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If Microsoft wants its staff to understand the threat it faces from open source it should charge them to use its own softwareMatthew Aslett, June 19, 2009 @ 6:49 am ET
An excerpt from “After The Software Wars,” a new book written by former Microsoft employee Keith Curtis highlights one of the reasons why the rank and file within proprietary software developers fail to appreciate the potential of open source.
“At Microsoft, I got all the software I wanted for free.”
I’ve been thinking about this issue recently as it relates to the use of open source software within cloud computing environments. Open source software has been used to create most, if not all of the early cloud computing platforms, thanks to its flexibility and low cost.
As previously mentioned “We’ve seen how the use of open source as a business enabler provide the opportunity to lower start-up costs and quickly bring new services to market while focusing on providing unique value services.”
The main exception to this is Microsoft, which is naturally using its own software products to build the Azure platform. Naturally, because it has the expertise and wants to prove the value of those products. But naturally, also, because its developers don’t have to pay for them.
Is there another company in the world that would be able to afford to build a cloud computing platform using Microsoft products?
The fact that Microsoft’s development teams get to use Microsoft software for free protects them from the commercial realities of what it means to develop applications an infrastructure and run business using that software.
Vendors often refer to the use of their own software as eating their own dog food. The fact that staff didn’t have to pay for the dog food will always make it more palatable, however.
And it’s not just Microsoft. I use the company as an example as it is the most prominent software vendor, but the principle applies to any proprietary software vendor that wants to ensure that its staff understand the competitive threat that open source poses.
If proprietary software vendors began charging its development staff for the use of their products would they continue to use them? Probably yes, given that’s where their skills lie, but perhaps if they had to deal with the costs of that software, and the company’s sales team trying to extract ever-increasing amounts of maintenance fees from them, they might also develop a better appreciation of why open source software is becoming an increasingly attractive option for their customers.
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