Subject: Re: Meeting the MS challenge
From: Russell Nelson <>
Date: 1 Dec 1997 15:32:58 -0000

L. Peter Deutsch writes:
 > > Microsoft is not worried about libre software volunteers.  They're
 > > worried about a proprietary software firm deciding to create a
 > > Windows-compatible system.  That's WHY Microsoft constantly extends,
 > > and then collapses its APIs.  And that's the chief public bad produced
 > > by a proprietary OS -- increased development costs for everyone else.
 > I agree.  Nevertheless, in order to create a libre software platform capable
 > of running MS Windows applications, it is still true that libre software
 > developers must keep up with Microsoft's API changes, and therefore the
 > assertion that "Microsoft is generating new extensions to Windows faster
 > than any conceivable horde of libre software volunteers can emulate them" is
 > relevant, even if it isn't Microsoft's explicit intention or primary
 > concern.

I merely meant that the problem is worse than you described.
Microsoft intends to make cloning impractical even for a well-funded
commercial organization, to say nothing of a rag-tag band of

 > > Presume that existance of a version of Linux which runs all Win95
 > > applications.  You would have much more success persuading several large
 > > proprietary application vendors that their development and support costs
 > > would be lower by creating native Linux versions of their application.
 > But that goes back to my previous posting in which I point out that the
 > software infrastructure available in the Unix world for developers of
 > Windows-perceived-quality interactive applications is (1) seriously lacking
 > in GUI support libraries, (2) unstandardized and uncoordinated, (3) poorly
 > supported by tools and documentation, and (4) not progressing significantly.
 > Those things don't matter if one only wants to run Windows applications, but
 > they matter tremendously for native Linux applications.

Yup.  "Mistakes have been made".

 > It is true that the proprietary application evelopers would save one-time
 > costs of a few $K per seat, and annual costs of perhaps $1K per seat, by not
 > having to buy proprietary SDKs, tools, and libraries (assuming, of course,
 > that libre software proponents are successful in dissuading anyone from
 > developing Windows-native libre equivalents of these things), but I believe
 > these costs are very small compared to the costs implied by #1 through #4
 > above, and are negligible compared to the value of having applications that
 > run on Windows versus applications that don't.

I'm hand-waving problems #1 through #4 away.  I'm presuming that
software anarchists can stop fighting each other long enough to fight
the chaos.

I've heard people defend the chaos by claiming that it's useful to
have different APIs because the state of the art isn't good enough to
standardize.  That's bullshit.  We can standardize on the concept of
"here are the user choices" or "pick a filename" well enough to create
an API to it.  Then we let users pick the presentation package that
pleases them.  If users want to put up with linear menus, fine.  If
they want to move up to pie menus, that's fine also.  If they want
filename completion to pick files, fine.  If they want split
filename/directory panes, fine.  If they want three panes of
directories (e.g. Ghostview's file selection), fine.

Sorry, I'm ranting.  I feel better, I'll stop now.

 > I'm assuming that you were talking about persuading application developers
 > to *switch* from Windows native to Linux native.  If you were talking about
 > persuading application developers to *add* native Linux support, that's a
 > different story.  All that requires is a large enough installed Linux base
 > and a perception that Linux users are willing to pay the going commercial
 > rate for good (proprietary) software.

Yup, agreed.

-russ <>  | Freedom is the
Crynwr Software supports freed software | PGPok |   primary cause of peace.
521 Pleasant Valley Rd. | +1 315 268 1925 voice | Taxes feed the naked
Potsdam, NY 13676-3213  | +1 315 268 9201 FAX   |   and clothe the hungry.