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Opensource dot net, Delphi and the future

November 15, 2014 9 comments

A seemingly unsuspected move from software giant Microsoft, announcing that they are truly and whole-heartedly open-sourcing “dot net” in total. Which means that dot net both as a software platform, framework and virtual machine technology can now be downloaded, altered, inspected, deployed and used en-mass by anyone.

The question we should be asking however, is “what is the motivation behind” such a seemingly open action by an otherwise closed software production company?

If I have learnt anything over the past 30 years, it’s that Microsoft never does anything which doesn’t ultimately provide a benefit for themselves. And while people are falling over themselves to congratulate Microsoft on this, I like to view the decision with a solid dose of cynicism rooted in facts; facts regarding their previous actions, their business methods and their utter ruthlessness towards any one person or company which does not yield to their will.

Rent a PC

Some 16 years ago (or there about) I remember reading in a local newspaper an interview with Steve Ballmer. The interview was not planned in any way, the journalists were just lucky to catch him at the airport waiting for a plane to New York.

In this short but informative interview there was one segment that I found very peculiar. While I don’t remember his words verbatim, Steve was talking about the future of software – which to him was a model where you rented software rather than buying it. So the final section of the interview was completely dedicated to this “future business model”.

I remember a cold chill going down my spine after reading it, because if the biggest software company in the world adopts such a model – it means the end of helping people. Never again will you be able to help someone who can’t afford a PC by giving them your old laptop — because that will invalidate your license. And never again will you be able to fully buy a piece of software, you will be bound to a rent model where you simply buy the right to use something within a very restricted field of activity.

The same thing can be said about the move to purely digital methods of payment. Never again can you help out a friend in need without leaving a digital trail. And you can forget about supporting a cause without leaving digital fingerprints. You can’t borrow money from anyone should you need help either — and giving money to help the poor will be made illegal. In fact it has become illegal to give money to the poor (and food) in some places.

Is this a society that you find appealing?

Lets never forget that Microsoft rode Netscape so hard, that one of its developers committed suicide from going personally bankrupt. Microsoft peppered Netscape employees with frivolous lawsuits in order to bully them into submission. It took several years before the EU commission labeled Microsoft’s actions as illegal – prohibiting Microsoft from killing it’s competition; quite literally in that particular case.

Cui bono?

Without sounding like a conspiracy nutter: the benefit of open-sourcing dot net should be recognized for what it is. In this case it’s a call to eliminating the competition. The dot net framework has already grown roots on the Linux and OS X operative systems – and with this move to open source, the integration of essential cloud services designed to fill Microsoft’s already cornucopic pockets will become even deeper ingrained.

What Microsoft is doing here is to eliminate the competition, meaning minority languages and small businesses; they are also making sure dot net will be a part of all major operative systems -and your right to choose is eliminated by design, rather than a healthy choice between equal competitors.

Winning the election is not hard with only one political party on the menu.

I find this to be very dangerous, especially for Linux which is presently the only real contender to Microsoft in the field of desktop and server software. The world needs alternatives because if any one single economic entity dominates – removing it from the throne will be next to impossible for the coming decades.

The only company who ultimately gains anything from this move, is Microsoft themselves. Superficially it may seem like an act of kindness, but you don’t have to be a deep thinker to see the factors match up – with a final outcome where Microsoft strengthens its position.

Why fight over OS when you can own the server-park?

Why fight over OS when you can own the server-park?

But it’s free

As programmers it’s important to keep up with modern technology — but there is a difference in being up-to-date and becoming inoculated. As programmers we should think what is best for us, not where we should be in order to reap the benefits of Microsoft.

There can be little doubt that Microsoft has planned this for quite some time. It may seem spontaneous, but taking into account Microsoft’s earlier strategies – and the fact that they have openly debated their “cloud based access model” for nearly two decades;

Well, I think we can safely say that this move was not polled out of a hat in the 11’th hour, but rather carefully and meticulously orchestrated.

And it can only mean one thing to minority programming languages and platform: adopt our way of doing things or die out.

What about Delphi?

You don’t have to be a rocket-scientist to figure out that this is not a good thing for Delphi. I think we can expect to see Embarcadero putting more emphasis on OS X and Firemonkey from now on, since the Mac market has a natural fear of all things Microsoft – and thus will accept a native Delphi for their platform. Or at least be more open for influence.

But OS X and, if Embarcadero so wish, Linux is most likely the only markets where Delphi can continue to grow in the traditional way. Embarcadero will no doubt sing along with Microsoft on cloud computing – but the growth factor will no doubt start to shift in favour of OS X and Linux in the next 5-6 years.

Competing on equal footing

Smart Mobile Studio and other compiler-toolkits that target JavaScript is where you will see the most growth. JavaScript is something which Microsoft had to adopt when they killed Netscape, and in the world of browsers and JavaScript-based hardware, the dot net framework is like shooting sparrows with a canon. It’s to big, to bloated and to resource hungry.

But lean, mean and juiced up JavaScript powered by nodeJS will deliver a cloud based alternative which will be hard for Microsoft to take ownership of. They tried to take over Java from Sun, but that was an undisputed defeat. And we all know how Microsoft’s variation of JavaScript ended up.

It will be extremely interesting to see how Google responds to Microsoft’s move. As of writing, Google is the company who stands to lose the most.

Either way, JavaScript is going places where Microsoft simply does not exist. And it will enjoy the role of a free agent for decades to come.