27 July 2007

Mind Your Own BusinessWeek

Extraordinary column in BusinessWeek:

While Microsoft leads in India and China, Linux is mounting a strong challenge in both nations. The Linux community has signed a deal with Beijing to make Linux the default operating system for computers used by the Chinese government and many parts of the Chinese educational system. In India, the prices of Windows and Office are so high that Linux is the only practical, affordable choice for most of the population.

In this context, applying Western IP enforcement policies to stem the flood of illegal copies of Windows in China and India risks winning the battle (to deter and punish IP infringement) while losing the war (to become the dominant standard operating system on the desktop). As long as Linux remains a serious rival in China and India, Microsoft should welcome pirated copies of its software. Illegal versions of Windows are free, which helps Microsoft offset the initial cost advantage of "free" open-source software.

Every pirated copy installed on a Chinese or Indian computer brings one more person into the Microsoft ecosystem. This strengthens Microsoft's market for third-party developers of applications, tools, and other complementary products. Equally important, it denies Linux that next new customer who would strengthen the open-source ecosystem against Windows.

Maybe it's to be expected that arch-capitalist tool BusinessWeek would be offering free advice to Microsoft on how to crush that commie open source stuff. What I find harder to comprehend is the fact that the author of this piece is a self-styled "authority on open innovation, open business models, and more open approaches to intellectual property management" - all with a view to stamping it out, apparently.


Anonymous said...

Microsoft won't see this as a good thing, in fact, they'll probably see it as a loss of revenue and go after people.

When MS does go after the smaller vendors, they'll have to switch to operating systems that are cheaper, i.e. Linux-based distros.

The piracy problem is pretty acute in India. Sometimes I think that people don't even realise what they're doing. Or maybe they do and it doesn't bother them.

Glyn Moody said...

I'm sure Microsoft's rather confused about all this - it wants to fight piracy, but also wants to extend the ecosystem. That's understandable.

But what I can't understand is the position of the writer of this column

The Open Sourcerer said...


This isn't really new news... Bill Gates said almost verbatim what the writer penned in 1998.

” … about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
– Bill Gates, pusher, Money Magazine 1998

Cheers, Alan

Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for the historical context.

But as I said above, it's not so much Microsoft that interests me here as the author: I'm not really sure which side he's on....

Anonymous said...

It's hard to reconcile the writer's position with what he's written in the article. It seems from the article that he wants Microsoft to get control of the market by condoning piracy. Well, let me tell you that people who run pirated OSes on their machines, they won't think twice about running pirated third-party apps. So, the argument is flawed.

But, back to your original point--he does seem more like a Microsoft-guy than an Open Source guy. Nothing wrong with that of course, it's his bio that's misleading.

Glyn Moody said...


Anonymous said...

The author of the article has written on open innovation, etc., usually in approving terms. This article does seem rather different.
It's as if it was an article on terrorism, written by an expert. One would expect an expert on terrorism to be against it, as well as knowledgeable about it.

Glyn Moody said...


CapitalistPoet said...


I know Henry and his work. He is in fact one of the top academic experts on open source software and collaborative innovation, along with Erich Von Hippel at MIT, Siobhan O'Mahony recently of HBS and soon at UC Davis, Karim Lakhani of MIT, etc.

He's trying to be neutral here, and it's a bit more neutral than your initial reaction suggested.

I think that he could have brought out a little more effectively that Microsoft is in a classic double bind here -- risking a large blowback of unintended consequences if it tries too hard to get money today, but still losing share to Linux even with essentially "free" Windows competing against it.


Glyn Moody said...

Thanks for your comment. I guessed it was meant to be neutral - but it came across rather differently. Speaking as a journalist, I blame the sub-editors, myself....