A few recent blogs in this forum have left me rather bemused (and have lit up the comment boards). Attacks on and dismissals of the leading OSS projects such as Linux and Mozilla have really settled into rearguard mode. If I cared to read between the pundits’ lines, It might seem to me that OSS has completely up-ended their world-view. But the worry of pundits notwithstanding, it’s clear to me that while commercial software will always be with us, and complementary to OSS, the game is indeed over for buggy, insecure software that shows contempt for open standards. The reality is that this characterizes a great deal of Microsoft’s software.
I’m now used to the pattern, and it’s fun to watch. I started using Linux in 1996. Back then no one had heard of it. By the time I attended my first (and only) LinuxWorld in 1999, everyone had heard of it, but all these same pundits said “Linux can never, in any way make a dent in MS Windows.” Now they’ve changed their tune. They’ve conceded the server to Linux, but “Linux can never make a dent in MS Windows on the desktop.”
When Mozilla first came out, pundits said that Microsoft’s comprehensive defeat of Netscape meant that any challenge to IE was foolhardy. One year into Mozilla they said “what is this bloated mess that after one year still hasn’t produced a decent browser? The Mozilla Project is dead” After Mozilla 1.4 and up started to prove superiority as a browser framework, the tune changed to “Mozilla is a neat browser, but you can’t beat what comes on Aunt May’s desktop”. Now that MS IE is under assault from black hats as well as users (such as Aunt May’s nephews and nieces) tired of its powerlessness against black hats, the tune is now “well MS IE is an insecure mess, but just you wait till the black hats go to work on Mozilla.” (n.b. Negative energy doesn’t solve problems.)
Of course at one point Apache was no match for the mighty IIS, OpenOffice was just the latest victim generation of the MS Office juggernaut, and so-called “scripting languages” were no use for enterprise software development. Lest I forget, Apple has always been on the threshhold of death at the hands of MS. It’s time to roll a lot of those crystal balls into the bay already.
I suppose Microsoft boosters haven’t learned how dangerous it is to wave the red flag of challenge in front of developers who are already well motivated to produce better solutions than those of complacent incumbents. Conventional wisdom loses campaign after campaign, but keeps on as if the ultimate containment of OSS is inevitable. Only time will tell, but recent history has been very kind to people of my persuasion.