I had intended to feature a lot more Linux stories this week, but as I wrote about the three stories below, the words kept flowing and flowing, and before I knew it, I had a full-length article. The three stories below are all close to my heart. I am deeply committed to both Toyota and LibreOffice, and I really root for both to succeed. Though I hope that Microsoft’s Office 365 fails (I like Google Docs much more) I commend Microsoft for its recent shift to supporting a more open, standards-based Internet. Now, if they would just stop all of the patent intimidation, I could stop bashing them so much. Anyway, it was truly a pleasure to write about the three featured stories below:
- Toyota loves Tux!
- Office 365 (Mostly) Supports Linux
- The Most Successful Proprietary to Open Transition Ever: OpenOffice.org
Toyota Loves Tux!
Frankly, I was very surprised to hear of the recent news that Toyota has joined the Linux Foundation. In my mind, there was no obvious relationship between the two organizations. However, the more that I thought about the move, the more it made sense. Microsoft has been extremely patent-infringement happy as of late, and there is no better way for Toyota to protect itself than to join the Linux Foundation. I hope that they ultimately opt to join the Open Invention Network as well. The reason for the move is obvious: Toyota intends on integrating Linux into their vehicles, perhaps in navigation and/or entertainment systems. I drive a Toyota Prius myself, and I absolutely love the company’s strong reputation for quality.
When I first heard this story, I was reminded of the My Can Project. As a Prius owner, I am always curious about findings ways to augment the Prius, such as converting it to a plug-in electric vehicle. The My Can Project wrote software to allow anyone to connect their Prius to a Linux computer, and read important information and messages from the car such as average gas mileage, battery voltage etc. It really is a wonderful project that, as far as I can tell, is the work of one man. The project’s homepage is here: http://www.vassfamily.net/ToyotaPrius/CAN/cindex.html
Toyota joining the Linux Foundation got me thinking: what if Toyota encouraged the GNU/Linux community to write software that improves the functionality of their cars safely? They would be light years ahead of what any other car manufacturer is doing. I would love to upload data from my Prius to the Internet, and share it with other Prius drivers. Over the years, I have learned so many tricks from other Prius users that have helped me to improve my gas mileage. Toyota may soon become part of this type of community of sharing.
How does Toyota help Linux? The answer again is obvious. The more large powerful, companies begin to use Linux, the more supported and entrenched Linux will become. Microsoft and other companies that do not like Linux cannot sue everybody. It eventually is going to get to a point where Microsoft and company are going to have to accept that Linux is here to stay, and there is nothing that they can do about it. The future is very easy to predict: Microsoft and company will not be allowed to simply keep on intimidating small companies that use Linux or Android. At some point, somebody is going to fight back, and it is going to hurt. Barnes and Noble appears to have already decided that it is going to go toe to toe with Microsoft over the alleged infringement on Microsoft patents by the Android-powered Nook e-book reader. Barnes and Noble has filed a counter-suit against Redmond. In other words, things are getting ugly. Google, IBM, and other large supporter of Linux are not just going to stand by forever and let Microsoft cannibalize their business. When THEY begin to fight back, Redmond is going to be in big trouble. What will spur them to fight back? There is no simple answer. But a huge company like Toyota joining the Linux Foundation is going to embolden a lot of people. It is very clear that large companies want to move to Linux, and as this group gets larger and larger, it is going to be harder and harder for bullies to intimidate them.
Office 365 (Mostly) Supports Linux
At times, I do get tired of bashing Microsoft. At some level, they are just a company trying to bring value and good returns to their investors. I do not like a lot of their tactics, but there are some things that they have done right lately. After getting their clocks cleaned by Android, Linux, Firefox, and Google Chrome, Microsoft seems to be finally getting the idea that supporting standards is a good thing. They seem to really be getting behind HTML 5, and Office 365 seems to be a relatively browser and OS agnostic platform, with they exception of built-in voice and messaging communications. Such communications still require installed software that is only made for Windows. Since messaging is so important in a corporate environment, I would choose Google Apps over Office 365 if I were a corporate CTO. Google seems to have a better grasp on the idea that full interoperability leads to a greater market share. However, kudos to Redmond on making a great deal of progress. What should Microsoft do next?
- First of all, stop with all of the patent intimidation. It makes the company look very bad. The damage done to Microsoft’s reputation with companies will cost it far more in the long run than any short term gains from patent deals. Microsoft, perhaps more than any large American company, desperately needs to repair its image. While Apple and Google are seen as cool, Microsoft is increasingly seen in the worst possible light: desperate. They need to drop all of the distractions, and get back to innovation.
- Stop antagonizing Linux, Android, and free software. Free software/open source is a method of working smarter (and not harder). Microsoft should join the movement by joining the Linux Foundation and the Open Invention Network. The people that build free software will happily make versions of their software for Windows if they sincerely feel that Microsoft is not out to destroy them. This kind of move might be the only way for Windows to survive in the long term.
- Take the company private. This might be a controversial recommendation, but, let’s face it: Microsoft’s stock has not moved in ten years. If they take the company private, they don’t have to answer to anyone. They can move to a more open model based on the free software principles, and stop having to constantly placate investors.
What I propose would require a radical shift in thinking within the company. It would probably require removing and replacing a lot of the company’s old guard, starting with Steve Ballmer. Unfortunately, it is hard for people to change their ways, and I just don’t think that Mr. Ballmer is capable of changing ENOUGH at this point in his career. Bringing in younger, more open-minded blood would help the company to survive and thrive again.
The Most Successful Proprietary to Open Transition Ever: OpenOffice.org
OpenOffice.org will live on in the form of LibreOffice. LibreOffice comes from a great lineage: the most successful transition from a proprietary product to a free software product in history. OpenOffice.org started out as the proprietary office suite known StarOffice back in the late 1990s. StarOffice proved to be a commercial failure, but its source code took off when it was released in the form of OpenOffice.org. Millions of downloads later, OpenOffice.org has passed the mantle to the upstart LibreOffice project. LibreOffice is a great product. In fact, it is what I use to do the final editing of the Linux Week in Review. I start the article in Google Docs, and then I do the final spell check and other edits in LibreOffice Writer.
From 2004 to early 2011, I was a devout user of OpenOffice.org. That changed when my beloved Fedora OS decided to dump OpenOffice.org in favor of LibreOffice with Fedora 15. However, LibreOffice does not look or feel much different than OpenOffice.org, so I feel that I am still with an old friend. LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org demonstrate why opening up a program’s source code is one of the best ways to help it gain market share. I readily admit that it is challenging to make money on a free product, but I do have a few ideas that could help LibreOffice to generate revenue:
- Strike a deal with Google. Firefox and the Mozilla Foundation earn millions of dollars per year for directing Internet searches to Google’s ubiquitous search engine. I recently sent an email to Google recommending a killer deal: use LibreOffice as the desktop front end for Google Docs. I use both products, and it would be great if LibreOffice would seamlessly connect to documents stored in Google Docs. Almost everyone that I know has a Gmail email account. Almost no one that I know has a Microsoft Live email account. This would be the killer feature that would earn revenue for LibreOffice while allowing Google Apps to slay the Office 365 dragon.
- I DO NOT advocate putting ads in LibreOffice in the way that Oracle had discussed doing with OpenOffice.org. Not only would there be a huge backlash from the GNU/Linux community, I believe that people would largely block or ignore the ads. A better thing to do would be to create a robust donation network such as the one that Wikipedia has created that would REALLY encourage people to contribute to the LibreOffice project. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales always looks so pathetic and dejected each Christmas season as he begs for money on Wikipedia that I am forced to donate because I feel so sorry for him…lol. All joking aside, I GREATLY admire Mr. Wales for what he and Wikipedia do. I donate to Wikipedia every year because what they do is SO important. I really wish there were a publicized and centralized donation network that would allow us to donate to as many of these projects as we wish…conveniently. It can be done: look at the Combined Federal Campaign.
How many great projects could reach even greater heights of success if they received donations from a centralized donation network? How may “dead” software projects could be brought back to life if the source code was released?
Linux has reached critical mass. Toyota constantly flip flops back and forth with GM as either the largest or second largest auto maker in the world. When a company as large as Toyota joins your organization, you have arrived. I would LOVE to see Microsoft try to intimidate Toyota into paying patent royalties for using Linux. I can just see the Toyota executives rolling on the floor in laughter as the Microsoft executives slowly slither out of the room in abject shame.
In all seriousness, large and powerful companies that are willing to support Linux are the best defense against people and organizations that want to take advantage of the popularity of Linux. When Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in the world, what kept those who would have liked to hurt and humiliate him honest? Charles Oakley. Charles Oakley was big and mean, and opposing teams knew that if Michael Jordan got hurt, Charles Oakley would make them hurt far worse. I find it telling that Michael Jordan keeps Charles Oakley close to him to this very day, a decade after his final retirement. Linux is nice and cuddly. Linus Torvalds is a sweetheart. Toyota is not. Toyota is a cutthroat competitor that knows how to win. You don’t become the number one or two automaker in the world by being a sissy. I love a warm and cuddly Linux, but I love Linux even more when their is a ferocious pit bull with 4 inch canines growling directly behind it, threatening to pounce any attacker.
Have a great week! I’ll see you in the next edition of TLWIR.
Hillesley, R. (2011, July 6). Openoffice – splits and pirouettes. The H Open. Retrieved July 7, 2011, from http://www.h-online.com/open/features/OpenOffice-splits-and-pirouettes-1270296.html
Morgan, G. (2011, July 6). Toyota revs up its commitment to Linux. Computing.co.uk. Retrieved July 7, 2011, from http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2086047/toyota-revs-commitment-linux
Office 365 on mac and linux. V3.co.uk. Retrieved July 6, 2011, from http://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/v3-co-uk-labs-blog/2086291/office-365-mac-linux