Whole New Ball Game

Welcome to our "Windows and Linux Integration" issue. Actually, maybe it's more like our "Let's embrace and extend Microsoft" issue :) . Long time readers of Linux Magazine know that I have nothing against Microsoft -- I just like the idea of trying to beat them at their own game. And the thing that struck me as we were preparing this month's issue is that Linux and Open Source software may just have the opportunity to do that.

Welcome to our “Windows and Linux Integration” issue. Actually, maybe it’s more like our “Let’s embrace and extend Microsoft” issue :) . Long time readers of Linux Magazine know that I have nothing against Microsoft — I just like the idea of trying to beat them at their own game. And the thing that struck me as we were preparing this month’s issue is that Linux and Open Source software may just have the opportunity to do that.

The thought first occurred to me during our interview with Steve DeWitt — the CEO of Cobalt Networks (check it out, pg. 68). For those of you who might not be familiar with Cobalt, the company manufactures several Linux-based network appliances, and they were recently acquired by Sun Microsystems.

Cobalt is very focused on providing developers with a platform that will enable them to build the next generation of Internet-based applications. So I thought it would be fitting to ask Steve where he saw Microsoft’s .NET initiative figuring into all of this. His answer was very interesting — he compared Microsoft to Sun and talked about how both companies need to provide a road map that keeps developers excited about where they’re going. That’s what .NET is right now — a roadmap for developers.

Steve didn’t have an excessively high opinion of .NET, but I do. I think that Microsoft has laid out some excellent ideas, and there’s a lot we can learn from the direction that they are going in. If you’re interested in learning more about Microsoft’s .NET, you should take some time and read Jon Udell’s “Embrace and Extend” article.

In many ways it appears as though Microsoft is admitting to the fact that they can no longer control the underlying platform or operating system. In fact, Microsoft recently re-organized itself, establishing an operating systems division and an “applications and programming tools” division.

This is very interesting when you consider the fact that the .NET initiative is organized around the idea that applications will be delivered over the Internet as services, and that the only way to build those .NET applications (at least for the time being) is going to be with Microsoft programming tools.

Of course for .NET to really work, it needs to become a pervasive technology, and Microsoft seems to have figured out that if they want their technology to become truly ubiquitous, then they need to make it open source. And so in the interest of making .NET into an open standard, Microsoft has decided to present the technology to the European Computer Manufacturer’s Association (ECMA — an open standards body).

This could end up being the most interesting turn of events of them all. One year ago in this column I wrote the following: “Don’t forget though, that Microsoft is one of the smartest and most adaptable companies in existence. They will surely try to adapt to the rules that Linux is writing. But, then again, that’s why things are different with Linux. This time, we’re writing the rules.”

If Microsoft is really serious about making their foundation-level technologies into open standards, then all bets are off. Microsoft has never lost while they’ve been playing by their own rules. But if they’ve decided to step into our ball park, then this is a whole new game.

See you next month,

Adam Signature

Adam M. Goodman

President & Publisher

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