Linux Not Cause of Microsoft's Downfall - www.reallylinux.com
Linux Not Cause of Microsoft's Downfall
by Walter V. Koenning, OPINION/EDITORIAL section.
Our other related OP/ED postings include:
Microsoft's Approach May Isolate U.S. Permanently
Open Source VS Windows: Reality of a Better Paradigm
In the latest validation
of the power and presence of Linux, a recent report disclosed that
seven of the top ten super computers in the world now run Linux. To
some, this represents the essence of how serious and formidable is
the capability and challenge of Linux to Microsoft's reign on
corporate computing. To others, the uniqueness of super computing
raises questions whether it is even relevant in the context of the
enterprise. No matter how you cut it, there is no doubt that
Microsoft's Server OS is not in the running for supercomputer use.
continues to validate the benefit of UNIX OS variants by employing
SUN Solaris and FreeBSD in several of its major infrastructures.
Scaling matters and in the reality of mass scaling projects even
Microsoft seems to shy away from using its own product in some very
Then there are those who
quickly point out the overt presence of Linux in many enterprise
contexts. Linux is used by companies including: Google.com, IBM,
Novell, Amazon.com, Walmart, ILM, and the list goes on and on.
But does all this mean
that Microsoft's powerful hold on the OS market is dramatically
shrinking, or is it simply a validation that there is a gaping vacuum
that Linux is filling?
To help understand why I
think Microsoft is seeing a major downfall, we must take a look
outward, overseas, and then inward, inside the very heart and guts of
the company of companies.
an Outward Glimpse
aggressive in its marketing and relationship initiatives in Asia,
Microsoft is seeing diminishing returns. India's national government
not only announced that OpenSource tools and projects would become
defacto standard (resulting in a major cut in the Microsoft Office
and Applications sales), it also validated the value of Linux as ever
growing numbers of IT education schools move to Linux as a primary
teaching tool. China has now also chosen its own manifest destiny
by deploying major infrastructure initiatives using Linux, and
opening the door for Linux as a primary OS. Two huge future markets
for Microsoft cut off in their infancy. The reality is that this
event is occurring in many other places around the world, in smaller,
but still significant numbers. The national government of Brazil is
well known for switching much of its computing systems over to Linux
and OpenSource applications. Again and again, even here in the
United States we see small and large companies migrating key server
needs to Linux.
All this to say, there is
no doubt a rather overt trend away from Microsoft to Linux is
occurring. The outward, global perspective is that Linux is gaining
in adoption and often where Microsoft systems were employed. More
importantly, the gains are not a derivative of effective marketing, a
place where Microsoft continues to excel. Linux adoption is
happening for some other reason. A reason fundamental to effective
expansion that perhaps Microsoft forgot, and which I wish to describe
in a moment.
an Inward Glimpse
Next, we can also see a
growing downward trend from an inward, introspective glimpse. Look
into the heart of this large and capable corporation and you will see
that where once its research and development, its marketing savvy and
incredible sense of market timing existed, today there is often
little more than rhetoric.
Chairman Bill Gates, in a recent interview, compared
Linux and Open Source licensing and use as "communist."
The statement is difficult
to understand coming from someone so adept at quality messaging.
Apparently we as technologists should accept that the use of an
operating system and its licensing is somehow correlated with
supporting the theories of Karl Marx and Engels on the subject of
economic structure (communism at its sources). Obviously, using an OS has very little to do
with being a supporter of Karl Marx and far more overtly to do with
choosing what deploys, operates, and scales best.
That's why it's so
difficult to understand how such a statement is made by a leader that
once stood strong against some of the world's leading competitors.
Microsoft and Bill Gates have a fine record for addressing
competitive challenges. Why stoop so low as to devise convoluted
rhetorical pleas? Why now abandon the systems, research, marketing
initiatives that so effectively gave Microsoft the edge in years
Were this rhetoric
incidental and isolated, one could argue against it being a signifier
of something deeper, something within the heart of Microsoft itself.
But even Microsoft CEO, Ballmer made such an error when he warned Asian leaders about the potential for patent lawsuits if
they use Linux. The implication
obviously being readily understood by many of these leaders as a
rhetorical statement to invoke fear.
Rhetoric now supersedes
much of what comes forth. When this happens in the context of a
company fighting against an ever growing competitor, like Linux, many
begin to speculate that the competitor is both the cause and the
winner. I disagree. In the rhetoric itself, combined with the
growing market shift to Linux and OpenSource, can be seen a far more
serious reason for Microsoft's gradual downfall. Microsoft itself.
This can be attributed to
many things. I believe the key reasons are:
Even Microsoft validated
this by recently making significant changes to some of its OS software
We live now in a world
where increasingly large computer corporations separate themselves
from their end users, their bread-and-butter. Between them and their
real customers are OEM relationships, government acquisition agents,
and wall after wall of corporate structures. Where these don't
exist, what they get is a wall of certified professionals that often
subdue the voice of their true customers: average joe user.
For instance, it's hard
for me to understand how some of the GUI (graphical interface) design
decisions for the latest Microsoft products were made. As one of the
leading and popular Linux desktop GUIs, the KDE Desktop proves you
can be both flexible and easily understood, you can find balance
between beauty and function. What happened to this balance, even at
The further you grow
away from your end users, the more likely it is that one day you are so
distant that the only voices you hear are your own.
Next, even if you could
somehow reconcile this terrible separation, most companies err even
worse with regards to quality over quantity. In recent years, output
of software releases and project schedules were dictated almost
exclusively by the arbitrary elements of marketing. I state
"arbitrary" because no one has yet proven to me that over the
long run, giving up quality for quantity (output performance) is a
So, as my headline states,
I believe that Microsoft is seeing a gradual downfall. But this
downfall stems much more directly from a failure to retain roots in
the end user base, and from a decade of placing quantity over quality
in product development.
Linux and OpenSource
initiatives of today may very well encounter precisely the same
decline if we do not conscientiously try to protect from these same
By focusing on the end
user, understanding that projects exist for people, rather than
people for projects, and by ensuring release cycles are never driven
by short-term promises but rather emphasize quality, this will not
happen to Open Source initiatives. And indeed Linux will run far
more than just the top four super computers in the world.
Walter V. Koenning is a technology writer and provides insights
regarding IT and computer industry trends. He contributes regularly to the
OPINION/EDITORIAL segments on Reallylinux.com.
This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information, and only contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author at the time of publication. Reallylinux.com could not find information in this article that at the time of publication was inaccurate. However, the opinions and personal experiences that have been posted do not express the opinions of Reallylinux.com and are not endorsed in any way. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. IBM, PC-DOS, and OS/2 are the registered trademarks or trademarks of International Business Machines. Microsoft, Microsoft Windows are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.