Open Source Strategies

A blog about open source software and business models, enterprise software, and the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Suite.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Reading Redmond

What does a survey of the Microsoft developer community tell us?

I know we all get too much mail, but here's a magazine everybody should subscribe to: Redmond, "The Independent Voice of the Microsoft Developer Community."

In the current issue: a survey of developers' opinions towards Microsoft. Most Microsoft developers think that Microsoft is good for the industry (88%), but:
  • 63% of respondents responded with a 7 or higher when asked if Microsoft was being arrogant (scale: 0 - 10, 10 being supremely arrogant);
  • 51% said that Microsoft's licensing programs were unfair;
  • 42% said that Linux, Firefox, and open source products were the biggest threat to Microsoft (another 20% said it was existing Microsoft products.)
Open source itself is not a threat to Microsoft, though--it's people's perception of open source alternatives to Microsoft products that is the real threat. More importantly, since Microsoft has always relied on the availability of products on its platform as a competitive advantage, the perception of its developers is especially important.

But open source can also help Microsoft: What if Microsoft started a few open source projects and got its developers involved? This would:
  • Get its developers actively involved in creating a product they would sell.
  • Shift some of the development cost to the developers community (admittedly, maybe not a concern for the world's biggest software company.)
  • Get some potentially very valuable contributions from outside the company.
  • Once and for all, end all those complaints about quality and security with a call to "send in your own patch!"
  • Make the developers feel their opinions matter.
The revenue stream from an open source project might be smaller, but the costs would be smaller too. Microsoft could still make out like bandits by offering support--which MCSD wouldn't want Microsoft to stand behind them?

Finally, Microsoft has thousands of tools and utilities that go into its flagship products which nobody really pays Microsoft for. (Would you switch to Mac OS or Linux if Windows didn't automatically zip/unzip your files?) Why not let somebody else take care of those? And make them feel more involved while you're at it?

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