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Opensource dot net, Delphi and the future

November 15, 2014 Leave a comment Go to 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.

  1. abouchez
    November 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I follow your analysis… and do agree!
    Perhaps we both are old enough to have learnt cynicism when we hear such announcements.

    I also hope that Embarcadero would embrace Linux as target, for servers at #1 priority.
    FireUI on Linux is of less priority for me, even if technically DXScene was running under Linux 5 years ago! See http://ksdev.blogspot.fr/2009/11/linux-support-soon.html

    • Jon Lennart Aasenden
      November 15, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Yes. With age comes wisdom i guess. From my view Microsoft is adopting a new “act”, they look like ducks, quack like ducks, but ducks dont have teeth like a wolf. Dancing like an open-source company may look cool, but rest assured, there is more to this story than meets the eye.

      Yes I would love to see Delphi on linux! Or perhaps a new Lazarus?

      Yes I have DXScene, in fact I am going to use it quite soon 😉

  2. November 16, 2014 at 4:14 am

    Get your facts straight. Microsoft sold their Apple shares in 2003.

  3. aplikmuj
    November 16, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Companies listed on the stock exchange send signals in order to satisfy analyst’s biases. That’s very much what that’s all about in a first place. Indeed there are other factors that could gain momentum as result from the ‘opening’ but I don’t think that MS is interested in anything but being in the position to widen their eco-system. It’s their freedom to do so, but that kind of rumor should not be considered for platform related decision. One can just decide on the here and now. Here and now is hot air proudly presented to the audience. Continuing to milk the cow in a different way or a similar way under the magic hood of the honest man. Think back – what useful things remained from the last 20 years. Faster computers, web servers, DBs and Email. Since the application is a concept of peer to peer (decentralized power) wondering who does thing that web applications or centralized services do have anything to do with freedom. In the end all that is nothing more than turning the server (‘servant’) into the master. Switch the direction of power to serve needs of the hierarchies and putting the blame on the humans.

    • Jon Lennart Aasenden
      November 16, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      I fully agree with the general view you bring, but at the same time we have to look at this from two angles. You are viewing the past 20 years from an objective position. But people who run small companies and have dedicated let’s say, a decade, to a product – will view the ocean of activity subjectively as an individual.
      Most applications that we use on a daily basis, from Delphi to Nero, only have value “now”, and expires within a very short timeframe. But the technology behind these applications can have universal value (i.e “time less”).

      My personal point of view is that I feel it’s dangerous to get rid of diversity.
      if everyone is using C, C++ or C# nature dictates that there will be atrophy and ultimately stagnation. We need different languages, tools and options as context for the next invention or breakthrough.

      • aplikmuj
        November 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

        Lennart. Let’s wait and see. 🙂 You are talking about the ‘One Language’ propaganda spread by Redmond these days. That propaganda was simply a result from Microsoft no being in the position to bind developers by offering a rich choice of programming languages. So they went out of that market and tried to implement everything using C. Today C# plays the role of the various languages offered.

        Never rely on a big vendor. You are Microsoft’s partner – Microsoft is not yours – directly. You simply don’t matter.

  4. woutervannifterick
    November 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Dotnet used to be the Next Big Thing. I also thought that it would be “the future”. Nowadays it’s used a lot, but it doesn’t dominate anywhere. The most advanced software on Windows desktop is still written in C++. Enterprise computing is mostly dominated by Java. Scientific computing is getting dominatedmby Python, and with a less than 5% marketshare on mobile phones you could say that Microsoft missed the boat there.

    Dotnet is not considered to be hot and new. When i hear younger developers talk about it, it sounds like they consider it to be some oldschool technology. The platform itself starter out tight and clean. Nowadays it consists of technologies that are internally competing, so communities are scattered.

    So the platform has problems. They’re competing against free and open source libraries. Now they even risk to lose some multi-platform battles, while the platform itself is not intrinsically single-platform.

    This move to go open source and support more platforms makes sense, but it might be a desperate move to save dotnet from becoming obsolete in the long term.

    • Jon Lennart Aasenden
      November 16, 2014 at 11:08 pm

      I think dot-net will always be there; it’s a fundamental part of visual studio, which is akin to Apple’s developer tools.
      So i dont think we can avoid it even if we wanted to. But the “forecast” i presented here stretches some years into the future, and it looks at potential abuse of the technology.
      Just look at what pop-ups and javascript did to browser security and features. In the end, there will always be people who will try to abuse it to make money. It may not be microsoft themselves, but with everything in place for a hegemony someone will rise to the occasion.

      History tends to end up somewhere in the middle (the golden mean), where some of the negative traits are indeed manifest, but also some of the good.

      Let’s hope google and sun pushes enough against, creating a buffer for the minorities like Delphi inside the eye of the storm 🙂

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