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What If…Microsoft Gets Into The Linux Business?

By on Feb 22, 2008 in Stop The Press, Tech Takes | 3 comments

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I just read about Microsucks deciding to go ‘more open than ever’, and releasing APIs for their various different products. Quite coincidentally, I had a sort of brainwave few days ago. Read on…

I happened to be in this *evil* mood recently, quite the right time for it, considering that my school exams are only a week away; came up with this crazy idea, and just *had* to share it – what would the tech scene be like if Microsoft, er yes, Microsoft, got into the Linux business? Now I know this might give regular readers a heart-attack, hearing someone who’s never called Microsoft ‘Microsoft’ before on this blog talk about Microsucks and Linux in the same breath, but hear me out.

Microsoft LinuxFrom Uluen on Flickr

It’s inevitable that there will always be alternative operating systems, no matter how much Microsucks’ marketing department tries to tom-tom Windows’ superiority – it’s simply NOT in human nature not to have renegades. Given the fact that Windows Vista’s reception hasn’t exactly been…stellar either doesn’t make things any better; and on top of that, Linux has been rising steadily in the public consciousness – slowly but surely it IS trickling down to people that there *are* choices beyond Windows. What I think Microsoft can benefit from immensely is if it just stops trying to beat Linux, and join the race itself – market it own version of ‘Microsoft Linux‘…or something like that.

Seems like a weird idea – M$ and support something open source? A union of complete opposites? It’s one thing to make tie-ups with Novell, a wholly different ball-game to actively develop Linux itself. And yet, if it does that, I’m sure there will be many takers. For one, this ‘Microsoft Linux’ could tap into its immense storehouse of licensing contracts – have out-of-the-box support for devices like wireless adapters, licensed Windows Media / other media codecs – all the stuff which has been Linux’ Achilles’ heel for widespread adoption.

More importantly, it will help Microsoft strengthen its grip in the business segment – there will never be a dearth of companies which might want to try out Linux for their organizations IT needs; but if a ‘Microsoft Linux’ comes around, then any inherent doubts, like those on intercompatibility will be lessened. Since it’s Linux, it’s free software and can be modified (if needed) for the organization’s needs, but at the same time the fact that it has Microsoft’s backing could mean it might ship with, say, better emulation software to run popular packages like Microsoft Office – if not a Linux version of Office outright. And once again, since it’s Linux, any fears of vendor lock-in will be dispelled too, for they could, theoretically, shift to any other provider that want any time.

Microsoft CD backwardsFrom gatepc on Flickr

Things could be brighter for the consumer segment too. No mucking about with stuff like ‘Gstreamer’ and ‘codecs’ – words which strike fear into the hearts of non-geeks. I know, because that’s been the reaction I’ve encountered a lot of times when I try to pitch Linux to my friends. Wider support for more devices could mean a ‘Microsoft Linux’ see major adoption from the Linux user base. Maybe not the fanatical open source enthusiasts like Richard Stallman, but the average user? Definitely.

Also, it could potentially mean more progress too – on the Linux front. Doing coding as a hobby and for the sheer unadulterated fun of it is OK, but at the end of the day, nothing draws talented people more than a fat wallet. Of course, this is not true for everyone. But given the deep pockets that Microsoft has, it can unleash its drones of Microserfs to carry out more R&D work on the Linux kernel / accompanying stuff which goes into distros. Since it’s free software, the code WILL eventually percolate down to other distros. Which on the whole, can mean a good thing – loads of motivated, and *paid* programmers working on Linux.

On a lighter note, what on earth could it be called? ‘Microsoft Linux’ sounds a mouthful, and…odd. Maybe something short ‘n sweet like ‘Micrux‘ will do. One thing is for sure though – IF it does, and WHEN it does get into the Linux business, Microsoft can pretty much assure itself of a bigger piece of the user-market pie.

Of course, everything might go horribly wrong, and things like Ctrl+Alt+Del might become a standard procedure on Linux distros too… ;)



3 Comments

  1. Apoorv Khatreja

    February 23, 2008

    Post a Reply

    You sound more like an economist to me than an OSS enthusiast – trickle down effect, jobs, economy, consumer segment.

    Again, I don’t fully agree. Microsoft entering this area would do more bad than good. I’m sure Ballmer has smething in his mind. He wouldn’t just ‘give up’ on what he’s being doing for more than 18 years.

  2. GQ

    February 23, 2008

    Post a Reply

    @Naman: LOL, both the names a quite good. ;) Especially the first one…

    @Apoorv: Yes, I *am* an open source enthusiast, but this post was on IF Microsoft decides to swallow its pride, stuff Ballmer in a closet, and join the Linux bandwagon. All things which I don’t see happening, of course, but in case it did, it’d be a practically unstoppable force in the tech market. Think about it, and it doesn’t even need to start from scratch! Why, it could buy Red Hat for all I know, a company with gross revenues around $400 million. OK, maybe not Red Hat, but then, there’s absolutely no dearth of good Linux companies which they can buy off for a pittance and get into this business.

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