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.NET on Linux

Posted by pbrittan on September 2, 2003 at 7:34 AM PDT

Could Microsoft co-opt Linux?

I have read a number of articles and blog entries speculating about whether or not .NET will catch hold on Linux and on what it would mean if it did. Much of the speculation centers around whether Microsoft will put out its own version of .NET for Linux, but there is also a lot of discussion of Mono, Ximian’s version of .NET on Linux, which has been released without Microsoft’s participation and is gaining some traction.

Some of the commentators are concerned about the power that .NET on Linux will give to Microsoft, many others think that it would be a victory over Microsoft. To explore this, I’ve been considering the following “thought experiment”. Imagine this timeline:

  1. Microsoft releases .NET framework for client and server.
  2. Microsoft gets excellent traction with .NET on the client-side (which I firmly believe they will, unless they are more seriously challenged there, as I outline in my Java vs. .NET blog series)
  3. Microsoft strongly encourages the adoption of Windows Servers by marketing the synergies between the client and server pieces of .NET, and makes some headway there
  4. IBM, Sun, Oracle, and other Java vendors push hard to drive Linux adoption in the marketplace, at which they also make good headway. .NET starts to get some adoption on Linux thanks to Ximian Mono.
  5. Then, suddenly, in the face of "customer demand", Microsoft "capitulates" and releases a version of the .NET server framework for Linux. It is not free but inexpensive, and perhaps nets them an amount of money approaching a basic OEM Windows Server license.
  6. Microsoft then drives adoption the .NET server framework on Linux using the strong synergy with the large and growing base of .NET client applications, taking share away from Java app servers. Mono is crushed by Microsoft in the process.
  7. Microsoft releases the .NET client framework for Linux and a version of Microsoft Office that runs on it.
  8. Microsoft ends up owning the developer APIs for Linux, client and server, which is perhaps more important than owning the operating system itself.
  9. Since no company owns the Linux kernel or the lower-level Linux APIs on which this .NET for Linux will be built, there is no one to thwart Microsoft’s efforts to control how software is developed on Linux. If Microsoft succeeds in taking control of the developer APIs for Linux, it makes money from Linux’s popularity, and once again there is no one to challenge Microsoft desktops.

Interestingly, Microsoft is already offering a portion of .NET for Mac OS X and FreeBSD. These might well be experiments to test the waters or perhaps simply ways to keep the DOJ calm. What if Microsoft helps BSD compete more effectively against Linux?

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