Open-source Windows: “It’s definitely possible”

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

WCAB306_960The RISC OS community may very well be a closed off, self-contained one, but there’s no denying that Microsoft’s Windows operating system still has an impact on us – regardless of if we use RISC OS exclusively, or in-conjunction with Linux, OS X or even Windows itself.

Businesses, small and large depend on it day-in-day out, offices, libraries and supermarkets all rely on Windows to perform tasks and communicate internally and externally. A lot of people might not think about it, but considering its massive userbase, even the smallest change to Windows could impact millions if not billions of people globally. So an interesting topic to cover with that in mind is the possibility of Windows running under an open-source software license.

Now a lot of people might be thinking that Microsoft wouldn’t dare do such a thing for a number of reasons, financially and perhaps because of theories about the legitimacy of some of its code. Times however are changing, and it would seem that even Microsoft are themselves keen to keep up.

Microsoft’s Chief Technical Officer Mark Russinovich has said himself that the company’s stance on the way it licenses its software is in the air: “It’s definitely possible, it’s a new Microsoft” he says during a presentation at ChefConf.

“That’s the reality we live in today, every conversation you can imagine about what should we do with our software—open versus not-open versus services – has happened,”

The computing world has changed massively in the last decade and it’s quite refreshing to see a giant like Microsoft embrace the movements that are taking place. Open-source software has exploded and is undoubtedly going to get bigger, companies now rely on open source software, packages like Open Office are no longer laughed at by sysadmins and users alike, but embraced as a viable, transparent alternative to the often bloated, over-commercialised packages they compete with.

Microsoft’s dominance in the Technology markets is no longer a guarantee, their share of the desktop computing market has dropped massively to Apple’s OS X and Linux. Their attempts to gain a lead in the mobile market has been a remarkable disaster with their Windows Mobile OS failing to achieve more than a 2.8% hold of Mobile users as of Q4 2014. Microsoft’s presence in the games console arena has been successful but not by any means dominant, and with the market’s highly competitive and highly hardware-intersive nature it has largely failed to financially assure Microsoft a solid future if its mainstay products like Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office falter in sales and userbase going forward.

Microsoft are no strangers to open-source software already, the are responsible for massive contributions financially as well as technically to the Linux operating system. Their .NET framework, a software package that allows for the building of online applications, was open sourced earlier in the year to ensure its continued use within a market that is increasingly becoming harder to compete in – especially with a commercial product.

It would seem as though Microsoft are reconsidering their approach on the distribution and development of Windows in order to secure its future in the long-term. More and more users are aware of alternatives to Windows and its software packages like Office and Outlook. Apple are increasingly gaining a good share of desktop users and with the desktop market itself shrinking as a result of a huge boom in tablet use, Microsoft are looking slightly on the ropes if they are decided on keeping the dominant position they’ve held for the last two decades.

Although the possibility of an open-source Windows is almost certainly a long way off as of yet, it’s refreshing to see Microsoft reviewing the way they operate and it also gives us a glimpse of some of the worries that the world’s biggest Technology company is having in a market where nothing is a guarantee and nothing stays the same for very long.

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