I have said on a number of occasions that Microsoft should Open Source their Windows Operating System (and their Internet Explorer).
However, it bears repeating.
I realise it is unlikely to happen in the near term but, I firmly believe it will happen in the not-too-distant future (when Microsoft realises that they can’t compete with Open Source).
If you take it simply from a numbers perspective, Microsoft has 70,000 employees. If we say 40,000 are actively programming code for Microsoft (the rest being admin, management, marketing, etc.) then you are looking at a maximum of 10,000 who would have contributed to the development of Vista, Microsoft’s current Windows incarnation. I suspect the number is lower.
Vista is estimated to have cost Microsoft $10 billion and six years to develop and they still shipped a fairly shoddy product.
Presumably Microsoft will want to re-coup that investment before it even thinks about Open Sourcing Windows.
Compare that with the various Linux distros. It is estimated that around 100,000 people have contributed to Linux’ development! I recently installed Ubuntu on my laptop and it simply blows Vista away in terms of performance and reliability.
Why are Ubuntu and the other Linux distros so good?
Lots of reasons but a few jump out:
- With open source development, you are getting the “Wisdom of Crowds” – the more people involved in the development, the better the end-result
- Open-source development is peer reviewed so bugs are caught earlier in the process and any which make it into a release are fixed quickly
- In open source projects the code is written by people who self-select for jobs they have an interest/skillset in
- Feel free to add more in the comments!
The upsides for Microsoft of open sourcing Windows are myriad, for example:
- If/when Microsoft open source Windows, their Windows piracy concerns will suddenly disappear
- Microsoft drastically improves its reputation as an anti-competitive bullying monopolist
- The next operating system they write would cost a fraction of the $10bn spent on Vista and would be much higher quality
The economics of Open Source are counter-intuitive. IBM spends around $100m a year on Linux development. If the entire Linux community puts in $1 billion worth of effort and even half of that is useful to IBM’s customers, then IBM gets $500m of development for $100m worth of expenditure.
If Microsoft could, in one fell swoop, get rid of their Windows piracy concerns, write better quality software, improve their corporate image, and radically reduce their development costs, do you think they would do it?