Many have already either seen or spread the rumor that Microsoft is considering a port of one of their many cash cows to the Linux platform. The rumor started when a statement from a single writer attending the Free and Open source Software Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM) in Brussels hit the Internet and spread like mad. The statement said simply that Microsoft was having a "meaningful look" at a full Linux port of their office suite.
On some levels this does make sense. On the corporate and mid-size business level, Linux is gaining traction for the desktop. As that momentum continues, companies will be forced to adopt LibreOffice as the office suite of choice for those desktops. So instead of Microsoft losing bottom line on one front (Windows), they lose it on two (Windows and MS Office). So why not port Office to Linux. That port would mean Microsoft could at least retain the income from their flagship office suite.
To me (and probably to you) that makes perfect sense. Not only would Microsoft be retaining that income stream, they would add to it from a portion of the Linux-using community purchasing the office suite — simply to avoid what few compatibility headaches are suffered from switching between LibreOffice and MS Office (though most of those can be easily avoided). But even that doesn't really hold water. We're talking about Microsoft giving up — they don't give up. Instead, MS plays dirty and does everything it can to retain its stranglehold on the consumer and businesses.
There is the Chromebook issue. Chromebooks are selling like crazy. Microsoft would be foolish to think those inexpensive laptops wouldn't make for a good revenue stream. And let's face it — with the backlash against Windows 8, Microsoft is going to need all the revenue streams it can get!
And what about tablets? If Microsoft ports to Android, they may as well port to Linux. Right?
Of course, the one thing Microsoft is most likely more concerned about is Steam on Linux. Games have always been the great tipping point for PCs. The platform with the best games always wins — and Windows has been the only desktop player in the game. Now... the Scales of Justice are tipping and Linux is starting to seem more and more like the better platform for the home user.
- Less cost
- Less downtime
- More secure
- More choice
So sure... Microsoft would be foolish to not consider porting the one piece of software they have that businesses absolutely rely on. Think about it — the way business works today (mostly web-based), a good portion of businesses could switch to either Linux or Mac and not miss a beat. Those same businesses would have a harder time doing without MS Office (and Outlook in particular).
But still — it all seems too good to be true. Microsoft has had plenty of time to consider (and probably even perfect) a port to Linux. If they were going to do it, it would already be done and leaked onto the internet. Besides, Microsoft already knows how stubborn the Linux community is. First and foremost — the vast majority of the Linux community would probably say, "Thanks, but I don't want your bloatware." Another portion would say, "You want me to pay for software?" That remaining portion of the community would be crying out, "Purchase this so other companies can see Linux is a viable solution!"
Few in the Linux community would be rallying behind this simply because they felt the platform needed MS Office. And, to be honest, it doesn't. Although Linux would benefit GREATLY by having MS Outlook (the one tool that the vast majority of business users cannot do without), I just don't see Microsoft taking this plunge.
In the end, at least from my perspective, if Microsoft were to do this, they would probably see a serious drop-off in sales of Windows-based machines. Linux on the desktop would not only gain ground, it might well start to creep up into Windows-like numbers. And Microsoft has to know this. If Linux gains the one tool businesses rely on, those businesses are sure to make the leap to a platform they know will run more reliably and, in the end, cost them far less money.
As much as I want to see this happen, I just don't believe it. But should it happen, you can bet on this one thing — that cry of 'World domination!' might well have been more a prophesy than a dream.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.