The threat is to the cash cows, not a development paradigm
The Apache-Microsoft situation was discussed earlier today and some days ago too [1, 2, 3]. Bruce Perens and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols are concerned about it (it’s too premature to denounce anything), but they are not alone.
Glyn Moody has joined the discussion and his take on this is hardly different. It’s not even indifferent.
I predict that in the coming months we’ll see plenty of visits to Seattle by Apache coders, and plenty of help coming from Microsoft engineers in terms of tweaking and optimising Apache code on Windows. Indeed, it’s already happening: “The company recently invited several Apache contributors to visit its Redmond headquarters for informal interoperability talks.” The mention of one of Microsoft’s favourite memes, “interoperability”, also raises the possibility of Apache starting to add Microsoft’s proprietary technologies – .NET, for example – effectively forking the project.
There’s a common theme here: replacing GNU/Linux at the bottom of the open source stack, and making the applications more Windows-friendly. Microsoft seems to think – rightly, in my view – that the free software threat to its business will be blunted considerably if it can move users of enterprise open source applications onto Windows by encouraging and optimising ports to that platform. Steve Ballmer’s own words, contained in a recent memo to the whole company about future strategy, highlight the importance of beating GNU/Linux in this sector:
Business and enterprise: Our enterprise and server business has never been stronger—today we are on the verge of becoming the number one enterprise software company. We need to continue to push on all fronts—mail with Exchange, business intelligence with PerformancePoint, virtualization with Hyper-V, and databases with SQL Server. We have to drive our enterprise search capabilities, our unified communications solutions, and our collaboration technologies. And we must continue to compete against Linux in key workloads such as Web servers and high performance computing.
Notice how GNU/Linux is singled out as the main threat in this area, and that the Web server sector – Apache’s territory – is mentioned by name.
Just watch another new example of an anti-GNU/Linux, anti-Firefox manoeuvre affecting the world’s largest population (and, as of late, the world’s largest Internet population too).
Oh, there is to be sure much left to do for Microsoft to embrace the competition and change. I have heard today that many out there are still locked into the proprietary platforms trap. An example of this is what’s happening right now at the Bank of China. This bank recently upgraded its systems to what appears to be an all Microsoft environment. As a result, its customers are only able to perform their banking operations through the good old Internet Explorer. Wake up, folks. We’re in 2008 and such things should have stopped a long time ago. But I don’t see the lock-in effect being lift up by Microsoft any time soon.
Can people finally see where this is going?
Yesterday we wrote about some similar strategies in South Africa. Having been shown the same articles, [Pamela Jones wrote about Microsoft's assistance there with proprietary platforms for FOSS: "That's the goal, and likely explains recent events. Microsoft would prefer that you run your apps on their proprietary system and forget about Linux, and most importantly forget about free and open."
There are also some ill-informed responses to the news about Apache, such as this one from the CEO of MuleSource:
Now that my work in convincing Microsoft to love open source is complete I can take a break.
He is linking to an article of his friend, Gavin Clarke. They dined together and Gavin covered Microsoft's open source initiatives (more so in a positive light) in the past.
What on earth does that mean? Et tu, Dave? Being close to the 'Apache layer', perhaps he only thinks of this from a litigious perspective. He does not advocate Free software or GNU/Linux, so the operating system would seem relatively irrelevant to him and his business.
There remain some missing answers. █
"Our friends up north [Microsoft] spend over five billion dollars on research and development and all they seem to do is copy Google and Apple.”
–Steve Jobs, 2006