Microsoft Linux

Linguists and English teachers would identify “Microsoft Linux” as an oxymoron. No, oxymoron  is not a phantasmagoric  cross between an oxe and a moron …. well maybe it is. The classic definition is a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms like Microsoft and Linux. And the amazing phenomenon is that I am seeing a growing number of IT pundits that are saying Microsoft will … nay, must do it – create the Microsoft OS OS. Yes a Microsoft Linux based Open Source Operating System, particularly for the client.

Here is Alexander Wolfe at Information Week:

“So while Microsoft has done an elegant job in correcting the performance lapses of Vista — it’s fixed search, for example — I’m not sure that Windows 7 will be anything more (or less) than the last great desktop operating system. Which isn’t so bad if this is Microsoft’s penultimate … act, and it’s got a true lighter-weight OS successor in the wings.

My idea on that front — and I know it’s quite frankly insane — is to simply take Linux (any distro will do), fix it up so normal people can actually install and use it, and release it. Call it “Microsoft Open Source.” Give it away, sell it for $30 with phone “support” (“Is your PC plugged in?”); who cares? I call this the creative destruction play, because this’d let Microsoft focus on apps, the server OS, (where the revenue stream will remain flush for a long time) and integrating those back-end servers with a heterogeneous mobile workforce running a variety of laptops, netbooks, and phones. With those apps running in the cloud! I’m veering away from Windows 7 now, so you’ll have to read my next column for more on this vision of the hetero-computing future.”

Glyn Moody at Computerworld UK – defines the Pyrhhic victory of Windows XP on Netbooks with the  implications that a move to Linux is inevitable.

Jack Wallen at Tech Republic – describes a plausible (but certainly not current) Windows – Linux coexstence

“I confess, I never thought I would write such a title. Microsoft helping Linux? No way. I was always of the mind that Microsoft and Linux would forever be mortal enemies and one, hopefully Linux, would rise above the other in absolute world domination. Well, that hasn’t happened. In fact it seems as if the two operating systems are determined to coexist in the IT world.With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to list the ways in which Microsoft could help Linux solidify itself as a viable enterprise and end user solution”

Glyn Moody and Alexander Wolfe provide the rational for a Microsoft Linux. First, Netbooks are currently destroying the Microsoft margins on Netbooks (the fastest growing PC sector). What MIT started with OLPC-One laptop Per Child the PC industry, particulary in Taiwan, has delivered – a truly useful laptop PC that is light, durable, and connected for $250 or less.

So the desktop OS trends has 3 traits deeply injurious to Microsoft and its Windows desktop monopoly profits:
1)it is going laptop vs desktop, and laptops are going primarily to Netbooks;
2)it has gone deep discount commodity pricing in hardware and software;
3)it has become just another link to the the Net where real application development is taking place.

So Wallen at Tech Republic argues (and I agree) that there are real payoffs to linking up strongly with Linux.

1)If Redmond  wants it can get in the Linux business by buying Novell (good client Linux, great server version) or say Xandros(attractive  client version and entry in a number of market spaces) – both are available at slump-based discount prices.
2)It frees up a whole slew of developers for work on applications on the server and in the cloud that have the margins that Microsoft loves;
3)It allows Microsoft to isolate Mac as the “proprietary OS” and kick dirt on Steve Jobs ambitions;
4)It allows Microsoft to do an IBM mainframe – charge premium prices for the privilege of running a slowly vestigial or thinking-man specialized (Redmond’s choice)Windows OS;
5)It allows Microsoft to influence Linux standards(if not outright set them  – Redmond are master’s of the Standards Game) and not leave them to Google, Oracle, IBM and others;
6)Finally Bill Gates would be able to get Linus Torvalds to work for him.

See Wallens article for the full range of opportunities for “collaboration”.

Now the only question is whether Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates can see outside the box that they have gotten themselves into with Windows monopoly level pricing. Apple has had to slash its prices. Will Redmond see Linux not as part of the problem – but a solution to an otherwise  no-Win game.