Ex-Microsoft employee: Free software will kill the company

CIO has posted an article about a man named Keith Curtis, a previous programmer for Microsoft, who has come out with the dramatic statement that free software will be the downfall of the Redmond company. Curtis, who was with Microsoft for 11 years, believes that free and open source software is technically superior to the proprietary alternative because it lets developers collaborate and innovate.

Curtis, a so-called Linux guru, apparently never actually tried the free operating system until after he left Microsoft in 2004, but he truly believes that as long as the software giant is dominant, then we will continue to live in, ""the dark ages of computing." Interesting, he also said that, "If Microsoft, 20 years ago, built Windows in an open way, Linux wouldn't exist, and millions of programmers would be improving Windows rather than competing with it."

So, how exactly will free software take down Microsoft? Curtis believes there are two ways this will happen. The first way is the belief that open source software is, as mentioned, technically superior. If everybody can contribute to software, then theoretically it will suit more needs. There are a few examples of this already in motion, apparently; the Firefox web browser, the Linux kernel which runs a wide variety of devices, including cellphones, and the point that Apple also uses a free kernel instead of a proprietary one. Secondly, Curtis thinks that the other potential threat is the fact that it's free. There are many ways that free software can be profitable to the companies that make it, but Microsoft does not rely on that, it relies on people purchasing its products.

It's unclear if, or when, Linux will take over. Curtis says that although software like Open Office does need some work, it is good enough for the vast majority of users. He said, "Even if Microsoft did embrace Linux, not only would it hurt their profit margins, they'd be forced to explain to customers why they should continue to pay for Office." If Microsoft had made Windows more openly about 20 years ago, Curtis thinks that Linux would not exist today, and programmings would be aiming at improving it as opposed to competing with it; he compares the situation to Microsoft "manning a leaky ship", and says that while Windows 7 is an improvement, it is still fundamentally flawed.

He's unclear on what Microsoft could do to stop this potential uprising of open source software. Bill Gates has been quoted to say, "It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not." He has an interesting outlook on things, and be sure to write back in the comments with your thoughts, too.

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I'm not holding my breath.

Microsoft has created Web sites where developers can use free code and collaborate, and the latest is called CodePlex. While it shows that Microsoft understands the benefits of free software, this site mostly contains tiny add-ons to proprietary Microsoft products.

This statement tells me he has no idea what he's on about.

It's just like communism - if only there is no property, and the means of production belong to everyone (meaning, no one in particular), everybody will "contribute" for the common good.

I think it run counter to the trend that to produce high quality products, very deep labor specialization is needed, which is possible to achive only through equity ownership. For instance, companies like MS and Apple spend tons of money on usability studies, creating high-specialized professions that deal with these issues alone. The same can be said about vertical and horizontal integration. You just can't achieve the same depth when you move to the OSS model - since there is no direct monetary or equity compensation, the OSS only attracts a few "superstar" developers, but nothing more. All the "boring" stuff that makes up the other 90% of what makes a product valuable to the customers is simply not there.

They have been saying this for many years now. It will never happen until Linux has the ability to run all windows software. Especially when it comes to games.

Curtis thinks that Linux would not exist today, and programmings would be aiming at improving it as opposed to competing with it; he compares the situation to Microsoft "manning a leaky ship", and says that while Windows 7 is an improvement, it is still fundamentally flawed.

minWIN is not enough for a fix for Windows 7, going onwards. It is a bloated piece of crap, like installing a 50cc engine in an 18 wheeler.

VIVIsectVI
Irony is, I'm posting this, from a Dell Studio 1737 laptop, running Ubuntu 9.04...and trying to figure out why it won't wake from suspend...like the oh-so-horrible Vista does easily.

I have never had an OS that can wake up from suspend. Windows 98, XP. Ubuntu no one can wake up, so I have to pull the power cord.

Alley Cat said,
minWIN is not enough for a fix for Windows 7, going onwards. It is a bloated piece of crap, like installing a 50cc engine in an 18 wheeler.

Irony of THAT is Windows 7 can even run well on netbooks with like 1.3GHz processors and 512MB of ram...oh well, guess theres no pleasing some people.

Alley Cat said,
minWIN is not enough for a fix for Windows 7, going onwards. It is a bloated piece of crap, like installing a 50cc engine in an 18 wheeler.

So you don't know what MinWin (or a meaningful analogy) is, then.

Alley Cat said,
I have never had an OS that can wake up from suspend. Windows 98, XP. Ubuntu no one can wake up, so I have to pull the power cord.

So you don't know what a power button is, then.

Curtis, a so-called Linux guru, apparently never actually tried the free operating system until after he left Microsoft
in 2004


Ahhhhh, so someone is bitter that he lost his job. No problem but this is really more of an immature and horribly misinformed rant than "news". Microsoft isn't going anywhere, nor should they.

Gee I can't imagine why a person as unprofessional and immature as this would be let go from Microsoft. Hhmmm... let me think.

People have been saying that Redmond will fall because of OSS for what...10 years now? Linux was ready for the desktop years ago according to Linux evangelists. This story seems to be nothing else than yet another claim by one who has "seen the light"

Look, I have nothing against Linux. In fact I run Ubuntu on one of my PC's and I like it. A lot actually. But naming innovation as one of the key aspects of OSS is a bit...ridiculous really. There is not a lot of innovation to be seen in Linux really. Just look at how many of the applications are basically clones of their Windows counterparts in terms of looks and functionality. One of the few true examples of innovation for me has been the new Gnome Shell that is being worked on. It remains to be seen however when this will show up and how people will react to it.

There's definitely advantages to OSS I will not deny that. In fact I use a lot of OSS apps, also on Windows. There are also disadvantages, but these aren't mentioned or acknowledged here. One is the fact that the OSS community is totally apposed to blending with closed source software, making things that should be very easy for the user harder than it needs to be. Open Source is not the holy grail and closed source software is not evil. Secondly, developers will work on what they want to work on. That way new stuff will be added and compatibility will be broken, leaving year old bugs in the source because noone is interested in fixing them because there's more fun stuff to do as well.

If everybody can contribute to software, then theoretically it will suit more needs.

This has been said for years by many, many people. Of the people saying it I wonder how many actually DO contribute. By far the largest part of the bigger software projects is being worked on by paid developers from Novell and the likes. All this "community driven" talk is romanticizing the thing.

if only there was more of a connection between the developer's ability to see the source code , and the user's experience to use it easily....

so i am guessing firefox isnt a good example of open source software, because open source software in general isnt good?

Sam Symons said,
[...] continue to live in, ""the dark ages of computing." Interesting, he also said [...]
I spy two erratum here. Double opening quote and a grammatical error, "Interestingly" would be preferred.

shhac said,
I spy two erratum here. Double opening quote and a grammatical error, "Interestingly" would be preferred.

Click the "Report a problem" link just above the article - that gets it straight to the editors

This whole open source vs proprietary debate reminds me vaguely (I said vaguely) of communism vs capatalism. Sounds like a bunch of techno-hippi idealists who want the whole world to help each other so everyone can have the best software. That's crap! If you have a good idea, good product, good service, then you want to get paid for it so you can make the best life for yourself possible. That's ok. If you want the doohicki I created, then you have to pay for it. If I just give it to you, then what? You make it better and give it to Ted, who makes it better, and so on? Wrong! I give it to you, you make it better, you give it to Ted who breaks it and brings it back to you to fix: this continues add-nauseum until you have a few people working their asses to please everyone else and getting nothing in return. You don't want to pay for an operating system? Fine, build your own, but quit whining about how you think it should be open source so everyone can improve it when what you really mean is you want it to be free.

I think that, FWIW, the ex-MS guy is simply saying what he likes best -- that his opinions should be given no more, nor less weight than anyone's. It's not really an indictment of MS, or Windows, but rather a statement of what OS he likes best today. Indeed, if Linux had been the 1st out the gate favorite a couple decades ago, Microsoft could have been the underdog. Please consider...

If the same resources had been spent on Linux rather than Windows over the years, Linux would look & act much more like the OSes out of Microsoft & Apple. You can debate whether the core of one is inherently better than another, but it's the development resources & the way they were applied, that resulted in the major OSes we have to choose from today. You can point out that Linux never had tremendous manufacturer support for drivers & such, since that had quite a lot to do with how resources were spent, the direction of development, and the growth rate & numbers of users... at the end of the day though this is more a VHS vs. Betamax sort of affair, pointing out once again that life's often unfair, & decisions made by a relative few can have far reaching consequences. What if the folks making hardware couldn't ignore Linux years ago, not having any alternatives?

You can debate open source vs. closed -- each has it's pluses & minuses -- but you can't argue that Linux & Windows have evolved in different directions for much of their life, & those directions were determined not just by whomever was in charge, but by the consensus of the user community. What if today's typical Windows user never had Windows as a choice? Wouldn't they still demand much of what Windows offers from whatever OS? What if meeting those demands required stepping away from open source ideals? You could even debate whether open source would have happened the same way -- how much of it was/is reaction to the MS way of doing biz. As the underdog upstart, might MS have been the open source champs?

Penguin heads I like that! It's the first time I've heard it. Anyway this discussion is academic; R&D costs money, Open Source is low-budget, always will be due to it's underfunded, unfocused and unaccountable nature.
Free software? After that you'll want free hardware. Not going to happen....

After reading the entire CIO article, I can unequivically state that this article on Keith Curtis is nothing more than a fluff-and-comb PR piece for his book. The questions were leading, planned and poised in a way to support the author's points. The piece from CIO fits right-in with Neowin's mantra about "unprofessional journalism".

In the "interview", what really made me laugh was this comnment from Mr. Curtis:

"...The biggest difference between Windows and Linux is that free software contains thousands of applications, installable with one click, and managed as one set. A Linux operating system includes all the obvious stuff like a spreadsheet, Web browser and instant messaging. But it also includes tools for making pictures and music, server software and development tools.

Since when is a Spreadsheet program part of the Operating System!?! Linux itself (the Linux OS) does not include things like OpenOffice, image editing and music - that's the purvey of the various distributions of Linux. How this person remained as a contractor for 10 years at Microsoft is beyond me.

What exactly is "The Linux OS" to you? :/
Do you know that it comes in *many* distrubitions, most of which include Open Office. That's what he is talking about.

He fails to mention what happens when you want software that isn't in your repository to be installed it can potentially lead to some horrible consequences.

Solid Knight said,
He fails to mention what happens when you want software that isn't in your repository to be installed it can potentially lead to some horrible consequences.

And you fail to mention that installing any untested software on any OS can lead to horrible consequences.

He's got a point.
If you can't see it, you should take that Vista box out of your pants and start seeing sense.

If I couldn't pirate, I'd be using Linux + Opensource.

Since Free Software runs on Windows it would only serve to entrench Windows further. Free Software is not exclusive to Linux. People need to wake the hell up and see how things really work.

...Not as long as the odds of recovering from a Linux crash/hang is at best on a par with that of Windows'.

And this is coming from someone striving to steer clear of Windows as much as possible.

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