Microsoft + OSS

How come Microsoft is so hell bent on maintaining its own operating system rather than following the same path as Apple, licensing a free/open source operating system and tweaking its interface? Also is supporting legacy software THAT important?
I thought Microsoft always ended up doing the same thing as Apple, sometimes before Apple was done doing it.

Microsoft is committed to its own systems. Open source is better in theory than it is in fact, and many companies want there to be someone to support them if there are issues instead of having to work out solutions by themselves.

Microsoft also makes much more money with a licensed system.

Let me add that the main difference is that Microsoft is a software company, while Apple is a hardware company. The OS is all that Microsoft has to sell.


One of the biggest barriers to entry into the OS market is the fact that the vast majority of users have hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of purchased software on a current Windows machine. The effective cost of switching is raised by the amount it would cost to buy equivalent software on the new OS. If Microsoft stopped supporting old software, they’d lose a huge competitive advantage.

In the real world, yes, this is the primary driver of sales of generic Windows boxes to large corporates.

We need to go back to square one here. The Mac OS is not based on a “free/open source operating system” as far as I know. It is based on Unix which is very much commercial. Linux is an open-source knock-off of Unix but that isn’t what Apple is using. Furthermore, they didn’t just “tweak” the interface. That was a massive software development project on its own. Apple just wanted to start the OS at the level they are strong in rather than hiring programmers that are experts in Assembly language and C to reinvent the wheel.

What OS is Microsoft supposed to go out there and buy? Unix too? Um, Microsoft is the biggest OS company in the world by far so there isn’t anyone they can just order one up from and resell. The base OS that runs XP is actually very good and I assume the Vista will eventually improve upon that. There is no need to throw up their hands and declare defeat when they are ahead 50 - 0.

I work in corporate IT in big business software development. People that don’t have the same privilege have no idea how many millions of programs and trillions of dollars depend on Windows being able to run them. The software is so hopelessly interlinked in all businesses now that even simple migrations can cost millions of dollars. It isn’t like a 16 year old hacker how gets fed up and does a format one day so he can install Linux. There is a whole lot more to it that the individual computers that it runs on. I will be interested to see how corporations adopt Vista because XP is serving people really well for the most part in the business world.

It’s based on FreeBSD or one of the BSD variants. The BSD license is pretty permissive and BSD is basically free. Apple just needs to leave in stuff rather than claim they did it.

MacOS X is a helluva lot more than just BSD UNIX with a pretty GUI paint job – the NextStep/Cocoa framework, Carbon APIs, and Quicktime alone are very substantial components. Apple isn’t shy about licensing and leveraging OSS when it suits them (Webkit/Konquerer → Safari being the most prominent example), but the idea that Apple does very little coding of their own is a false one.

And to answer the OP, Microsoft is hell-bent on its proprietary solutions because that’s where the money is. If they were to use open source standards, their pissed-off customers could simply switch to compatible OSS equivalents and give Microsoft the brush-off.

No, the correct answer is that Apple is a systems company, selling integrated hardware/software solutions. Look at iPod/iTunes for a perfect example of Apple integration at work.