Recently, there have been a group of people predicting that MS would start selling Linux versions of its software in the future. This prompted a lot of talk on slashdot and a few of my friends over at the lovely company of AFNI, started tossing around the idea. Since it seems that people are in the mood to believe guesses, I would like to take this moment and my space on the web to tell you, MS will not start selling Linux products for any kind of monetary gains. They might sell them for other reasons, try to disprove monopolist ideas, draw Linux users to Windows, or to destroy the space-time continuum, but they aren’t going to sell them for a direct profit. There is no way that MS could make a profit on selling apps for Linux. Follows are reasons why:
There are two types of apps MS could sell for Linux, desktop and server. Lets break each up for a closer look, since they have different fundamental reasons.
Desktop: It is pretty much a given that right now MS holds the desktop market in a stranglehold, that, despite the recent DOJ ruling, they have no reason to give up. They are losing some people to Linux on the desktop but a good percentage of Linux users are stuck using Windows at work and/or home, because they have to have the Office apps to work with the business. In the end it is difficult to convince a “suit” that OpenOffice or StarOffice will work flawlessly with other MS Office users. It is equally hard to convince them to give up the effects of Outlook for meetings and such, or even to purchase Ximian Connector to enable Evolution to do the deal. So they run Windows and their company (or them) pays for the license to MS. So what happens if MS makes Office for Linux? All the geeks and techs that want to can now switch to Linux and their companies can stop paying for Windows licenses. The only way MS can keep their revenues the same is to tack the cost of a Windows license into the purchase price of Office for Linux. If that is done then there is no reason for people to purchase Office for Linux from a company standpoint since it will cost the same to have their workers use Windows. Yeah they get the added stability of Linux, but most suits aren’t going to see that.
Server: Right now, according to all the surveys, this is where Windows is really starting to lose its foothold to Linux. Linux is eating up not only Windows server share but also other Unix style systems. If that is the case then why would anyone want to have MS stuff on Linux? Right now it seems that people are perfectly happy to switch out to Linux and what it has to offer, so why do they need the Windows server stuff at all? Well people like to use what they are familiar with and for a lot of server admins that is Windows. So perhaps they might take a robust server off of their Linux machine and install IIS with all of its security issues and problems, or perhaps exchange is really what they want and it will get installed on a Redhat box, but wait we forgot one important thing… MS again has no reason to make these products. Right now if you want/have to use exchange you have to not only purchase Exchange Server 2000 (or XP or .net or whatever), but you also have to purchase a Server License and Client Access Licenses for every computer that will connect to that machine. And that is the same for every Windows Server. No matter if it is filesharing, print sharing, domain controller, or proxy. If you know can just put one Windows thing on a Linux box, do you then have to buy CALs? It is obvious you don’t have to buy a server license. If you put this stuff on a Linux machine it is awfully easy for you to just turn on SAMBA sharing and not pay the CALs for another Windows box to be your fileserver. See by enabling people to pick what OS they run for these Windows servers they are enabling people to avoid paying them money that they would normally get. People run exchange for its groupware effects, therefore they pay MS for all the Windows stuff mentioned earlier. If they can run that on Linux and get all the groupware effects without paying all the MS stuff, they have little reason to pay it and MS loses money. Therefore MS has little reason to make it.