A New Rant – Microsoft, Ubuntu, Canonical, Novell, and Mono

I was reading Goblin’s latest post at OpenBytes. He had some interesting points, but I thought he was missing a few things. At point I hit four paragraphs in response, I decided to answer him here instead, because I kept on thinking of more things to say. Goblin’s concern is that Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu family of GNU/Linux operating systems, is bringing out a new product called Ubuntu One, and they are going to make a Windows version as well as a Linux version.

Goblin’s is right – Canonical seems to be moving closer to Microsoft, both in supplying a Windows version of Ubuntu One, and because of Canonical’s new search deal with Yahoo. Since  Yahoo has a search deal with Microsoft, Canonical is in effect delivering Microsoft Bing search results to GNU/Linux users.

Now Goblin switched to GNU/Linux to avoid Microsoft, and knowing a bit about Microsoft’s background as a convicted Monopolist, he’s concerned that Microsoft is up to it’s old tricks. But Goblin is missing one major point. Microsoft is incompetent. Totally and utterly incompetent. And it doesn’t appear that Canonical is much better, if at all.

Let’s consider Windows Vista for example. Windows Vista was advertised as the ‘Most secure and advanced Windows yet’ before it’s release. One year after it’s release Microsoft stopped talking about Windows Vista – the only thing it was willing to talk about was Windows 7, which wouldn’t be released until much later, and the reason for this was that Vista was a terrible operating system. It wasn’t much more secure than Windows XP, it was a resource hog, and it broke compatibility with a lot of older software. In fact if you had to run software designed for Windows XP you would have been better off running Xubuntu with WINE installed.

Yes, Microsoft is trying to use it’s monopoly to force everyone else out of the market. They’ve bought several companies recently who produced products for multiple operating systems, and then proceeded to make them Windows only. So sorry, we don’t make a Unix version anymore… The only problem with this sort of action, is that those customers who used the Unix version now know what Microsoft thinks of their business. Nothing. So they aren’t going to buy more Microsoft product. There’s no gain for Microsoft. Oh, strictly Microsoft shops might buy a bit more, but they are becoming rarer, as the advantages of GNU/Linux servers become more evident.

I imagine most of you won’t remember the Hunt Brothers. Those good old boys caused me a lot of trouble when they tried to corner the silver market, and they did it the same way that Microsoft is trying to corner the software market. The Hunts would buy a silver mine, and then shut it down. They did this often enough, that there was a silver shortage, and those of us who used silver in industry were squeezed badly. Silver went from $7.00 US per ounce to $55.00 US per ounce. The only problem was that every time the Hunts closed a mine and the price went up, prospectors went looking for more silver. And they found it, and when those new mines started coming online, the Hunt Brothers didn’t have enough money to buy them all, and the price of silver nose dived like a paralyzed falcon.

Microsoft is in the same situation. They don’t have enough money to buy every software company on the planet. Hell, they probably don’t have money, period. Boycott Novell has been doing some research, and according to what they have seen Microsoft now appears to be in debt. One Microsoft shareholder compared Steve Ballmer, the President, to Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi scam artist.

“During 2007, Apple spent $782 million on R&D, Oracle spent $85 million while Microsoft spent about $7.5 billion. In 2007, Apple annual revenue amounted to $24 billion and net income totaled $3.5 billion,” says Montgomery. “According to 2008 annual report, Apple increased revenue to $32 billion and net income to $4.8 billion. During the same period Microsoft spent $8 billion on R&D and increased revenue from $51 billion to $60 billion. Therefore, Apple has a R&D budget that equates to approximately 10% of Microsoft’s; however, during this period Apple increased revenue by $8 billion and Microsoft increased revenue by $9 billion.” (link here)

For this my thanks to Boycott Novell as well – if Roy hadn’t have posted about it, I would have missed it. The point being that Microsoft is wasting money. Apple spends a tenth of what Microsoft does on R&D, and managed to increase sales by almost the same amount. In 2009 the numbers were even worse, Microsoft sales fell in spite of their massive R&D spend, while Apple sales grew. The United States was suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and Apple sales grew, even though they didn’t spend the R&D dollars that Microsoft did. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Microsoft can limit competition in the marketplace for a short period of time only. This combined with the damage that Microsoft has done to their brand by releasing failures like Windows Vista, which limits the amount of money they can spend on monopolistic practises means that we are probably only five-ten years from seeing a collapse of the company, driven partly by their own incompetence, and partly by the negative image that the Microsoft brand has gained over the last five years. For example Novell made a deal with Microsoft, and Microsoft’s bad reputation has affected Novell’s reputation, to the point where a lot of techs, even those who had used a lot of Novell in the past, will not recommend Novell products anymore. Another example is the migration under way from Yahoo to Google, because of Yahoo’s pending deal with Microsoft.

Ubuntu and the other Gnome based distributions are also suffering a migration. Those of us who dumped Microsoft, and wanted to no longer have to deal with ‘Microsoft Technology’ or lack thereof, weren’t amused when we realized that Gnome was incorporating Microsoft technology into GNU/Linux via Mono. Last summer I wrote an article about Mono titled ‘The Mono Firefight‘ covering the situation as I saw it. Not long after I found out that I’d been added to the ‘Mono Enemies List‘ which I found more than a little bit amusing, and also quite complimentary. I’d definitely struck a nerve. The point that those behind Mono and the Enemies list don’t understand, is that when you make the choice to avoid Microsoft, you want to avoid Microsoft. Instead David ‘Lefty’ Schlesinger thinks that we have no right to decide what we want to run, because we didn’t work on the project. Sorry Lefty. By that argument, I’d be stuck with running GEOS forever, because it was the first GUI I’d ever used…

But Gnome may no longer matter. There are rumours around the net about a ‘New Desktop Foundation.’ The rumour I heard was that this would be a fork of the Gnome desktop, removing all Mono and C# packages. There are enough people who are upset at Ubuntu, Gnome, and Miguel de Icaza (one of the founders of Gnome, and founder of the Mono project, and a Microsoft MVP) that it could possibly be true. I was also told that the use of ‘New’ was deliberate, since in English the pronunciation is the same as the pronunciation of ‘Gnu’.

Things are looking interesting!

Wayne Borean

Monday February 8, 2010


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