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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