Microsoft has killed off Windows NT 4, but it should now release its source code to the open-source community in order to fight off the challenge from Linux, Munir Kotadia claims. My Take: Sorry, but the suggestion doesn’t hold business-wise. Read more for my short commentary on the subject.Windows NT is a 8-years old codebase, no matter how you turn it and how many Service Packs you apply to it. It doesn’t support a *whole deal* of features that Microsoft has later added via 2k, XP and 2003 Server. It will take an additional 5-6 years of open source development to bring that OS up to speed in regards to hardware/feature-set. Therefore, there is nothing in it for Microsoft or even for the users today “as is”.
More over, all commercial OSes contain a lot of licensed code for drivers and other parts of these OSes. If Microsoft (or Be, or Apple) was to open source their commercial closed source OSes, they would be in the midst of legal trouble from the patent-holders and copyright-holders of these parts that are now in the open.
Replacing these parts of the OSes would require a lot of engineering, for example, it would be a 4-month team work for BeOS to make it patent/copyright-free. And please note that BeOS is a tiny OS compared to NT or OSX.
Sure, having an open source Windows OS that is still usable and valid (e.g. not win3.1) it would be great. But other than geek purposes and show of “good faith” from Microsoft, it would bring _nothing_ to Microsoft as a business in the battle against Linux. Plus, it would be expesnive for them to free that code. Therefore, the idea of open sourcing NT (under any license) doesn’t hold as a business solution.
Another problem is that if NT was to be free for all, it would actually compete mostly with Microsoft’s own products and not Linux (not as much at least). They would kill their own upgrade plan to Win2k3 Sever if they would do that. Support is not important for all companies (this is why many companies are using Debian with zero support, they manage it themselves — like in my ex-firm), so the companies who want Linux, they will stay with Linux. And the companies who want Microsoft Windows, they would stay with NT. And that would prove terrible bussiness for MS and Win2k3.
Personally, I see in the near future — if Linux really starts to squeeze Microsoft very seriously on all markets — Microsoft would make Longhorn free for download as an ISO image, instead of selling it. But they wouldn’t open source it (having the WINE people ‘stealing’ the APIs and implementing proper binary compatibility with Windows, would be a death knolt for Microsoft). They would just make it free as in beer. They can perfectly afford to do that, because their main income is coming from the server products and Office, in fact their consumer OS versions don’t bring much income at Microsoft. But these OS products are important strategically (so Microsoft can sell Office which is very profitable). So if they were squeezed, they would just free the OS itself from its price. It would be a business suicide to open source it though.
Microsoft open sourced some of their WindowsCE OS series, but the market and business are different in that sector. In the desktop/server sector, open sourcing NT would seriously compete with Microsoft’s own products and that is just not acceptable from any business point of view.