Day: December 1, 2008

A Microsoft Veteran Embraces Open Source

John Markoff writes about an “ex-Microsoft employee who has written a book”: about open source, what most Microsoft employees consider more evil than Satan, why it’s the future of software and why Microsoft is “toast”. That’s hardly news.

bq. Ultimately, he left because he was bored: “The amount I learned in my 11th year was much less than what I had learned in my first year, and the stock had become stagnant.”

It took him 11 years to get bored. I’m impressed… I was bored after two.

My three cents on open source and free (as in free beer and freedom) software….

1¢: Low-level software (operating systems, developer tools and even word processors) will become commoditized. Those are three things Microsoft makes a ton of money on right now, but in the end, they will be commodities and businesses will be built on top of them, businesses that sell them will be obsolete.

2¢: Open Source makes sense in a capitalist system in that it’s cheaper for corporations to use and even maintain open source software than it is to pay one vendor millions or tens of millions of dollars for something they have no control over and can’t provide you with a competitive advantage. Rather than pay Microsoft $10 million/year for Windows licenses, a Fortune 500 corporation can pay $500K/year three developers to maintain Linux, knowing that all the other Fortune 500 companies are doing the same. They’ll get a better product, a better response time to fixing bugs and very likely lower their maintenance costs because the inner workings aren’t a secret. Once the network effect takes hold around on Linux, if it already hasn’t, a company selling an operating system is on the decline.

3¢: Proprietary software companies can survive if they make a better and easier-to-use product. But the rule of “good enough” is hard to compete against. Windows is not better or easier-to-use than a Mac, but it’s “good enough”. Linux is better (faster, more reliable) but not easier-to-use than Windows… but eventually it will be good enough.