Compete with M$

Compete with M$

Post by Laurent Itt » Wed, 12 Mar 1997 04:00:00



Hi --

I would like to ask a silly question, for which I haven't found
answer so far:

wouldn't it be possible to compete with Mickeysoft on OS grounds?

It seems to me that a large venture company could nowadays
develop a clean OS for PCs that would be able to compete with M$.
I am currently using Linux and happy with it, but all my non-nerd
friends that are stuck with windoze hate it. They would definitely
switch to a realistic alternative. So how about:

1) Let's say we take Linux as a base, inject a few good ideas from
AmigaOS, MacOS and others (e.g. SGI) and cleanly incorporate
some real-time, multiprocessing, etc. into it [most of this
list is already at least part done, so it sounds feasible].
We think hard and make completely clean device-indep print
management, display, inter-program data exchange, etc. [again,
the reason I think this is feasible is that we don't start from
scratch: tons of work have already been done in these fields];

2) Then, since we are targeting at the general public, we write full
graphical interfaces for /etc, and clean graphical setup/hardware
config software. Again, looks like matter of weeks for a team of
professional programmers. Nobody does it in the PD world because
it is boring job, but our venture company can do it;

3) Then, we inject the reasons why users stick to M$: a good
office package (word processor, database, spreadsheet, etc).
That's expensive but if the OS is clean it should not take too long.
I realize that here the list is almost infinite, but maybe 20-30
apps will catch 90% of the market IMHO. We just want a starting
point to launch our new OS, then software company will port their
products to our OS;

4) then we advertise: "get all the stuff you already have in better
and bugless, *plus* zillions of new, FREE, cool things such as
a true cli, endless number of programming languages, really powerful
utilities, etc."
Since this is probably not enough to make people switch, we need
a few killer arguments (e.g. "look, you can choose the window manager
you like best!") and a few killer apps, all of which would require
major changes in windoze to incorporate (e.g. I suppose here it
would be a pain to add multiple window managers to windoze; an
example of killer-app would use real-time without messing up the
OS, e.g. a good internet videophone or something of the like);

5) As people (hopefully  -- what a dream!) begin to buy, our big
venture company begins to inject money into Linux, GNU, and all
the groups who do the *real* innovative work, so that our OS
remains at the top of free software availability. These
associations keep developing free software, and we just generously
support them.
Then M$ switches from the position of market leader to mere follower
(which it already is, but the general public does not realize it
because they don't know all the free unix goodies around).
Our company makes money from selling the OS and some software for it;

6) we take command of the market: the OS is clean and powerful ->
software companies will love releasing products for it, and
users will like it too. Because the public-domain community is
our ally, we get all the new ideas; others can only follow.
Because the PD software is free, it is a very strong argument IMHO
to switch to our OS.

why hasn't this project been tempted yet (to my limited knowledge?)
Looks like now is the right time...? I just read that 3com started
as a venture capital company with $500k; a cool project like this,
seriously packaged, could probably raise funds easily?

  -- laurent itti

 
 
 

Compete with M$

Post by Ottavio G. Riz » Thu, 13 Mar 1997 04:00:00



> Most people -- not you or me -- don't buy PC OS's because they offer

                                        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Quote:> superior performance. They buy them because of one or more of the

  ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Quote:> following:

> a) They want to run an app that runs on their OS of choice

You mean you bought a computer just to look at top while running benchmarks?
:-)   <--- For the humour impaired.

--
Ottavio G. Rizzo                          diceno `e nuje ca nun c'e' maje
Dep. of Maths, box 1917                   piaciuto `e fatica' \\ pecche' `o
Brown University, Providence RI USA       tiempo e' vita e vulimmo campa'
Phone +401 863 7957 Fax: +401 863 9013                    Almamegretta


 
 
 

Compete with M$

Post by Laurent Itt » Thu, 13 Mar 1997 04:00:00


Hi Charlie:

I think you overlooked an important point of my hypothesis: I was
talking of _selling_ a commercial OS, loosely based on UNIX/Linux.


> a) They want to run an app that runs on their OS of choice

ok, we begin with a subset (eg. caldera office) and as the OS
spreads, companies will port their soft to the new OS;

Quote:> b) They want to be able to justify their purchase decision to
>    management, who will ask about on-costs like support and who
>    don't understand how a free OS can possibly be any good -- after
>    all, if it's good, people would pay for it(right?)

no no, it is a commercial OS backed up by full support;

Quote:> c) They don't know that there's any alternative

we advertize massively;

Quote:> d) They don't know there's any such thing as an OS -- they just
>    know their PC says 'welcome to windows' when they turn it on,
>    and documents open in little windows on the screen.

ok, we just tell them that the new windows are much nicer and can
do a lot more stuff;

Quote:> e) They don't like UNIX

we don't even have to mention it, or if we do, we mention it as
"the revolution: user-friendliness combined with the power of Unix"

Quote:> >graphical interfaces for /etc, and clean graphical setup/hardware
> >config software. Again, looks like matter of weeks for a team of
> >professional programmers.
> [...]
> the Windows registry) would not be a bad idea. But it's distinctly
> non-trivial -- MASSES of software would need re-writing (unless you
> turned /etc into a virtual filesystem like /proc and mapped it onto

honestly, I don't modify the contents of my /etc everyday.
It seems to me that we could just keep it and have a set of
graphical software to modify its contents rather than having
to directly edit the text files; something similar to the admintool
in Solaris. This does not look like a lot of work...

Quote:> >3) Then, we inject the reasons why users stick to M$: a good
> >office package (word processor, database, spreadsheet, etc).
> >That's expensive but if the OS is clean it should not take too long.
>[...]
> And because it's free the profit margin is so low that no dealer will
> bother thinking about ways to sell it. Okay?

we sell this too: all 'pro' software is commercial in my hypothesis,
including the OS. The advantage over windoze is that you _also_ get
plenty of very good PD.

Quote:>>[advertize]
> MS currently spends close to a billion dollars a year on advertising. How
> deep are your pockets?

good point. May be difficult... but look at Netscape and Java?

Quote:> While you're dreaming about killer apps, so are Microsoft employees.
> They're working on improving their market position, and they're
> [...]

okay, I agree they are now doing a decent job at improving. I however
keep in mind that _all_ major breakthroughs did not come from M$:
windows-based system (from Xerox as far as I remember), WWW (from CERN),
C++, Java, etc...
Okay M$ are good at delivering (some) good 'improvements' such as
WC++, but they do not seem to lead the innovation...

Quote:> It has been tried. Ray Noorda, the main backer of Caldera, ain't

well, from what I understood he is relying on Linux, i.e. free OS
and on part-free software. I am talking fully commercial OS, soft,
plus compatibility with unix PD.

Thanks for your comments,

  -- laurent itti

 
 
 

Compete with M$

Post by charlie stro » Fri, 14 Mar 1997 04:00:00



>Hi Charlie:

>I think you overlooked an important point of my hypothesis: I was
>talking of _selling_ a commercial OS, loosely based on UNIX/Linux.

Have you any idea how much it costs to develop a commercial OS to
current industry standards?

SCO spent something like forty million bucks developing Open Desktop 3.0
into Open Server 5.0 -- and kept a large chunk of the existing code. That's
just the development team -- programmers, QA, and documentation staff. (I
know about this 'coz I was there.)

I gather that USL/Novell sank something like two hundred million bucks
into SVR4.3 (aka UnixWare) before selling it to SCO. That includes
development and marketing.

Microsoft's development budget is eye-watering -- somewhere in the billions
of dollars.

A modern server OS typically has 2-10 million lines of source code. That
doesn't grow on trees! Even a 'lightweight' or research system like Plan 9
or Amoeba weighs in the range 50,000 to 250,000 lines of code.

Quote:>> a) They want to run an app that runs on their OS of choice
>ok, we begin with a subset (eg. caldera office) and as the OS
>spreads, companies will port their soft to the new OS;

Won't happen until you can deliver the market -- measured in millions of
users. This one has bitten apple; as soon as they dropped below 10% of
the user base, developers began abandoning their platform because they
simply couldn't justify the expenditure.

Once linux passes ten million users we _may_ see it being taken seriously
by the bigger software companies. Until then, we're stuck with freeware,
traditional UNIX houses, and interlopers trying to exploit a growing niche
market.

Quote:>> b) They want to be able to justify their purchase decision to
>>    management, who will ask about on-costs like support and who
>>    don't understand how a free OS can possibly be any good -- after
>>    all, if it's good, people would pay for it(right?)
>no no, it is a commercial OS backed up by full support;

Old saying, valid through 1991: "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM".

Most big companies run on Microsoft gas. Why should they pay to switch
to a different brand? They've got legacy apps. They've got users to re-train.
They've got stacks of old Excell spreadsheets.

Being able to provide support and being a big corporation is the _minimum_
you must do to get a foot in the door. Believe me, nothing sells like
success.

Quote:>> c) They don't know that there's any alternative
>we advertize massively;

I repeat: Microsoft spend a billion a year on advertising. Can you top
that? From a cold start?

Ray Noorda didn't even try. Ray Noorda founded Novell. Ray Noorda is a
billionaire. This should give you some idea of the scale of the problem.

Quote:>> >graphical interfaces for /etc, and clean graphical setup/hardware
>> >config software. Again, looks like matter of weeks for a team of
>> >professional programmers.
>> [...]
>> the Windows registry) would not be a bad idea. But it's distinctly
>> non-trivial -- MASSES of software would need re-writing (unless you
>> turned /etc into a virtual filesystem like /proc and mapped it onto
>honestly, I don't modify the contents of my /etc everyday.
>It seems to me that we could just keep it and have a set of
>graphical software to modify its contents rather than having
>to directly edit the text files; something similar to the admintool
>in Solaris. This does not look like a lot of work...

SCO sank about fifty programmer-years into developing SCOAdmin for
Open Server. "Not a lot of work" -- humph!

If you had ever developed a GUI tool for managing system configuration
files on a Linux box I might pay some attention to you. I've done some
work in this field. Believe me, it's not as easy as it looks.

Quote:>>[...]
>> And because it's free the profit margin is so low that no dealer will
>> bother thinking about ways to sell it. Okay?
>we sell this too: all 'pro' software is commercial in my hypothesis,
>including the OS. The advantage over windoze is that you _also_ get
>plenty of very good PD.

There is a metric shitload of PD and shareware for Windows -- at least
as much as there is for Linux. And if you compete on price to try to give
the dealers an incentive to sell your product, you are playing into
Microsoft's hands -- they can CUT their prices, remember.

Quote:>>>[advertize]
>> MS currently spends close to a billion dollars a year on advertising. How
>> deep are your pockets?
>good point. May be difficult... but look at Netscape and Java?

Java will kill C++. It will then kill Sun, who invented it. As for
Netscape, I give them two years, tops. They seem to have decided that
they're Microsoft, at least within the net marketplace. And that's a
fatal move, because they're much, MUCH too small to carry it off.

Quote:>Okay M$ are good at delivering (some) good 'improvements' such as
>WC++, but they do not seem to lead the innovation...

You do not make money by innovation. You make money by sales. Microsoft
are a marketing monster; if you want to deal with them, you need to
avoid a head-on clash, or they will steamroller you, the way IBM used
to line up on companies like DEC, Honeywell, or the other seven dwarves
("dwarf" in this context means sales < 5 billion bucks a year) and push
them off their own turf through sheer momentum and market *.

Unless you can stump up a national budget -- not a third-world one, but
one for a fat, rich European state -- you don't stand a chance of pushing
Microsoft off their pedastal by brute force.

And if you did, wouldn't you become something just as bad?

In the end, it's the diversity of the linux community that will win,
not its marketing acumen. Microsoft has become too big, and sooner or later
the dinosaur will be nibbled to death by a million mice. But a mouse that
openly stands up to the brontosaurus will very shortly be a squashed
mouse.

-- Charlie

 
 
 

Compete with M$

Post by Nathan Han » Sun, 16 Mar 1997 04:00:00



> In the end, it's the diversity of the linux community that will win,
> not its marketing acumen. Microsoft has become too big, and sooner or later
> the dinosaur will be nibbled to death by a million mice. But a mouse that
> openly stands up to the brontosaurus will very shortly be a squashed
> mouse.

The other major benefit is the Linux/GNU development model. Because
GPL'd software is "free" you cannot kill expansion. You can prevent
expansion for a short while, but the source code is still there and
still free. Someone will eventually come back to it, and pick linux
up where it left off (if linux ever "died" that is... yeah right).

Even if linux loses every single one of its users (unlikely!) it is
still alive. It just goes into hibernation for a while. That is why
the linux development model works so well, and it's a credit to RMS
that he could foresee all this so many years ago. Same deal applies
to software under the Artistic and BSD licenses.

--
Open mind for a different view, and nothing else matters.

 
 
 

Compete with M$

Post by Dennis Iannic » Sun, 16 Mar 1997 04:00:00


: Most people -- not you or me -- don't buy PC OS's because they offer
: superior performance. They buy them because of one or more of the
: following:
:
: a) They want to run an app that runs on their OS of choice
: b) They want to be able to justify their purchase decision to
:    management, who will ask about on-costs like support and who
:    don't understand how a free OS can possibly be any good -- after
:    all, if it's good, people would pay for it(right?)
: c) They don't know that there's any alternative
: d) They don't know there's any such thing as an OS -- they just
:    know their PC says 'welcome to windows' when they turn it on,
:    and documents open in little windows on the screen.
: e) They don't like UNIX

        Don't forget:
  f) All their friends run it so it is easier for them to exchange
software keeping their software purchasing costs down.
        I know no one likes to admit it but software piracy is a major
reason why Win95, DOS, and Windows did so well. (and why OS/2 failed
horribly.. not enough users means not enough people to share and exchange
"warez" with.)  
        Of course, the point is mostly dead under Linux since most of the
software is free anyway.

: 1998 MS's business model on the desktop will be radically different:
: net-centric, license-manager centred, fees charged for support and
: activation of new desktop apps. Object-oriented componentware, too.
: It'll resemble the Microsoft products of today the way Windows 95
: resembles MS-DOS 85.

        So essentially, business as usual except for some fancy graphics
slapped on top of it? :)

--
--------------------------

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