[conspire] FUD nonsense or words of wisdom: You decide!

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Apr 22 18:54:56 PDT 2005

Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at earthlink.net):

[http://www.infoworld.com/article/05/04/13/16OPcurve_1.html :]

> Linux and OSS (notice I didn't say FLoss, heh) are disruptive
> technologies, meaning that the best customers of Linux products and
> services are currently price-sensitive customers who are not willing
> to pay a premium for the added "functionality" that this author
> discusses.  

That may be true, but it's well to remember that one of the biggest
long-term advantages is that it restores _control_ over IT to the 
customer.  IT managers and their executive staff understand that
problem; they live and dread it.

> Steve Ballmer has criticized OSS as mere copying.

When I go to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread, I don't ask that
it be utterly original in design and execution.  I mostly want it to be
good, for it to not poison me, and for it to be compatible with my other

If Ballmer would spend less time bitching about Linux and more time
contemplating loaves of bread, maybe his stuff wouldn't have such a
tendency to be bad, poisonous, and incompatible.  ;->

Open source codebases have an incentive to enforce (real) standards and
interoperability -- and improvements to any open source codebase are
automatically accessible to any similar codebase that can use them.
Example:  Improvements to the Word-importing code in AbiWord instantly
became matched by OO.o, KWord, and others.

The exact opposite is true of Ballmer's sort of goods:  The publisher
has a DISincentive against converging on (real) standards and
interoperatibility, as that would improve the customer's ability to use
best-of-breed offerings, and the resulting undesirable (to the vendor) 
competition shrinks profit margins.  And any improvement to a
proprietary codebase becomes available to _nobody_ else.  E.g., every
time a proprietary software firm goes belly-up, all the wisdom embodied
in its codebase improvements gets scattered to the winds or outright

We'll never know what extraordinary improvements we might have all
gotten, for _dozens_ of other projects, from the GobeProductive office
suite, because Gobe Software bought the farm, and the chief coder
couldn't raise enough capital to buy the rights:


> The point of Apple products and Microsoft products is to 
> solve integration problems for customers who are willing to pay a 
> premium for integrating with all of the locked down content and 
> data and interoperating with other locked down software.  

It's important to point out that "integration" is (very) often a
code-word for "customer is deliberately locked in".

Also, it's important to know what the appeal supposedly is to
proprietary-software _coders_ of the author's notion of Win32 as a
stable "platform", in the sense he contemplates.

One of my old consulting clients was a financial house in San Francisco.
They had quite a few in-house coders, almost all of them MS-Windows
guys.  They divided into two groups:

o  The really sad cases were the MFC (Microsoft Foundation Class) guys,
   who lived and breathed by the huge, impenetrable set of coding 
   standards, library interfaces, etc. of Microsoft's then-current
   "corporate" programming environment.

o  And there were the VB-type guys, casual programmers.  Sometimes
   also Borland Delphi, that sort of thing.

Both groups, like the IT middle managers I mentioned earlier, bought
into the notion that Microsoft would continue to be good for them
because MS provided a stable "platform".  Their skills and their code
would continue to be valuable for decades on end, amen.

But it didn't happen.  With Microsoft, it just doesn't.  The casually
programmers, soon enough, were told "Hey, never mind that stuff.  Throw
out _everything_ you know about VisualBASIC.  We have something better:
VB.Net.  Yes, true, it's completely, totally different, but you'll like

To the MFC guys, they said "Hey, never mind that stuff.  Throw out
_everything_ you know about C++ and our class libraries.  We have
something better:  C# and dot-net.  Yes, true, it's completely, totally
different, but you'll like it."

Of course, it's happened many times before -- and almost certainly will
keep happening.  A certain percentage of both groups never learn.
Others figure it out, and realise that the "platform" promise is merely
another Microsoft Truth<tm>, not to be confused with reality.

I'm not ignoring your point about inexpensive computing for the broader
world, but just wanted to approach the matter from a different angle --
and not simply accept what the author (or Ballmer) take as given, when I
absolutely don't.

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