Every now and then, some blogger working for a big website will write a story about how company Abc should make radical move Xyz in order to better, eh, well, that’s usually left in the dark. These are generally more akin to said bloggers hoping for radical move Xyz rather than there being a well-argumented reasoning. Radical moves in the technology business don’t happen very often, but when they do, there’s generally a good reason for them.
Take Apple for example. The company has gone through a number of radical moves, but all of them were actually necessary for the company to advance and remain viable. The classic Mac OS was a mess compared to its competitors, and as such, Apple needed to make a radical move in order to remain relevant: they created Mac OS X.
Moving forward a few years, Apple’s lower-end Macintosh offerings were heavily underpowered and overpriced because of IBM’s and Freescale’s lack of interest in developing desktop PowerPC chips. Apple’s laptops were running behind the competition, and even the company’s high end machines were too expensive for what they offered. They had to make a radical move in order to remain viable, and so they moved to Intel. Apple’s machines became not only more powerful, but also a lot cheaper.
Microsoft has also went through a number of radical moves, but they were generally less obvious, or they took more time. They moved from Windows 9x to Windows NT, an operating system they had written from scratch. Another, less obvious radical move is the interface overhaul between Office 2003 and Office 2007. Both of these were necessities, as the ‘old’ products (respectively Windows 9x and the default menu-driven interface) simply couldn’t handle the demands of the modern times.
All of the above moves were successful because they were needed. So, does Microsoft really need to open source Windows, as eWeek’s Jason Brooks suggests? Or is it more of a wish? What problem does it solve? Is Microsoft’s situation dire enough to warrant such a move, probably the most radical move in technology, in like, ever?
Vista was a marketing and technical disaster, but still, it didn’t hurt the company that much, and with Windows 7 being so well-received in the media, I don’t think Microsoft should be so worried as to consider open sourcing Windows.
For now, at least.
I have always thought that the best competitor to Windows, bearing in mind that people need compatibility in this world, would be a well-funded ReactOS project (maybe one of Microsoft’s competitors could step in to provide finance…) If there was a viable F/OSS implementation of Windows and, importantly, that implementation was not controlled by MS then we might see it improve in ways that could not have been imagined before (in the same vein as the recent Mono on iPhone and Wii story).
I am also unsure as to why MS would wish to liberate Windows at the moment as there isn’t really any market pressure to do so. However, this could be a good thing, because as long as Windows isn’t open, there remains the opportunity for ReactOS to get its foot in the door (if someone would give the project the resources it needs to truly compete).