October 24, 2003

How Microsoft's Misunderstanding of Open Source Hurts Us All

This week, speaking at a Gartner conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said some fascinating things about Linux and about Open
Source software in general. And thanks to those remarks and the blinding realization they caused for me, I finally understand exactly why Microsoft
doesn't understand Open Source.

Ballmer asked, "Should there be a reason to believe that code that comes from a variety of people around the world would be higher-quality than from
people who do it professionally? Why is its pedigree better than code done in a controlled fashion? I don't get that. There is no road map for Linux,
nobody who has his rear end on the line. We think it's an advantage a commercial company can bring -- we provide a road map, indemnify customers. They
know where to send e-mail. None of that is true in the other world. So far, I think our model works pretty well,"

The model has worked well for Microsoft, that's for sure.

At the core of Ballmer's remarks is a fundamental misunderstanding not only of Open Source, but of software development as an art rather than as a
business. Cutting to the bone of his remarks, he is saying that Microsoft developers, since they are employees, are more skilled and dedicated than
Open Source developers. They are better, Ballmer suggests, because Microsoft developers have their rears (presumably their jobs) on the line. All
those lines and all those rears are part of a road map, he says, and because of that road map the $30 billion plus Microsoft gets each year isn't too
much for us to pay, so the model works pretty well.

Link: pbs.org

Category:

  • Open Source
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