This week I added a new RSS feed to my continuously growing list of feeds but this latest addition feels weird – at least from the sound of it. The feed is called Open Source at Microsoft … I look at this feed with some amount of disbelief. The launch of CodePlex was a big enough signal that Microsoft has finally realized that it can’t fight the open source movement but even more importantly is the fact that it can and should participate in the movement. Look at the situation logically: Microsoft, hate it or love it, is THE dominant platform player on the desktop and office suite space on the user side and on the server she is quite visible as well. As such you can’t seriously expect to dismiss the meaning and impact of Microsoft in any application development/deployment decision that you make as a business person. Most of the open source applications do run on Windows except those that occupy the same space as Windows such as Linux but then again with the increasingly mainstream nature of virtualization, running Linux on Windows may not be that impossible at all. It puzzles me how comes it took Microsoft this long to realize that they have a responsibility towards open source as a whole; previous reaction of Microsoft to open source was one of disdain which inevitably spawned FUD of various kinds.
The dominance of Microsoft on the desktop was not an accident and perhaps their most coveted advantage is the Windows API and all the accompanying development tools that leverage it. Anything that threatens to shift the focus from the API to something else that is not Microsoft is a threat but we are at a time when applications are increasingly web-based which does not mean that the Windows API is irrelevant but it means that its significance in terms of application development is less pronounced. A web application developer, for example, wouldn’t be bothered much about the various API calls that he/she can make to take better advantage of Windows. So, a strategic dependence on the continued value of the Windows API from a Microsoft perspective would be a blunder of a highest order. Please note that this does mean that Microsoft should abandon the Windows API, instead they should invest in it as they have done and look at it as the base from which to move the emphasis away from the OS API. Your web application must run on an OS on the server and the browser is still a desktop application which means that some kind of a desktop OS is needed and will be needed barring a few bright ideas entering the market.
Aside from Windows API Microsoft recognized the value of collaboration earlier on and as such has a great ecosystem around its technologies through various programs for developers as well as partnering with companies that would collaborate with it. Depending on how much liking you have for the Redmondians, as they are called, you might see this as allowing partners to fill in gaps in Microsoft’s platforms and extending this view further, there are certain gaps that should have never existed or perhaps not as wide as they have existed. Just imagine how the anti-virus industry would have been like had Microsoft setout to build security into the core of the Windows OS in some way or manner right from the get go?
The current focus of Ray Ozzie, as the man who takes over Bill Gates’ CSA responsibilities, is on the web and making it work for Microsoft. I have read interesting blog entries about the strategic moves that Microsoft is making and analyzing the current state of Microsoft’s platform they are in a strong position but at the same time the challenges they face are quite diverse. It has been noted that Microsoft is a sleeping giant which seem to have awoken to the realities of ad support business model that is the bread and butter of web darlings like Google and the rest of the lot. This sleeping giant has a number of market dominance in the client OS and office productivity suit sections of the market with additional influence that comes from overseeing such a strong position. Given the aforementioned factors, what is the likely chance that Microsoft could become a dominant player in the web platform APIs game? In the recent past, I have been looking at a number of Web 2.0 APIs on the internet and so far Google APIs seems a lot more mature than the rest of the players who offer APIs. Mashups are increasing becoming popular and these APIs are the core components that bring Mashups to life.