[Gllug] Microsoft was distributing Ubuntu

Richard Jones rich at annexia.org
Mon Jun 25 16:43:22 UTC 2007

On Mon, Jun 25, 2007 at 12:52:37PM +0100, John G Walker wrote:
> I appreciate this. But, given that some people are using Linux, I would
> have thought that MS could have increased their revenue by selling
> their own distro and including Linux versions of MS applications
> therein.

Microsoft makes buckets of money on precisely two things: Windows
preloads and MS Office (estimated to be 30% and 40% of their total
revenue respectively[1]).

They make comparatively minor amounts of money on a few other
business-y things like Exchange.  And they lose huge amounts of money
on all sorts of other businesses from Xboxes to Tablet PCs to their
useless "research" division.

When you're as big as Microsoft, every new market you enter needs to
earn $billions pretty quickly, otherwise it's simply not worth the
management time to look at.

What would Office-on-Linux achieve?  Linux has a very small share of
the desktop market, so it would not be a money-spinner.  At the same
time, it might be the final jigsaw piece in the puzzle for some large
company or other which wants to switch their business over to Linux
desktops.  If people start switching away from Windows, they lose
revenue (the Windows sale), and worse still people might see all the
free stuff on Linux and wonder why they're still buying Office.  So
that's not going to happen.

What would a Linux distro (say, for servers) achieve?  Microsoft would
make no direct revenue selling against free Linux downloads, so they
would just lose a Windows sale.  At the same time they'd have to
compete on a level playing field against all the established Linux
support organisations -- that makes _two_ things they don't like:
competition and support!  Not going to happen.

How about some sort of Microsoft Win32-on-Linux hybrid which is often
talked about as a way to embrace and extend?  Because of the kernel
license, the Win32 library would have to call only through syscalls
just like normal userspace code, so this collection of code could be
run on other distros.  (They could start to do dirty things in kernel
space, but it's not at all clear that this would be legal -- you can
imagine if NVidia are having a hard time how bad it would be if
Microsoft started doing the same thing).  And then for what end?
People can now run Windows apps on Linux, so they lose a Windows sale
(see above).  Really, I don't see how Microsoft would benefit.

Interestingly: http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=40549
Apple hit 14% of US notebook market share last month.  That's
according to NPD who _don't_ count Apple's own stores, so the real
share is actually much higher.


[1] It's hard to get real figures because Microsoft group together
unrelated groups together in order to hide loss-makers.

Richard Jones
Red Hat
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