Microsoft starts a FUD war against open-source Symbian

Microsoft is out to prove that open-source Symbian is doomed to fail...but chooses the exact wrong example to do so.

That didn't take long. Nokia announced just last week that it would be open sourcing Symbian, the world's top mobile operating system by market share, and a few days later Microsoft has started a FUD war against the move.

The ironic thing in this Microsoft FUD offensive is that it's using precisely the wrong example from open source to wage the war: Linux. While it could have found some examples of open source that fragments, is more costly than proprietary software, etc., it chose Linux, which isn't:

[Microsoft's] Rockfeld sums up those challenges with what some might call the "F word": fragmentation. Fragmentation is bad, he says, because application software developers have to create multiple versions of their code for different operating systems, or different versions of the "same" operating systems. "There are more Linux consortiums that come and go than there are Linux phones," he says....

In fact, open source code can actually increase costs for manufacturers and carriers, Rockfeld says. That's because they have to do more development work, more customization work, and take more risks because they lack a reliable platform partner -- like Microsoft. "With us, they don't have to worry about the platform," he says.

Whew! Microsoft to the rescue. There's just one problem, Microsoft: Linux is an amazing example of how an industry can collaborate against fragmentation to provide an open, robust production-grade platform that requires less, not more, development and provides more, not less, performance. That's whyenterprise CIOs have voted for Linux vendors like Red Hat over Microsoft in droves. Oh, and Linux also uses 12 percent less power .

Or did you miss the memo?

I suspect that Microsoft's anti-open source FUD in this case is more of a prayer than an invective. Looking at mobile market share numbers, Linux-plus-Symbian will give open source a 70 percent market share in mobile with backers as diverse as Google and Nokia working together to ensure that open source, in some form, powers the next generations of most of the world's mobile devices.

Microsoft? It has 12 percent global market share. Get used to losing in this market, Microsoft. Just be sure to upgrade your FUD along the way so that it's actually relevant. Picking on your biggest competitor in the server market, one where you still haven't come up with a good response beyond patent FUD, is probably not the right way to go.

Try competing on the quality of your product. In mobile, Microsoft has always been an also-ran. This will not change until Microsoft stops believing its own FUD and actually invests more heavily in its mobile initiatives, by which I mean in its technology, not in its marketing. Windows Mobile has never been very good, even back in the early days when I competed with them while at Lineo. It's time for an upgrade, Microsoft.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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