Letters to Redmond
This month, readers chime in on Microsoft and open source, and sound off about the Office UI.
Old Habits Die Hard
[Regarding the March 2007 cover story, "Open
,"] a couple of decades of experience have shown
that Microsoft is an extremely developer-friendly company. Anyone willing to
port software to a Microsoft platform and therefore make the platform more valuable
is greeted sincerely with open arms. But what history has also shown is that
Microsoft has a habit of letting a niche develop right until it takes off, at
which point Microsoft comes in and crushes all opposition by means of subsidies,
sheer commercial weight and probably one of the most vicious distortions of
standardization and interoperability efforts.
With that track record, Microsoft will have an extremely hard time convincing
anyone that it intends to cooperate. The company belatedly begins to use open
source, but only to strengthen its grip on its customers.
Microsoft has gotten itself into a few comfortable niche markets -- the office
desktop and the home computer appliance-and is trying for some other equally
comfortable niches -- the "enterprise" back office and the cell phone,
Microsoft's major problem is that its traditional method -- allow the pioneers
to innovate and develop a market, then step in and take it off them -- doesn't
work any longer. There are two reasons for this: Redmond goes to sleep once
it gains a monopoly, and the Free and Open Source Software [FOSS] development
process and people do better work than Microsoft does and are eating its lunch
slowly but surely.
Microsoft's actions are perfectly understandable -- even to a certain degree
reasonable. But IBM for one has found that the only way to gain respectability
in the FOSS circles is to become an active contributor-and Ballmer's rumblings
indicate that Microsoft's head honchos aren't comfortable with that.
How it will all pan out, I don't know -- but I have thought that SQL Server
could be a real market leader if it dropped the religious "Microsoft-only"
stance and got ported to Linux and Solaris. But Microsoft would need a management
buy-out to do that -- Ballmer doesn't have the guts to do it, that's for certain.
Christchurch, New Zealand
I run a software company and our goal, too, is to make money. However, we don't
illegally abuse a monopoly (as Microsoft was convicted of doing). We don't try
to shove Digital Rights Management down our customers' throats. We don't impose
onerous end user license agreements on our customers. (Our proprietary software
ships with source, and customers are permitted to modify it.) We don't send
nastygrams from the Business Software Alliance shaking down people to prove
license compliance. In short, it is possible for software companies to
make money without treating their customers like criminals.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Not Buying the Hype
The UI -- as discussed in Barney's
Rubble, February 2007 -- is like a work of art that has been touted as a
masterful work of color and grace when all it is, is three squares of different
sizes, painted imperfectly and stuck in a gallery to be sold for $12,000. Why
is this humble effort at being remarkable so admired? Who decided to call it
a ribbon anyway? I'll cease my attempts at wit and get to the point. I don't
care who owns it because I can't afford it. I'm going to install Linux on the
three PCs I have at home (with GNUCash and OpenOffice) and when (and if)
I get Vista and Office 2007 at work I'll dance and sing songs of joy.
This page is compiled by the editors of Redmond magazine from your letters. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and if your letter is printed in the magazine, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free Redmond T-shirt.