Dale Franks at Q and O sees that Sun is just giving Solaris away these days, and he rightfully sneers:
Solaris isn’t some mystically wonderful operating system chock full of Sun’s proprietary goodness. It’s just freakin’ UNIX for cripe’s sake. They’ve been giving away a free UNIX-based operating system for years, anyway. It’s called Linux, and despite all its hype, it’s still where it was five years ago: restricted to the hard-core, geek community. Ask 10 average computer users what Linux is, and 9 of ’em will tell you it’s the blanket-toting Great Pumpkin kid from Peanuts. In fact, if Sun is giving away Solaris, I suspect it’s far more likely that they’re doing so because Linux is eating into their user base, and there’s a whole UNIX-based open source community that’s starting to eat their lunch.
Microsoft, on the other hand, owns the desktop. Look, the desktop OS is about as perfect an example of a natural monopoly that you can find. If you have a business–and this is more true the larger the business is–you can’t have twelve different operating systems running concurrently. If you do, your corporate IT division has to puff up like a tick just to support all the different configuration, software, and hardware tics that will result. So will your training section, because every time a typist/clerk has to move from the UNIX/StarOffice system to Windows/Office 200X system, you’ve gotta put them through a whole new training cycle to learn all the new stuff.
I’ve linked to Dale Franks’ posts before because he’s a geek with perspective. Software’s but a tool, and its silly factions of technology partisans make as much sense as contractors continuing to argue Bosch versus Black and Decker. Who, outside of those partisans and some salespeople, cares?
Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon the secret of open-source addiction amongst the geek community–not only do the developers get to write it, but they get to sell it, too, but they’re not very good salespeople.
Or maybe that’s not an insight after all.