Streaming Media - Can Linux Keep Up?
It is my firm opinion that one of MicroSofts best strategys for the future is placing itself in a very good tactical position by withdrawing mostly from the Client/OS market and redeploying into the Server market. Yes, Linux is winning along with BeOS and MacOS X. In a few years, the Open Source nature of Linux should produce a graphic user interface that is comparable to what exists in Windows 95/98. At this time, Windows is simply not a viable product anymore because it's competitor is just as capable (for the ordinary person) and free.
Assuming the previous paragraph occurs, Microsoft should release for Linux Internet Explorer 7.0 and Windows, oops, Linux Media Player 8.2. Of course these would be closed source binary downloads, but thats ok because an appropriate component technology (ActiveX, Java JINI/JavaBeans, DOM, Etc.) would allow them to be still fully exploited by content developers.
IE and WMP/LMP are the client side components that complement MicroSoft's Internet Information Server and the Windows Media Server. Together these four programs are capable of serving and displaying just about any kind of information today. MicroSoft currently has in operation a terrabyte database serving space-to-ground satellite photos using IIS. With IIS handling all the nasty details of processing that much information, WMS fills the role of streaming selected small portions of a huge database to the client side WMP/LMP.
MicroSoft has invested an enormous amount of effort into creating the infrastructure necessary to operate such large scale structures of information. In addition to IIS and WMS there exists Windows 2000. These three products comprise the strength of MicroSoft's tactical position in the future server market. IIS and WMS would most likely not be ported to the Linux OS to preserve the investment already made into Windows 2000. In a dominant server position, revenue is no longer derived from client side applications - IE and WMP/LMP are distributed free of charge to encourage lock-in to IE/WMP/LMP/IIS/WMS storage formats. Revenue is instead derived from contractual creation, servicing, and extension of very large collections of information. Thus the revenue breakdown shifts over from a very large number of small payments (individuals purchasing Windows 95/98) to fewer number of large payments (corporate/governmental initiatives). The net difference between the two revenue values is unknown at this point, however the obvious investment made by MicroSoft to this date would seem to imply that MicroSoft expects the two values to be comparable or in favour of the corp./gov. revenue.
MicroSoft is not a simple enough corporation to assume that the above mentioned strategy should be their singular purpose. The extreme given above would require more than a GUI standard be implemented within the Linux OS. Supporting applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, and small to mid-range databases would also have to be commercially or freely available as well for MicroSoft to retreat into becoming a server-centric corporation. MicroSoft is hedging it's bets by developing consumer versions of Windows 2000. Entertainment software will most likely decide the fate of the consumer Windows 2000, Linux does have good enough support for entertainment, and with the recent Open Source of OpenGL, competition does hold the promise of remaining even in the forseeable future.
Well, does any of this hold water? Please cast your distributed vote by replying to this post.