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Microsoft making friends with Open Source
    I was reading this article at RedmondMag, about the (slowly) growing open-ness inside Microsoft to Open Source technologies and OSS development as a whole. Much of this is due to the addition of Bill Hilf, who was hired away from IBM. The article goes on at length about how Bill’s influence is opening minds and opening doors for research into open source technologies inside Microsoft, which is a good thing, because it might enable a very inwardly focused company to look outside the microscope and at powerful new ideas emerging outside the company.
    Apple did this very successfully in 1998, when the went looking for a solution for a replacement to the aging, MacOS architecture, which was fundamentally broken in too many ways. They purchased NeXT, who had developed an operating system based on the open-source BSD UNIX variant. Apple used that foundation to build Mac OSX, and made it’s core level system, Darwin, open-source once again, to spur continued development. Mac OSX and it’s Open-Source architechture under the hood evolved into the most powerful, stable, secure computing platform in the industry.
    When I read the article, I couldn’t help think what if Microsoft had the guts to do something similar? There are so many things about Windows that are just fundamentally broken, perhaps Microsoft just needs a fresh start, like Apple did. Microsoft hasn’t bought an operating system since they bought QDOS, and repackaged it as MS-DOS. And as enormous as the Vista codebase is, it would be impossible now for them to start coding a brand new operating system from the ground up. First, the resources required to do that would be impossible, and second, the brain pool is too small and backward focused to pull off something that revolutionary.
    Enter OpenSource Operating Systems. Microsoft’s salvation could come with the embracing of an existing *NIX variant and building it out in the same way Apple did Mac OSX. from an open-source foundation, build a powerful propietary operating system. Of course, they’d need to provide backward compatibility for those who switch to “OpenedWindows” but technologies like WINE are already helping make this possible, and with the full force of MS developers behind it, WINE, or a VM-based technology could improve exponentially.
    It’s an brillant world, Microsoft. Just open the proverbial window, and smell the fresh air.
- jb
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
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