Friday, August 19, 2005


Sadly, most of this reference will go over peoples' heads. I usually don't write for the technical audience, after all.

The more astute observers will probably have noticed that a conflict between Microsoft and open-source advocates has been brewing for some time. Much of it is due to the endless argument between designing whackjob operating systems for public convenience, or using more secure operating systems for a more specialist crowd. If you're in an IT-related field or industry, chances are that you either use a bug-riddled system like the rest of the general public, or you invest in a stable system that relatively few others run.

About three years ago, a company named SpecOps announced that it had a means by which it could make Windows (the lynchpin of Microsoft's fortune) run on Linux (the darling of the open-source world). This was no mean feat, considering that putting the two together was a lot like mixing kerosene and Evian. Still, the company was optimistic about its chances, turning towards the Philippines as a source for quality programmers and consultants.

Strangely, however, SpecOps released its position through a babble of marketing-speak -- that language that we only see during annual stockholders' meetings and Dilbert comic strips. And if there's anything that a technical person hates, it's seeing an open-source initiative reduced to a bunch of corporate buzzwords. Sure, the words are pretty and all, but they don't tell the techies what the silly thing does. They don't tell anyone what the silly thing does, in fact.

That SpecOps was accused of ripping off the code from another Windows-Linux project didn't help their situation much (although the company revealed part of their existing architecture in order to prove otherwise). Local open-source programmers literally took one look at the project pitch, and then backed away.

As of last week, however, SpecOps finally chose to resolve the many issues with regards to their operation. Unfortunately, their answer yet defied logic: they announced their departure from their Philippine initiative in favor of India and Vietnam. The reason? Because they allegedly could not find enough local talent for their project.

Frankly, I'm not surprised. The problem was not that we had few open-source experts to begin with, but because SpecOps chose to insult the local programming community with its marketing hype and non-transparency. That it decided to cover everything up by shifting the blame from themselves was just one last, unsubtle dig at us.

I suppose that it's altogether possible that SpecOps has something great on their hands. It may be a tool that will revolutionize the way we work and play. It could be something whose value we don't see quite yet; something that might bring resolution to the Windows-Linux conflict. It might even turn out to be one of the better inventions of our time.

Until SpecOps wises up and starts looking at itself for flaws, however, then I probably won't hold my breath. It's kind of difficult to build something of great value when an entire open-source community sees through your methods for what they really are.


Sacha said...

Actually, Microsoft Office is probably the lynchpin of the Microsoft fortune... =)

Sean said...

Sacha: Good point. Off hand, though, I'd guess that there are slightly more computers using Windows than there are computers using Microsoft Office... for obvious reasons. :)

jeff-reiji said...

Sorry :) I don't understand the lynchpin word. As of the moment, I'm an IT student and we're quite bombarded with MS solutions... I don't have any background in open-source systems. I guess it's my school's fault. Oh well.

Sean said...

Reiji: Frankly, Reiji, I hardly have any background in open-source development either. But I'm tickled by the idea of systems that are not only free, but which are also open to tweaking and revision by an international community of enthusiasts.

As a manager, however, I'm all too familiar with corporate buzzwords and the nonexistent details that they provide. I might not be the best businessperson in the world, but I'm willing to denounce bad practices whenever I see them.

eClair said...

Glad to read your piece of mind on the matter regarding SpecOps. =)

I am not that technical nor that familiar with marketing hype. But there's something about SpecOps that seems off. Aside from the not talking about WINE right away. I mean, really... What we mean by free software is that it's free not just in terms of price but free to be tweaked, etc. But of course, mention the community's efforts in doing the tweaking as well. They haven't done that until recently.