at Microsoft has changed, now that he's an ex-CEO, he may feel free to speak more honestly.
  • Contradiction? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xafier ( 1122155 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @10:19AM (#21708102)

    'Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.'

    Its funny that, because the needs of nearly all your customers is that your operating system is reliable and user friendly and runs fast, and every OS that's released from Microsoft is worse is most of those categories compared with the previous version.

    I write software that's used in medical analysis of blood, urine, tissue and other samples... we follow extremely strict design, coding and testing rules to ensure that there as few bugs in our program when it reaches the end user as humanly possible...

    of course, then its run on Windows... which in my POV just negates all our work, especially seen as its now going to be run on Vista, which has brought us no end of troubles with discrepancies between XP and Vista!
  • Gates is hardly visionary himself. The first edition of The Road Ahead [] , his view of the future, infamously lacked mention of the Internet. Once the Internet exploded in the mid-1990s, Gates and his ghostwriter had to hastily put out a second edition. Around the same time he foolishly let his wife convince Microsoft to put out Microsoft Bob.
  • Re:Contradiction? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @10:43AM (#21708242)
    Not to be difficult, but Windows NT4, and its successors Windows 2000 and Windows XP, were vast improvements over Windows 9x. It's only now, almost ten years later, that Microsoft has taken a huge step backwards with Vista. That fact is disturbing, because I look at it as being indicative of major problems in Microsoft's design, development and QC processes: this mess should not have happened. They seem to have lost sight of the fact that complex software development is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Incremental, well-thought-out improvements made over time result in better products than huge quantities of completely new code (Vista is claimed to be what, a 70% rewrite?) If you try to change too much too quickly, you will have a disaster on your hands.

    Like you, I develop Windows software for a living (in some fairly mission critical environments as well), none of which would have been possible had the NT kernel not become part of Microsoft's mainstream operating systems. Matter of fact, in those days we shipped Unix boxes because there was no way in Hell you could use Windows 9x for real-time data acquisition and process control. But NT4 was pretty solid, and the GUI improvements in Windows 2000 helped a lot too. I initially found XP to be less stable than Windows 2000, but XP did improve substantially over time, and nowadays is halfway decent.

    But I agree about Vista. From my perspective going to Vista right now would be very risky. Maybe in a year or two when Microsoft has had a chance to fix some of the worst issues it'll be worth another look. Maybe ... but for right now we're sticking with XP as long as we can.
  • Re:That's easy ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Professor_UNIX ( 867045 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @10:44AM (#21708250)

    Microsoft is always bad, and always will be ... that they occasionally (and largely by accident) do something good doesn't make the organization any less bad.

    What about Google then? I don't see Google open-sourcing their search engine, GMail interface, or any of their other major tools and yet they're held as the epitome of a "good" company. All of their stuff is proprietary and kept very closed-source.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 15, 2007 @10:48AM (#21708276)
    There was a fluff piece authored by Gates published on the BBC news website. I didn't read it fully but he was stressing the importance of IT skills. In my experience, the more people know, the less inclined they are to choose the Microsoft solution. What I think Gates is suggesting here is that Windows point and click is akin to genuine computing knowledge.

    Eben Moglen once said something about GNU being one of the greatest learning libraries mankind ever created. I think there's some truth to that and Gates is probably attempting to hijack the argument; applying it to Microsoft software in a way that's fundamentally and intellectually dishonest.

    No, I didn't RTFA.
  • Wait, what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Dark ( 159909 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @11:04AM (#21708378)
    Did I miss something or did christian.einfeldt just claim that Open Source invented collaboration and talking to customers?
  • Slow down there... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jay L ( 74152 ) <jay+slash&jay,fm> on Saturday December 15, 2007 @11:38AM (#21708634) Homepage
    Is the OP claiming that *developers* on open source projects, in general, have a better record of teamwork, interpersonal skills, and understanding end-user needs than *developers* on Microsoft projects? Man, I hate to be the one to stick up for Microsoft on Slashdot, but...

    Much as Microsoft churns out a lot of junk, whenever I read their developer blogs, I'm always impressed by the amount of thought that goes into their design. Now, a lot of times their product teams go in the wrong direction, focus on the wrong things, get told not to fix something, or simply get hamstrung by their own legacy code. But to the extent that that reflects on the developers at all, it reflects on their design skills, not personal skills. And, frankly, most of the problem at Microsoft seems to be a management issue in the first place.

    Meanwhile, a surprising number of open-source projects are led by one brilliant-but-eccentric guy who everyone tolerates because he invented the thing and he writes a lot of good code. Then, someday, another brilliant-but-eccentric guy joins the project, and a year later it forks, and they spend eternity sniping at each other on USENET, which nobody else reads anymore, while each claims to have plonked the other.

    I'm having trouble remembering the last time I saw a lead Microsoft developer:

    * Give a presentation featuring a "Fuck You" slide,
    * Get indicted for killing his wife,
    * Call his rivals idiots,
    * Boot someone off a mailing list or forum,
    etc. etc.

    Let's face it - with a few notable exceptions, FOSS tends to attract zealous, dogmatic, fiercely independent people whose idea of good interpersonal communication usually involves a die with more than six sides and some Monty Python quotes.

  • Re:That's easy ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mh1997 ( 1065630 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @11:50AM (#21708722)

    Microsoft is always bad, and always will be ... that they occasionally (and largely by accident) do something good doesn't make the organization any less bad.
    Microsoft is no more evil than the average person. The people that run MS occasionally do bad things like all people, but (without knowing them personally) are probably decent people.

    The people that run MS are doing with the company what all people do...trying to grow. The only difference is we usually root for the little guy until they become the big guy and then we hate them, while rooting for their competitors (Linux for example).

    To prove this do a google search for "apple evil," "linux evil," or whatever popular little guy you want. We're rooting for them, but they are crossing the threshold into big and the evil rumors are rumbling.

  • Re:right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaedalusHKX ( 660194 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @12:06PM (#21708838) Journal
    Actually, rather than "fight em", just replace 'em.

    No need to fight 'em, that just gives them a reason to struggle harder and live on.

    Good approach on 3/2/1 but I'd suggest trying 2/1 :) Fighting didn't work. Mocking M$ just made geeks feel better. But ignoring them is what drove them up the wall (it also lets those doing any code work or support work focus on the code work and support work, as opposed to wasting away and stressing out fighting the mighty giant.)

    One can compare Microsoft under Bill and Steve to IBM under Prescott Bush, good for propping up various dictatorships and their future attrocities (and laundering money to them before and during World War II) but evil to the core. Microsoft is like that IBM, and despite anyone's wishes, it will not die, not anytime soon, and in 20 years, they'll be the "good guys" (most likely against Google's rather insidious ways) the same way as IBM today is the "good guys" against Microsoft's insidious ways. Do not forget that at one point, in the 70's and 80's, it was Microsoft that was seen as "good guys" to IBM's being "purveyors of fine FUD". None of this has changed, they're all bad guys, its just the temporary alliances that have changed. IBM needed a way to sink Microsoft and improve their public image, helping the Linux community at large was a cheap way for them to do this while gaining more than they lost.

    I predict that eventually, Microsoft will lose enough ground to Google to become deeply worried. Google will ally with various dictatorships and tyrannies (including the various fledgling police states of the Western world) and turn their impressive reach into people's lives into a device for spying and creating evidence of malfeasance where there truly was none. They'll become the basic paid snitch looking to entrap innocents in the 21st century, and only the people they hurt and those close to each case will hate them for it but that will not stop their deeds nor redeem the various forces employing their services.

    At that point someone else will pop up as an alternative to keep the system going and keep people plugged into this struggle. But ignore them and focus on what needs to be done, mock them if it makes you enjoy life, and then move on, get done what you have done. Mock them and ignore them but walk away from their products. I used to "fight them" too, and then at one point I gave up the struggle and became polite about it. Even my mocking of M$ has been relatively humorous in nature when facing people upset over their products. Over time, I've replaced quite a few Windows installs with Linuxes, all except the truly hard core gaming computers (no need to work with gamers who aren't willing to tweak, and the new generation is nothing like the overclocker and system builder generation of old), but frankly, those who spend too much time gaming, have other issues in their lives they need to fix, emotional needs, physical needs, etc. I'd say stick to mocking Microsoft cleverly and appropriately, lose the anger, and replace just about everything you can replace when the client is willing. If they want Microsoft and insist, let them have it. More cash for you. Later on, if they bitch, remind them that you offered a better (though slightly more involved at the onset) solution.
  • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Saturday December 15, 2007 @12:29PM (#21709022)
    How is my hardware faulty? It works fine when I'm running Linux.

    It's classic Microsoftie newspeak. If Microsoft release a product that doesn't work properly on otherwise perfectly useable hardware, it's the fault of the hardware itself.

    For instance, downstairs I have a new duel core box (AMD) with 1Gb of ram and a gforce 7300 on a 10 Mb network running Vista. It's slower then my main machine, which is four years old and has a two year old AMD 400+ 64 bit chip, 1gb ram and a gforce 6200. Network performance from the Vista machine is a joke when compared to all the other machines on that network, well not a joke, because that would mean it was funny. Do you think it's the hardwares fault?

    That particular machine isn't mine, hence why it still has Vista on it, but I booted it into the Ubuntu livecd for a test. The difference? well lets just say 'fuck me', and leave it there.
  • by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <> on Saturday December 15, 2007 @02:38PM (#21709940)

    Activation, bloatware, and spyware. If I buy software whether an application or an operating system as long as I enter a valid key I shouldn't have to Activate it. Nor should my software spy on me, stamp documents with a guid [], or need to be Activated again if I change hardware. All the provider of the software has any use for is whether there is a valid key, for proprietary software.


Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.