Times are changing (Or?)

A very interesting announcement from Microsoft today. I’ve been following some of their moves lately and have a gut feeling that Microsoft is preparing some kind of ‘take over’ plan.

My opinion is that they are doing a silent revolution. Instead of going head to head with Linux and Apple they are making small steps towards releasing significant parts of their software assets for free.

Today, it’s totally possible to be a Windows Developer and work with several technologies without paying a single cent on development tools licensing. You take the 2003 and Vista betas, a Express Edition compiler, and you are writting your next application, ready for the to-be-released versions of Windows.

I mean, seriously. Here’s some signs:

  1. They released some major pieces of software as free downloads (Visual [you name it] Express, SQL Server Express). The Open Source community still has a ways to go to offer the same level of functionality as even a single one of those apps.
  2. They have adopted the word ‘beta’ in some service/product announcements. 🙂
  3. Recently, they released Microsoft Virtual PC and Virtual Server for free as well. This directly competes with the VMWare offerings.
  4. Both Vista and Windows Server 2003 R2 are available as downloads with a simple registration and timed expiration from their site.
  5. They have acquired SysInternals and WinInternals, adding Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell to their operating system team. Those folks were known for providing low-level debugging tools for free.
  6. They are working with the community in some fronts. For example, the WiX project on SourceForge, receives lots of community feedback and even patches. It’s a quite high traffic mailing list.
  7. They have created a SourceForge-like website for hosting community projects centered around Microsoft products.
  8. Have you looked at MSDN? Now that’s documentation. Ok, it lacks in quality in a few places. But can you name a single Open Source project that provides similar documentation? What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

How big of a dent that can make in the Open Source community? How many people, frustrated by the lack of a good and free IDE will move back to developing on Windows?

My advice: keep an eye on Microsoft. One day we might wake up and sheesh they made the Windows source code available. Will Linux be able to survive that?