Will MS turn around a la IBM?


Back when I started work in 1982, IBM was a big and bad organization. Everything about IBM was expensive and obnoxious. I was in CSA helping to sell DEC machines – Vaxes running RSTS/E, RSX and VMS. Then I got my first Unix running on a PC (a Corona Data Systems PC) – Venix, if I recall – running on a 10MB harddisk 80286 machine; no X though. Then we moved on to AT&T’s 3B2 and what an interesting experience – I had to read up from books in the library what Unix was all about etc etc. All this time, IBM was the Bad Guy.

Then when I was in MS in Seattle in 1988 doing PSS work, IBM was part of the party there – we were supporting MS OS/2 and PC-DOS – but IBM was still a bit of a pain to deal with and still the Big Bad Guy.

Lo and behold, come late 1990s, IBM, the big juggernaut, turned the corner and saw the light. They realized that Linux and Open Source is the way to go and do things – and now, IBM is the Really Good Guy – they embraced Linux. In the meantime, MS has gone from being a good guy to being the big bully and now as the most disliked company in the IT sector – all because the software ecosystem and development model has changed and MS has not kept up with the times [for example, MS ignored the web, TCP/IP etc and had to be dragged to the table as it were].

MS is 30 and IBM is 94. The 94-year old is now a hip and happening company while the 30-year old is behaving badly. Can the 30-year old learn a thing or two from the 94-year old? I hope they do. I think MS needs open source more than they believe or even care to admit. The high priests of days gone by were able to control reading/writing by not teaching the unwashed masses. When the masses learned to read/write, civilisation flourished and continues to do so – likewise for software. The days of proprietary, closed source software is numbered. 45 years from now, if you were to draw a line on software development from 1950-2050, the 1980-2005 section will have a strange bump (or depression) which shows a callous attitude to software and how it is to be developed. Closed Source – RIP 2005.

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