General discussion



By FluxIt ·
Should operating systems like DOS, UNIX, Linux, BEOS, MVS, VMS, etc... become public utilities OR services?

Infrastructures like the internet, electric, phone, water, sewage etc.. have been public utilities for since thier inception. Fire, police, ambulance, code enforcement etc... are necessary services that are ubiquitos. Likewise, PC's, online banking, governmental websites, and other features are now at nearly every place there is a telephone, water, sewage, etc... It seems there is a case for information services to become a public service or utility.

Private enterprise benefit from such as widespread standardization of operating systems and even the resultant GUI's that support them. What are your thoughts?

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -

I don't

by Don_C In reply to OPSYS A PUBLIC UTILITY / ...

Electric,water and sewage are necessary people have to have gas is optional as to electric. Phone an Internet are privileges. There are millions of people that don't have the internet and don't need it. Most of my friends say that its not necessary for them to have computer but its neat toy. Far as the operating system to have a monthly cost is ridiculous and a out rage to the human race TALK ABOUT DIGTAL DIVIDE. M$ charges enough for there mestakes and try to get a common person to learn something like linux or unix they will get discussed an not want it.

And far as a services well your local goverment can make more money that they will spend on things that you don't need

Collapse -


by FluxIt In reply to I don't

A car is a privilege but highways are not privatized? So we have a digital superhighway and the vehicles are workstations. Got to put some kind of motor into it and fuel. One could buy a variety of engines from dos to unix that are compatible and scalable under a unified public utility standard.

Look at cars. Light bulbs, filters, and other components are becoming more and more standard. Originally the Phone companies managed all their own phones.

If information systems were considered public services or utilities then there would be far more standardization.

As far as the internet being a nice-to-have toy go tell that to Congress. US commerce is literally tied to the internet. Soon all banking, bill paying, pharmacueticals, movie rentals (yes blockbuster stores are dying) and dozens of other things will be only done over the internet. It will be about as much of a toy as your car is a toy.

Collapse -

Its about regulation...

by hinecom In reply to DRIVING A CAR A PRIVILEGE

The point of public utilities is to regulate not to standardize. Standardization is a by-product. Regulation, in the end, means less innovation.

Ask yourself, Why have IBM and MS even approached open source software? Because it works. Linux,
hello? Standardization on one Public OS is a slap in the face to open development projects and a lethal injection to innvoation.

Utilities are considered part of the national infrastructure- Infrastructure that has changed little in the last 40 years. But what we are talking about is Operating Systems which are by necessity fluid.

Collapse -

Many people DON'T have public water or sewers...

by aaron In reply to I don't

I know many people who have wells and septic tanks. There are rules regarding both of these but people certainly get water and waste disposal without utilities.

Power is another issue. California tried to deregulate electricity with disaterous results and only part of it was because of manipulation of the markets. But that's another story.

And the telephone deregulation debate will probably continue to rage on well after we no longer use telephones...

Collapse -

Private ownership drives new technology

by stress junkie In reply to OPSYS A PUBLIC UTILITY / ...

I have to admit that although I thought that trying to
make computer services a kind of utility wouldn't work
it still took a few minutes to figure out a few reasons
against it. Just a side note: The Internet is not a public
utility. It is a confederation of privately owned
interconnected networks.

You state that since computer technology is becoming
a critial part of every day life it should be taken over by
the public sector. People who are computer oriented
might think that but there are a lot of people who get
along nicely without using a personal computer. I just
heard on a financial news program that there are
about 33% of people in the US that don't own a
personal computer and who never will. My mom being
among that group I can tell you that she neither wants
nor needs a personal computer. So computer
technology is not nearly as popular as telephone
service, for instance.

Even if it were more popular that alone would not
justify trying to make computer technology a public
service. Personal cars and trucks are extremely popular
but the automotive industry is not and should not be
turned into a public service.

The biggest reason that I can think of for keeping the
computer industry, as well as the automotive industry
and many other critical industries, is that private sector
competition drive technological innovation. Sure there
are problems with any approach. Microsoft's policy to
embrace, extend, extinguish industry standards creates
unnecessary problems, for instance. But in the long
run the state of technology has greatly benefitted from
private sector competition.

One excellent example of how utility services fail to
develop and deploy new technology is in the electric
power distribution system in the US. 'The Grid' is run
by a few regional monitoring teams using obsolete
technology who have no authority to mandate system
upgrades to the individual utility companies. The most
recent blackout in the north east of the US is the
inevitable result.

So private sector competition = leading edge
technology. Public services = aging decaying systems.

Of course I haven't even touched on many other
related issues such as the US remaining competitive in
the world market.

Collapse -


by FluxIt In reply to Private ownership drives ...

This my be a surprise to many of you but technological innovation in America is done by a very small group of people known as technocrats. They are a handful of overworked and underpaid people for thier comtributions to society that influence our daily lifestyles immensely. They are physicists, scientists, and high end engineers. What may be even more surprising to you is that most of these people get thier funding and guidance mostly from Federal Government projects under organizations like DARPA and the Department of Energy.

While there are projects funded by private industry I think you'll find the oversight is by the Federal Government or under a Federal Government program. In general private industry takes existing technology and either exploits it for profit or 'new and improves' it. Rarely, has new technologies ever come from the private sector.

For example, Microsoft has no R&amp department. The Windowing Object-orient concepts were developed in the 60's at MIT and later implemented at Xerox and Apple. Bill just exploited it for money. Recently, one of MS's VP has been funding Spaceship One but there is no new technology in that project. It is only applications of existing technologies and guess what. Bill is right there to install MS products in the vehicle just like he put MS software in BMW's. Look at the copper clad chip making from IBM is only a improvement to existing chip farming techniques. Who is working on changing the technology with a light driven processing or even better quantum processing?

Most of our current technology growth stemmed from huge government budgets and the space program or military. After the cold war the government declassified many technologies that are in use today. For example, ever see a heart beating in 3-d? That was a technology used to do NDI inspections on nuclear warheads. Flat panel screens I understand were developed first for combat decision centers on warships in the 70's. Both these technologies changed industry. We now have flat monitors and DVI TV's as an outcome. the Medical field is able to conduct non-destructive inspections without surgery which is a radical change.

I suggested making information systems public utilities so that they would be viewed and managed differently having better interoperability and larger development funds could go into them.

Collapse -

Microsoft has no R&amp Department

by catherder_finleyd In reply to INNOVATION IN AMERICA

In your post, you stated:

>>For example, Microsoft has no R&amp department <<

I will have to disagree here. Check out this URL:

More broadly you do have some good points. Government HAS been the driver of R&amp. At the same time, though, private industry has made a mark. Probably the best example has been "Bell Labs" (, which has a long standing history of innovation (, including UNIX ( In addition, I remember that IBM was a research leader in their heyday (1960's - 1980's).

What is interesting about Bell and IBM is that they established their research credentials when they operated as effective monopolies. We could expect Microsoft to do the same. Cetainly, Microsoft is making a push for more patents (

Collapse -


by Mich-a-billy In reply to INNOVATION IN AMERICA

I disagree that a small group of people controls innovations in technology. Look into some of the open source projects, such as Gnome. They invite people to help with the project. Most GNU software is like that.

Since this discussion is on standardizing the OS, who desides the best one. Will it be Solaris, Windows, Unix, Mac, or Linux. Outside of Windows, which desktop is the best KDE, Gnome, or etc.

I don't think the issue should the os, but the protocals on which they work. What I see as an issue is that when a protocal is developed a RFP is written on how the protocal works. Most developers develop there O.S. or programs to work with-in the RFP guidelines. Mircosoft has a problem strickley adhearing to the RFP's guidelines. So, there is alot of cases that Micosoft's O.S. doesn't work complete with other Operating Systems.

Also, there is a danager of a standard O.S. First it creates a monopoly, and would become a large cash cow for the company that gets awarded the contract. Second, If there is a security Hole in the O.S, then all computers would have the same Security Hole. Making it very easy of hackers and virus to move around the Net and get or destory any data they like.

Also, Most of the internet works unix and Linux based technology, and the routers work on IOS. There are some Windows based Servers out there also. Should all this be standardized too? If So, that would be all servers, desktops,switches, and routers with the same security holes.

Since we are on the Standards, wouldn't it be more prudent for the pubic (i.e. Government) to
push Microsoft into fixing the security holes in thier Operating System?

My thoughts in a post 9/11 world is to keep the diversity of the computer O.S., and work hard a securing them. When computers and servers go down at an airport, police station, government instution (I.E. Norad), the important services that we rely on (I.E. **1) becomes almost non-existant.

Collapse -

Oversight is by the Federal Government

by sales In reply to INNOVATION IN AMERICA

Although you may be correct that a lot of the funding comes from the government, the actual work is done by contractors and private companies, many of which propose their ideas to the government for development. Since the end of the cold war the development of new technologies, gadgets and equipment has been largely turned over to the private sector. Most R&amp shops in the military and government agencies have been turned over to the private sector.
As far as making OS's a public utility, do you really think the government is efficient enough to manage operating systems. A good example is the 13 potholes that I had to dodge on the way to work this morning, at least, with the flaw that it has, my computer booted with no errors.
If OS's were a public utility we would still be using batch systems.
It is not the government that develops, enhances, or creates new technologies, it is the private sector that are the creators, and there are more than just a few, though you will not see much of the geeks we keep tucked away in little offices that dot the country side around the states.

Collapse -


by FluxIt In reply to Oversight is by the Feder ...

The Government oversees major technology innovation. So why not operating systems. It was not until the Cold War and the Space Race that we had this explosive boom in technology. Before that is was very slow.

Related Discussions

Related Forums