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On The Open Source Battle-front 25 October 2001 Edition
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The open source versus Windows debate seems to be heating up, with a number of stories on this matter hitting the wires today.

Here in NZ, IDG is carrying a story which seems to suggest that Microsoft are trying to put pressure on some who signed up to an open letter lobbying government to consider open source software.

Another company is trying to bridge the divide between Windows and Linux by launching a new Linux version which includes the Wine Windows emulator. The emulator is another open source project which, although showing great promise, is still not bullet-proof and has problems with a number of applications.

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The company pushing the new alternative, Lindows.com reckons it will have the problems sussed within a couple of years -- but as we all know, a couple of years is a long time in the IT industry!

However, something that might give the open source movement a good boost is the cost of becoming a .Net developer.

Whereas all the tools, support and documentation needed to develop software for Linux, FreeBSD or other open source environments is (as one might imagine) available absolutely free -- Microsoft look as if they're about to repeat the same mistake that IBM made with OS/2.

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Back in the early '90s, IBM rolled out its own version of the (until then) rather lacklustre OS/2 operating system.

Unlike the version built by Microsoft, IBM's OS/2 was brilliant. It was robust, feature-filled, easy to code for and ran on machines with relatively modest hardware requirements. In short -- OS/2 should have been a real winner.

I cut quite a bit of OS/2 code and it was a far more pleasurable experience than struggling with the archaic design and irritating limitations of Windows 3.11.

What's more -- IBM spent an alleged US$50 million on marketing OS/2, using what was (at the time) an unprecedented amount of TV advertising (remember the Nuns?).

So why did OS/2 bomb and Windows grab a virtual monopoly on the PC platform?

The answer is simple -- IBM tried to squeeze too much money out of developers.

To develop software for OS/2 you had to buy an SDK from the company at a rather inflated price. To do the job efficiently you also really needed to use their compiler and workframe products. Once again -- these were rather expensive and, when upgrades were released, little credit was given for owners of previous editions. In effect, IBM saw developers as a great source of revenues and profit.

As a result -- most developers said "no thanks, I'll stick to Windows" where the purchase of a product such as Borland's low-cost C/C++ compiler would give them every tool they needed -- and provide a low-cost upgrade path as those tools were improved.

Well now Microsoft are doing just what IBM did a decade ago. They're going to screw "entry-level developers" for US$1,000 a year to get onboard the .Net development bandwagon -- AND they're going to charge them $250 per application they develop (more info from CNet).

Just a word in your ear Microsoft: Now is not a good time to try and screw the most important business partners you have -- the developer community. Many of them are already looking closely at the open source option and if you try to empty their pockets before they can climb onto the .Net system then you could turn .Net into another OS/2.

No developers, no software. No software, no .Net.

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