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Standard Practice

Still, this whole Microsoft trial has had me thinking....How did Microsoft get to be such a dominant force in the first place? Sure, they may have used some questionable business tactics, but what were the things they did well? Are there any lessons that the Linux community or Linux companies can learn from Microsoft? I think there just might be a few....








Publisher's Statement/1
There Can Be Only One: Jon “Maddog” Hall refuses to allow Linux to splinter like Unix.

On Monday April 3, 2000, Federal Judge Thomas Penfeld Jackson issued his ruling in the U.S. vs. Microsoft antitrust case. The verdict? Guilty. No big surprise there.

Still, this whole Microsoft trial has had me thinking….How did Microsoft get to be such a dominant force in the first place? Sure, they may have used some questionable business tactics, but what were the things they did well? Are there any lessons that the Linux community or Linux companies can learn from Microsoft? I think there just might be a few….

So how did Microsoft come to control so many standards in the software industry? Well, for one thing, they did it by setting the standards for people to write to. Now, I’m the first one to stand up and extol the virtues of the open source development methodology, but if it has one weakness, in my opinion, it’s a lack of standards.

Say what you will about freedom of choice, when it comes to choosing a GUI, that freedom comes with a price. Programmers need standards to write to. If the average corporate developer looks into porting his GUI app from Windows to Linux, he will most likely be confused by the fact that Linux has more than one GUI — does the developer use KDE’s Qt libraries, or would he be better off with GNOME’s GTK+, or what about the Unix CDE standard Motif? In the face of this confusion, many programmers won’t port their apps to Linux at all. So one could argue that we give up just as much freedom of choice (by not having those apps available) as we gain by having multiple GUI “standards.”

The distro guys recognize the value of standards, and they’ve banded together to try to create the LSB (Linux Standards Base). Come to think of it, no one has ever complained about the fact that the Linux kernel itself is a de facto standard. Quite the opposite. People are increasingly worried about the potential for fragmenting Linux.

Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Jon “Maddog” Hall, a man who has done more than almost anyone else to evangelize and spread the word about Linux. One of the things he likes to make clear to every company that comes into the Linux community is that we simply cannot allow Linux to go the way of Unix. When it comes to kernels, “There Can Be Only One.”

So why does everyone get so upset if someone suggests the idea of a “standardized” GUI with a “standardized” API? I wish that someone could give me a really good answer to this question….

See you next month,

Adam Signature

Adam M. Goodman

Editor & Publisher

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