Monday, October 28, 2002

Microsoft v. Linux

A friend of mine was interviewed by some Microsoft strategy folk a few days ago, and they were grilling him on Linux. The Microsoft employee felt that since MSFT has more man hours to throw at the operating system, it will always be better than Linux.

This is nuts. The interviewer was an ex-consultant, so he probably knows little about software development and has never read Brook's excellent "Myth of the Man Month"--in short, man hours don't scale linearly. Secondly, even if Windows OS is better, Linux reduces Microsoft's ability to price it high, and if users cannot absorb Windows improvements fast enough, they'll switch anyway even if Microsoft's product is better AND improving more quickly. Finally, the interviewer made some bizarre comment about Linux being a niche operating system (servers, embedded, etc.) Linux is just a (commodity) instantiation of a client/server OS, applications themselves are being written to the Internet operating system. In that context, Windows is a niche operating system just as much as anything else.

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