|How Microsoft has helped open source
||[Jul. 16th, 2004|12:35 am]
Its been a while since I produced any drivel. I got my visa a few days back. So if all goes well I will be joining UT
next month. In the meantime I'm learning to cook, learning to drive and playing chess like crazy :)
If you were to make a list of five companies (excluding linux companies like RedHat) that have contributed the most to the open source ecosystem, what would you come up with? My list is: IBM, Sun, Novell/Ximian, the former Netscape, and Real. I'm including Netscape even though mozilla didn't become an open source posterboy until after Netscape Inc. was no more, for two reasons: mozilla wouldn't have existed without Netscape and because the hype surrounding the birthing of mozilla helped greatly in selling open source to PHBs. Real wouldn't be on the list if not for the recent announcement that RH/Novell have standardized on the Helix framework for their desktops; it is extremely unclear to me what the announcement means, but I'll let it be.
Now look at that list and think about the reasons for each company's involvement with OSS. A pattern emerges: each of them had its flagship product(s) crushed or seriously impeded by Microsoft, in almost every case through unfair business practices. In varying degrees of hope and desperation, they turned to open source and embraced (to varying extents) the model of selling services on top of the software rather than the software itself. Thus, their efforts act in concert to bolster open source and threaten Microsoft, rather than undermine each other. Even if you are a corporate-hating hippie, you can't deny that linux/OSS would still be geek toys if not for these giants. It is almost poetic justice to observe that the shady dealings of Microsoft over the years have served to unite their enemies and are coming back to bite Microsoft.