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Microsoft's Annual Report Reveals OSS Mistakes 348

mjasay writes "Microsoft's most recent annual report suggests that the company is increasingly coming to grips with open source, yet also seems determined to perpetuate myths about open source that poorly serve it and its shareholders. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has suggested before that 'free software means no free soda' for Microsoft employees; but this is perhaps the first time that Microsoft has managed to enshrine its ignorance in a public document. In the annual report, Microsoft makes two primary false claims about open source: 1) Open source companies don't invest in research and development and instead largely free-ride on Microsoft's patents and copyrights; and 2) Open source projects don't innovate and instead mimic Microsoft's products. Perhaps Microsoft has forgotten its own 'innovative' past copying of markets and technologies created by Apple and others. But at least Microsoft gets one thing right: 'To the extent open source software gains increasing market acceptance, our sales, revenue and operating margins may decline.'"
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Microsoft's Annual Report Reveals OSS Mistakes

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  • by haltenfrauden27 ( 1338125 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @10:50PM (#24461731) Homepage
    There's no question that they've made some missteps in this area, but I think the tales of their demise are very, very overstated. Microsoft still has an enormous install base, and I would absolutely expect them to try and apply the "embrace and extend" approach increasingly to open source. All they have to do is get more involved in coding for OSS projects, and they can change the entire nature of the situation.
  • Re:News? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by haltenfrauden27 ( 1338125 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:10PM (#24461887) Homepage
    My guess is Ballmer won't be in charge for long. The guy just doesn't have what it takes. Either Bill will return or someone else will show up and take the reins.
  • Re:Ad Hominem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeiler ( 1106393 ) <> on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:12PM (#24461905) Journal

    This is a very good point, but not one that will win favor from the MS-bashing crowd.

    The truth of the matter is that much of the "Computer R&D" is incestuous and cannibalistic. Microsoft used BSD networking stack for Windows, and the whole "windowing" motif from Apple. Apple, in turn, got the windowing motif from Xerox. It would be difficult at best to say where the boys at MIT "stole" the idea for the X windowing system.

    Some "borrowing" is necessary and understandable. Open Office and Microsoft Office are inextricably intertwined, but this is not necessarily because anyone "stole" from anyone else. This is because any suite of programs that perform the same fundamental functions is going to have some overlap on its functionality.

    Microsoft's FUD to the side, yes, new things do come from the OSS community. Microsoft still hasn't implemented Windows over network connections like X does--instead, they use Remote Desktop, "stolen" from the VNC protocol. At the same time, Microsoft has a massive install base, and has become the de facto "standard," as much as we might wish it had not: Linux is still playing catch-up. I guess I don't see the need to respond to Microsoft's FUD with FUD of our own. After all, if it's wrong for them to do it, is it not also wrong for us?

  • Reality check? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:28PM (#24462005)

    I fail to see where Microsoft makes any "mistakes" in its filing. The statement the company made were, as far as I can tell, correct. Without making judgment calls on R&D models, it's fair to say that the proprietary-versus-open source methods are very different, and that open source products benefit from the fact that their research costs *are* distributed amongst the various contributing developers.

    The filing never says that OSS companies don't spend a great deal on R&D, nor does it say that Microsoft's R&D (ie. feature development and coding) hasn't been influenced by outside factors. Therefore, I fail to see how there are any mistruths spoken here.

    Keep in mind that this is SEC filing, for goodness sake, and that the questionable sections are intended to be simple, concise analyses of the competition and a few differentiating factors between them and Microsoft. I think it does that just fine.

    With all the complaining we do here about the FUD inflicted on us by megacorporations, I am rather embarrassed to see us using the very same tacticts with this sort of story.

  • Re:Compiz (Score:3, Interesting)

    by msuarezalvarez ( 667058 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:35PM (#24462063)
    Leave the desktop cube (which is rather useless, really) out. I seem to have forgotten how to change desktops in good 'ol 2D in Vista!
  • pure narcissism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:40PM (#24462105) Homepage Journal
    Thankfully, most observers are able to see through this particular line of nonsense at this point. Sadly, however, it's likely that Ballmer and other 'softies actually believe it. They're so narcissistic that they really do believe that Microsoft is the epicenter of innovation, and that it really is impossible for good ideas to come from anywhere other than Redmond.

    In fact, many open source projects and products use Microsoft as a reference point for how not to design software. Call it a second mover advantage if you like.
  • Re:pure narcissism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:56PM (#24462191)

    Wow, did you used to work there, too?

    Three years ago, I became an unwilling MSFT employee via acquisition (don't worry, I didn't stay and remain ideologically pure ), and that's *exactly* how many Microsoft employees think. It's not surprising and it's not their fault, considering how much effort and money Microsoft spends on propaganda to tell them so. The only place I've ever lived that had a propaganda drive like MSFT HQ was a communist country with huge party banners on many street corners.

  • by Nymz ( 905908 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:56PM (#24462195) Journal
    I've noticed that stories regarding Microsoft or Apple have difficultly cultivating constructive debate. For example...

    Apple topic - The iPod design is amazing, I really want one, but am concerned about DRM. (Score:-1, Flamebait)
    Microsoft topic - vista suxors!!11!!1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    Would it be possible for Slashdot to have two sections? One for discussion of topics, that present conclusions based upon stated facts and assumptions. And a second section for free expression of angst, like 'Bill Gates is the Borg-Devil' or 'I want to have Steve Jobs iBaby!'.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @11:58PM (#24462205)

    Compatibility gets confused with copying. And when you know nothing about the history of computing, well, "UNIX? That's like DOS, right?" Because the GUIs can be made similar to Windows, because menus like OpenOffice are made similar to Office for ease of transition, because compatible file formats are often read and written, people who know nothing about the underlying structure of computers or the history of innovations can logically, if incorrectly, conclude from their experience with Windows from the earlier '90s that linux _must_ be a copy of Windows in the '00s.

  • Re:Damn parasites (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2008 @12:27AM (#24462367)
    I've got a question for any people who know about the BSD TCP/IP stack and the relationship to Microsoft.


    In 1998 Cert issued an advisory about the TCP/IP stack in BSD [] but what's of note is that Microsoft isn't vulnerable.


    So my question is whether they were still using a BSD derived stack at that time and if so whether anyone knows if the bug was fixed unknowingly or knowingly (eg, whether in refactoring the code they just happened to fix it OR whether they found a bug and kept quiet).

    Also would the GPL have prevented BSD maintaining this bug for so long?


    Thanks for any advice or comments,

  • Re:Damn parasites (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nawcom ( 941663 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @12:27AM (#24462373) Homepage

    he parent post is right, Microsoft has incorporated BSD-derived code into its operating systems [].

    for those curious: []

  • Pot-kettle syndrome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WoollyMittens ( 1065278 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @01:07AM (#24462605)
    It took "innovations" like Firefox to finally get the monolithic Microsoft of its collective ass and FINALY update their aging browser after letting it hold back the internet for about half a decade.
  • Re:News? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Monday August 04, 2008 @01:13AM (#24462639) Homepage Journal

    Multitouch technology predates Microsoft's "research" by about 30 years. []


  • Re:Ad Hominem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @02:59AM (#24463167)

    Just for the record though, RMS has stated many times that the decision to base GNU on Unix was a technical one, not a preferred one. He would have PREFERRED to create a whole new OS with a radically innovative design. The reason he chose to be Unix-like was very simple - he knew it would take a long time to finish, and nobody knew what kind of computers would be common when it was ready to use. Unix was (and to a large extent still is) the only portable OS in existence. So the decision to base his code on it was to ensure that GNU would be portable and still work in the future regardless of changes in computing architecture.

    Linus did not originally have this goal - Linux was hard-targetted for the i386 platform, and was stuck there for some time -however it's own unixy roots combined with the GNU base it sat upon meant that making it portable was soon not just a high-priority but a working reality.

    The fact that today you can run GNU/Linux on practically any computer in existence is a direct result of it's unix-like design.
    Now take a look at KDE4.1 though, and compare it to VISTA - then tell me OSS isn't being innovative on every level. Right now KDE4.1 is a better desktop for Vista than Vista's OWN desktop !

  • Re:News? (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:40AM (#24463363)
    You are just a linux fanboy and don't even know or care to know what MS does apart from OS.
    Microsoft velocity - distributed cache []
    ASP.NET MVC []
    Microsoft sandcastle - automatic documentation generation []
    Sure Vista was a let-down, but things are getting done. Windows 2008 server fixes most of the problems people have with vista. And contrary to popular belief, newer Microsoft OS just don't crash because of software problems. Period. They don't. I have 3 months uptime on my desktop computer. Running windows. When i was using linux i had to restart X all the time.
    Other great things MS has done? THE best IDE for software developers. Other IDEs don't come even close to visual studio. (Maybe slickEdit for C/C++)
    Office and accompanying products (MS Project, visio,...) Why is everyone copying them?
  • by JohnBailey ( 1092697 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @03:44AM (#24463387)

    Look at it from their perspective though. All those companies are going open source, 'cause they can't successfully compete with Microsoft.

    Or to put it another way, all these companies have realised that they can compete with Microsoft if they go open source. Pay per unit sale can be a disadvantage too.

  • by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @04:43AM (#24463663)
    "Our business model has been based upon customers paying a fee to license software that we develop and distribute .. Certain "open source" software business models challenge our license-based software model..."

    I do believe MS has been drinking too much of its own koolaid. If they really believe this then they are only deluding themselves. That their current business model is under attack is a given, but not from the Open Source sector. I mean how many times can you sell the same GUI, web browser and email client to the same people. The only real innovation they do is making each new version of Windows more bloated than the previous version, forcing the endusers to buy a new computer year after year. They also manage to make their older formats incompatible with the 'newer' software. That you see the writing on the wall is evident in your "software as a service" sector.

    The WinTEL PC is obsolete and people would have moved onto smaller embedded Internet aware devices if it wasn't for your repeated actions in stifling the market. Twenty years of CrapWare. That a bunch of hobbyists working in their garage can produce applications that equal anything Microsoft has produced tells us just how lacking in the innovation department you really are. Anything you ever produced you only ever leeched of the academic sector.
  • WINE by MS? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:14AM (#24464341)

    You may be joking, but I think something similar to WINE might be Microsoft's best approach to fixing Windows:
    Redesign/clean up the OS without too much regard for backwards compatibility, then put a WINE-like compatibility layer on top.

  • RMS history (Score:4, Interesting)

    by speedtux ( 1307149 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @07:48AM (#24464567)

    Just for the record though, RMS has stated many times that the decision to base GNU on Unix was a technical one, not a preferred one.

    One might add to this that before GNU, RMS was working on the Lisp machine and its window system.

    The GUI toolkit he had developed was more powerful than Swing, Qt, or Gnome, and easier to program. The object system he was working on put AOP and Groovy to shame.

    The fact that this software became proprietary despite his objections was what prompted him to develop GNU. And he based it on UNIX and C because he correctly realized that the world wasn't ready for advanced GUIs or advanced OOP. It's taken 20 years for people simply to accept basic single inheritance systems and garbage collection.

    The people behind GNU were technical pioneers; they consciously kept things simple with GNU because they knew they were building software for the unwashed masses of programmers.

  • Re:News? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blane.bramble ( 133160 ) on Monday August 04, 2008 @09:34AM (#24465683) Homepage
    Incorrect in my opinion - *any* machine ought to be able to go 3 months without a reboot (patching software and changing hardware excepted). Why do you feel that your desktop PC hardware or your desktop PC OS should be automatically inferior, to the point that you consider it incapable of running for more than 90 days without the OS crashing, and it's significant if this does not happen?

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."