Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What Microsoft should do with Linux

Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger

Imagine this: What if Microsoft did what Apple or Sun Microsystems did. By recognizing that the value it provides is a user interface and cool software, albeit somewhat buggy, it could start concentrating on its strengths and leave the increasingly commodity stuff (the operating system) behind.

For example, Apple ditched its own operating system, adopted a free, open-source version of Unix, and built their user interface on top of it. Similarly, Sun is giving its latest operating system away for free, using an open-source license, and concentrating on what it does best: make great computers. Apple has certainly benefitted. Mac OS X is far more secure and easier to use than Windows, while it's too early to say if Sun (which has loads of other problems) will benefit.

Microsoft already does something like this with the Mac, and has for many years. It provides Microsoft Office for OS X, in a version that's more or less closely in synch with the software on Windows. The next version of Windows is supposed to depend for its user interface on a graphics system that could easily (I think) be moved to other operating systems. What if you were able to buy that interface, or parts of it, or Microsoft Office, or .Net or other Windows components for Linux or FreeBSD? Call it Microsoft Desktop, competing with, or building on, something like Gnome. The NT and CE base operating systems are very good.

I'm guessing that, after an initial period of some loss, Microsoft would end up with a net gain as it adds application sales on other operating systems, eliminates the suggestion that it is competing unfairly and puts the company in a far better position for the future. It will be able to take advantage of all sorts of advances in operating systems without having to steal it or develop all of it itself.