I heard that at Gartner Mr. Ballmer said that one of the four areas which Microsoft believes GNU/Linux is particularly successful and where Microsoft wishes to challenge GNU/Linux is in application servers. I have often wondered why a company which makes one kind of product feels it needs to control the entire market. This is not something unique to Microsoft, as there are many corporations who feel they should be able to control the third party marketplace that utilizes their products, rather then let others choose what products and services they wish to receive. I often encountered this attitude in the Telephony OEM’s I used to work for in the distant past.
In the end that kind of small minded thinking often leads to a smaller market because corporations are often wrong in picking what products are successful, or which they believe their customers will not want. A good example of this is AT&T, which, when it was a monopoly, had developed cell phone technology, as far back as in the 1960’s. But AT&T decided on behalf of its customers, that they wouldn’t wish to have this technology and wouldn’t wish to make the tradeoff between quality and convenience. The customers never got to choose because the monopoly thought it knew better for them. Certainly with the Green decision, the telephone marketplace is now far richer for the range of products and technologies that continue to be developed and evolve around cell phones today.
As a designer of free software licensed telephony application servers, and in that I have a company which offers commercial support for such things, naturally I have to be concerned about any change in the application services market. GNU/Linux always has been and continues, I believe, to prove an excellent platform for telephony. One reason, of course, is the freedom it offers in licensing, and as a consequence in the ability to use it in so many ways. If it had been done by a proprietary vendor under traditional licensing, such a vendor—particularly one so enamored with its own ability to decide what others would want or should be allowed to have—would never have allowed it to happen. For this reason, I do not see Microsoft’s choice to potentially enter my market as a very serious threat.
It is also true my telephony software runs as free software natively under Microsoft Windows. While I would fully consider expanding commercial support to my software’s use on various BSD systems as well as on GNU/Linux, I do not and won’t make use of Microsoft products in my commercial activities or in fact anywhere in my business. One reason I choose not to do this is the lack of licensing freedom on their platform. This makes it far harder, more unreliable, and as a result, far more expensive to commercially service and support our products on Microsoft Windows than it would to do so under GNU/Linux or BSD systems. It isn’t simply an ethical question of freedom; it’s also because proprietary software is simply not a good long term business investment.