In the Mobile Market, Embracing Open Source Could Transform Microsoft
In recent years, Microsoft has largely reversed the stance it once took toward open source software applications and platforms. The company's current CEO, Steve Ballmer, is still famous for once calling open source "a cancer," but Microsoft has steadily contributed to the Linux kernel, released projects to the open source community and taken a friendlier overall stance toward Linux, especially when it comes to virtualization and data centers.
The truth is, though, that the best fix for Microsoft's woes on the mobile technology front could come from embracing open source. In fact, by doing do, Microsoft could begin to win again.
In this post, I considered what benefits Microsoft might get from embracing both Android and Mozilla's Firefox OS on mobile devices. For example, by using technology from BlueStacks Player, or similar emulation technology, Microsoft could give users of its new Surface tablets access to the already robust ecosystem of apps for Android. This would instantly solve a problem that Microsoft has: It doesn't have the teeming app stores that both Apple and Android have after years of succeeding in the smartphone and tablet markets.
In smartphones, Microsoft is far behind Apple and players on the Android phone scene. Matt Asay has made an excellent case for how Microsoft could benefit from adopting Mozilla's Firefox OS:
"...as Samsung has shown with Android, one needn't own an OS to profit from it. Samsung's operating profit in its fourth quarter rose 89% to hit $8.3 billion. That's real money that even Apple can't sniff at."
"Why not throw [Microsoft's] weight behind Mozilla? Mozilla has taken on a huge task, one that Microsoft's engineering and financial resources can help to accelerate. And while Mozilla is unlikely to give any special favors to Microsoft in terms of distribution, the very fact of embracing and distributing Firefox OS would give Microsoft influence in the Firefox OS community. That's how open source works: being the source of code matters as much or more than owning source code."
Just this morning, I reported on the barnstorming success that Samsung has had in the smartphone market, thanks to Android. Samsung is ruling the smartphone market with an open operating system that it did not create.
Microsoft continues to try to leverage proprietary platforms and hasn't embraced the idea of the open app store, which could completely change its fortunes in the mobile market. Just check out Simon Phipps' thoughts on the value of the open app store, here.
Could Microsoft come around to this way of thinking? Stranger things have happened.