Open Source Windows?

I had to laugh at Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Microsoft could solve its Vista uptake and quality problems by open sourcing the OS.

Hiding behind his suggestion is the reality that, despite putting thousands of people and billions of dollars into it, Vista doesn't seem to deliver high quality -- this despite several years of Microsoft's commitment to quality (in fact, at one point, they used the quality initiative as a reason for one of the many delays to the product).

Of course, despite its lack of quality, the OS doesn't really deliver much in terms of features, either, as I described in an earlier post. I mean, after five years of trying, transparent icons of your open windows and widgets on the desktop?

What I think is really interesting about Steven's blog posting is his quite rational diagnosis of Microsoft's problems and prescription to address them: let open source coders loose on the product so that the benefits of open source development can be applied to solve the problems.

Open source development methodologies have shown that they fix bugs quickly, rather than letting them fester for years. Open source also allows end users to solve problems that those who control the product don't understand or care to fix themselves.

In the abstract, Steven's ideas have merit, but they founder on one central reality: they conflict with Microsoft's business model, and when user needs and business models clash, business models win every time.

After all, what end user demanded Vista's byzantine hardware security mechanism? The answer is no-one. Hollywood content providers influenced Microsoft, which was willing to listen to them rather than the millions of end users that are inconvenienced by the feature. On the other hand, Microsoft is looking to form lots of business relationships with those providers for other products and services: Zune, Xbox, the inevitable DRM-friendly response to YouTube. In other words, Microsoft's business model trumps end user needs in the core software offerings.

This isn't just a rag on Microsoft rant. I mean, what else would you expect any rational commercial entity to do?

More to the point is where this need to protect its business model will take Microsoft.

By releasing a complex, expensive, light-featured, user-unfriendly feature intrusive, quality-compromised product, Microsoft is failing to meet the needs of its core user

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