Posted by Thomas Crampton
Just returned to Paris from Munich where I went to write a story on the progress of Open Source implementation by the city government: Microsoft Chief Dines in a Linux City
The project has been troubled but is still on track.
Attended a small dinner hosted by Dr. Hubert Burda of Hubert Burda Media that was attended by the CEOs of BMW, Adidas and other major German companies. Steve Ballmer, the guest of honor, spoke briefly about Open Source and Google.
Ballmer clearly views Google as enemy number 1. He said something like Google had better watch out because the people in Microsoft will be forced to work “harder and harder and harder and harder and harder and harder until we offer better services” repeating the word half a dozen times. Quite forceful and you can see his drive.
He was also interesting about the future of the corporation when confronted with open source. Corporations offer consistency over time and user support, Ballmer argued.
Several members of the audience disagreed: “Have you ever tried to call Dell or Apple or Microsoft for a problem you have? No, you go to online forums to look up what other users recommend.”
As for consistency over time, one reason the city of Munich went for Open Source is that they were angered about being forced to pay for an upgrade to Windows XP.
They expect the savings, however, is expected not in the licensing fee for the software, but in the ability to switch service companies. If you buy Microsoft, only Microsoft can provide servicing. If you use open source, you can change service providers.
To come back to the original question: How will corporations look in a world where collaborative volunteer efforts do things for free on the Internet? Will corporations disappear?