Microsoft Windows Goes Open Source!

Would you imagine this kind of headline could appear one day in the media? You say “impossible”? I say “why not?”. In the end, Microsoft is known as one of the biggest open source contributors.

Logo of Windows and Open Source

Lately, I was spending quite some time digging some info about Microsoft and I was very impressed to discover that the corporation strongly committed itself to the open source movement.

1) The Good Bad Old Days

Back in the days Microsoft and Bill Gates were, probably, the most fierce open source haters. Of course, the OSS community loved them back with the slogans like “Windows Must Die”. But the things have changed since then.

Here is an interesting quote from the article “Who really contributes to open source”, which describes pretty well the mind shift of the company: “For those of us that were around when Microsoft castigated open source as a “cancer” and “anti-American,” this is a remarkable change of heart (or, as I’ve argued, a change of business model).”

2) Contributors vs. Products

What’s the right way to measure the level of contribution of a company to the open source community? Microsoft is very proud of being the #1 company by the number of engineers involved in different open source projects. Google is the #2 after Microsoft with quite a big gap. But is it the best metric to measure the impact of a company? I don’t think so.

A better way to measure the impact is, in my opinion, by counting the amount of highly popular open source projects initiated and maintained by the company. There are four projects attributed to Microsoft, which I would call popular: Visual Studio Code, TypeScript, .NET Core and PowerShell. Let’s count Google’s popular projects: Android, Angular, Chromium, Go, Kubernetes, Polymer and TensorFlow. Google clearly wins here.

Now, imagine how close to Google Microsoft will come by releasing the products like Windows, Internet Explorer, Skype and Office under an open source license…

3) Your Choice

Does Microsoft have much choice? Not really… if you consider that one of their main rivals in the OS business Apple has released the core of their operating system Darwin years ago under an open source license. Another rival, Google, launched Android from the very beginning as an open source product.

Will this move cannibalize Microsoft’s income streams from the OS business? Very unlikely! As their main Windows income is from enterprise customers and businesses, they can keep charging commercial usage of Windows and make it free for private usage and non-profits.

4) New Opportunities

By moving into the open source business model Microsoft will be forced to be more creative about the ways how to make money. Today’s world is moving more from products to the services. Products are playing more the role of platforms and the services are the ones that add value and bring the main income to the company.

5) Better Quality

Popular open source projects are known to be of very high quality. The main reasons behind it include the “many eyeballs” effect and the diversity of the developers. This effect is well described in the Linus’s Law. The law states that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”; or more formally: “Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.”

6) Win-Win

This move would be a clear win-win for everyone. Microsoft will show its commitment to the open source community like no other. The company will discover new service-based revenue streams. It will be able to identify and hire the best open source Windows contributors. The quality of Windows will increase dramatically because of the “many eyeballs” effect. Maybe this move will also contribute to the return of Microsoft into the smartphone business and become the 3rd major player along with Android and iOS.

7) Conclusion

The future is open. Whether you embrace it or not only shows how visionary or short-sighted you are. Microsoft is already on a good way.

This article was published also on LinkedIn and Medium.

Why Xing Sucks

Probably, most of you don’t even know what I mean by “Xing” and why it sucks. If it wouldn’t suck you would definitely know it. Because it has a huge potential to become one of the biggest (if not the biggest) professional social networks in the world.

Why Xing Sucks

What is Xing? It’s a professional network available at xing.com, popular among some professionals in German speaking countries, primarily in Germany. It’s a “Made in Germany” project, whatever advantage or disadvantage this label might suggest. There are, indeed, some professionals in Germany who prefer having a profile at Xing but don’t have a LinkedIn profile. The reasons are different, but the most popular one is, probably, the higher security of their personal data with the German Xing, than with the American LinkedIn. This statement might be true, but, in my opinion, it is very doubtable. At the end of the day, you don’t keep your bank account details there.

Speaking from my personal experience, more and more professionals in Germany prefer to use LinkedIn only and don’t bother to have an account with Xing. This is especially true with international German companies having subsidiaries outside Germany.

My main problem with Xing is their poor feature set and lack of vision and I have a feeling that they are stuck somewhere in the past and don’t develop themselves anymore.

Let’s break down what’s actually wrong with Xing:

  • Poor publishing capabilities, i.e., you can’t publish articles with rich media, attach pictures or videos to your text messages, and the only things you can share are plain text messages and links;
  • In text messages you can’t link to a Xing page of any person, group or company by using, for instance, the at (“@”) symbol, whereas this is a normal practice on all other networks;
  • The amount of open contact requests is limited to 100. Why in the world do you limit it, in the first place? Why 100 and not, for instance, 300 or 500? My queue is constantly full, and in order to send new requests, I have to delete some other requests;
  • The design and the layout are ugly and outdated.

I am sure there are even more things to mention, but I don’t want to spend much time on researching or recalling them. If something else in Xing bugs you, please mention it in the comments.

I am biased. I hate when there is a brilliant idea and a big potential, but the company behind the product just can’t make it a success.

The project Xing has a huge potential. Let’s start with the name. The word “xing” or “x-ing” is a shortcut of the word “crossing” and is used in some countries like Australia on the road signs to warn the drivers of the road sections where you may encounter animals crossing the road. In relation to the social media, the idea behind “crossing” means that people always cross each other’s way. In my opinion, the name itself is much better than LinkedIn’s name.

If I remember correctly, at some point they moved away from the German domain .de (xing.de) to the more international .com. That was the right move and shows their ambition to be a global player instead of being just a German social network. But they have never managed to become popular globally and they never will with the current approach.

Everything they need to do to be successful is becoming a modern social network by simply applying the best practices of other networks. They should let people share stuff and be more permissive, than restrictive (this might be a general problem with Germans). And when you have done so, then start listening closely to your customers and introduce the culture of innovation within you company. The most interesting ideas might come from unexpected places or people, but then, by implementing them, you may gain an edge or a competitive advantage in relation to other networks.

Xing, I know that you can do better than that! Don’t become another fail like Myspace or StudiVZ. If you need help, then ask for it. I think many enthusiasts out there, including me, can provide you tons of feedback and give you a hand.

This article was published also on LinkedIn and Medium.

Disclaimer: the picture’s source is https://www.nyharbornature.com/blog/-slow-down-turtles-crossing-roads-to-lay-eggs