Every time one of the authors of Linux Addicts (I think I'm the one who does it the most) write a positive article about Microsoft, many readers react as if we are serving garlic soup at the annual dinner of the vampires. This originates from the decidedly hostile attitude Company towards open source that kept well into the first decade of the XNUMXst century.
Many of us are clear what was the reason for the change of the company, but, at least in my case, he had not understood the reason for the hostility. After all, Linux never surpassed the 2% share of the desktop market.
Now Steven Sinofsky, former head of Windows and Office gave an explanation about the cause behind statements like this from former CEO Steve Ballmer:
Linux is a cancer that clings in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.
Sinofsky replied on his Twitter account to an affirmation from Microsoft's main legal advisor who in a talk at MIT said:
Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the turn of the century, and I can say that for myself personally.
Sinofsky considers that it is not so, not that Microsoft was wrong, if not that it had a business model based on software as intellectual property, and that that model made sense when the company was founded.
Until recently, software distribution cost money. It took a long time since the popularization of the Internet until everyone (or at least most) had access to a decent connection at home or work. Older of our readers will remember when you could ask Canonical to send you a free Ubuntu cd. The other way was to buy a magazine that gave away the CD or buy it in an online store.
In the corporate sector, software was part of a combo with expensive hardware that you had to buy or rent or part of a consulting service that you had to hire.
The origins of the Microsoft business model
The former head of Windows recalls that in the early 70s electronics enthusiasts bought kits that allowed them to put together their own projects (something like Raspberry Pi or Arduino great-grandparents) that could be programmed. The software to program it was freely shared.
Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen They created a version of the Basic programming language for Altair computers. Its creation was an immediate success. So immediate that your (printed) source code it was shared non-stop.
This motivated the complaint of Bill Gates who published a letter complaining that they had invested $ 40000 in time and money and had only managed to recover a fraction because of illegal distribution.
We are talking about Microsoft's first product as a company.
It is not surprising that for 3 decades the company saw as a danger everything that threatened its business model based on people paying for each copy of the software. Later, other independent companies based on software development such as Corel or Adobe adopted a similar scheme and jealously defended their intellectual property.
In fact, open source does not challenge the intellectual property model, it simply increases the amount of things the user is allowed to do.
Actually neither Linux nor open source alternatives fuThere was a problem for Microsoft on the desktop. The problem appeared on the servers.
Sinofsky says that Linux was (and still is) much better than WindowsNT on servers. For a while, Microsoft was able to count on the advantage that corporate customers preferred the backing of a company to building their own solutions for better performance and lower costs.
Everything changed when IBM and other competing companies Microsoft (together with the appearance of open licenses less restrictive than the GPL) they discovered the advantages of providing services based on open source, along with new marketing options. Microsoft's only edge in the most profitable sector of the pie was over.
To finish complicating things, they appear Google and Amazon that instead of distributing software sell the service of running the software. Why would you buy an Office license if you can use the word processor or send emails from your browser? And, in many cases free.
Nor are you going to buy an operating system license for each of your company's computers when you can run that same operating system in a virtual machine from any computer paying only for the time you use it.
With a business model based on the sale of licenses without a future, Microsoft was left with no choice but to accept reality and support open source that is best equipped to give customers what they need.