My Annual Plea for Microsoft to Open Source Windows 98SE

by Todd Ogasawara

Information Week published the results of its survey of 536 business technology professionals asking questions surrounding the general question of...

How Open Is Microsoft?

The results might surprise some of you. For example, three years ago, 53% surveyed said Microsoft was not open at all. That number dropped to 19% in this year's survey.

IW also provides Microsoft with what they call their put up or shut up list consisting of:

* Reveal the patents allegedly being violated by open source products.
* Dedicate developers to open source projects such as OpenPegasus (management software) and Python (programming language) and make contributions that beyond those serving its own interests.
* Support SVG, ECMAScript, and other key Web standards in IE 8.0.
* Work with IBM and Sun Microsystems to unify ODF and Open XML and make ODF-Open XML interoperability a native feature in Office.
* Fund and operate a joint interoperability lab with the Linux Foundation.
* Reduce or eliminate protocol patent license fees for common services like printing and file replication.
* Adopt open source practices, such as community input and development, for the .Net Framework and Silverlight.
* Demonstrate transparency by providing more information about what comes next in Windows 7.

To this list, I'll add my annual plea to Microsoft to Open Source what might be the best stable light weight operating system ever developed: Windows 98 Second Edition (SE). It could easily be embedded in 64MB (or less) of firmware, run lightning fast with slow processors (by today's standards), and had great hardware driver support. The Asus Eee PC hardware configuration would actually be overkill for Windows 98SE. And, I believe much of modern malware would not affect it. Once Open Sourced, it could probably be secured relatively easily by the talented FOSS programmer community.


Ricky Nelson
2008-05-21 13:16:25
>Once Open Sourced, it could probably be secured relatively easily by the talented FOSS programmer community.

Maybe we could put the Debian maintainer in charge of this :)

2008-05-21 13:31:17
please let windows98 rest in peace.
2008-05-21 14:55:05
* The point of the patents is primarily to protect Microsoft from frivolous lawsuits. Yes, the whole patent system sucks, but it is what it is, and Microsoft needs to protect itself, just like everybody else.
* Why? Microsoft being open with its own products has nothing to do with Microsoft being open with your favorite products.
* Support for SVG would be nice. Microsoft started writing and distributing implementations of many things which have since become standardized, for example JavaScript (the original name is LiveScript: JavaScript is Sun's marketing ploy and ECMAScript is ECMA's marketing ploy). Don't knock Microsoft for implementing a platform in a manner different from highly ambiguous specs which were in any case written years later.
* Again, Microsoft being open with its own Office products imposes no restriction on it making Office work with competing OpenOffice products. They are two completely separate things.
* Same point with respect to Linux. Microsoft does currently distribute a posix subsystem as an optional component of its operating systems, since many Microsoft customers have found it useful.
* What is Microsoft's business model to be, if it cannot charge for software licenses?
* The JCP killed Java. Inner classes? Type-erasure instead of actual generics? Still no closures? The for-each loop as the only bit of syntactic sugar in the language? I hope to all of Satan's minions that Microsoft keeps development of C# and .NET in-house.
* Microsoft cannot create expectations it is not sure it can fulfill, so it will announce products and features as they mature.
* A FOSS version of Windows would be nice. Microsoft has actually published the source code to one version of Windows XP, accessible to academia, which it calls the Windows Research Kernel. Perhaps it is a step in the direction you are looking for.
2008-05-21 14:56:53
Thought I'd mention this too.

2008-05-21 16:42:25
You had me up to the Windows 98 part. Windows 98 is not stable, Windows 2000 or NT are much more stable. It would not help the open source movement or microsoft to give out the source.

Documentation of various kinds is the most useful for third party projects, whether open source or closed source.

Your comments about 98 make the open source community look ridiculous. Please do not make the open source community look ridiculous.

James Justin Harrell
2008-05-22 00:47:23
>> unify ODF and Open XML
wat? LOL no. That's a terrible idea.

The entire Windows 9x line currently has even less market share on the desktop than Linux, plus Linux can scale down way farther than Windows 9x ever could, has much better security, supports more hardware, and is already open source.

Open sourcing Windows 98 would be great for Wine and ReactOS, but other than that it would probably not go anywhere.

George A. Mari
2008-05-30 09:13:22
What a boon this would be in the education of the poor in every country of the world. Perhaps then we would be able to communicate as individuals and promote world-wide peace.