Ret. World Bank CTO: Corporate Desktop Linux - The Hard Truth

by Steve Mallett

Related link:

It's not everyday the retired CTO of World Bank wants to write an article for you. It's not everday that someone challenges your thinking like he does either.

At first I had no idea who was really at the other end of this article. I ask for submissions for articles all the time. I also read more people who come up with their own financial reasons about why businesses should adopt Linux on their corporate desktops.

While reading through this lengthy and well thought out article I was almost instantly averse to it. I sensed that it was right, but something was nagging me: "Who does this guy think he is to make these assertions?" Ones like that it makes more sense financially to convert employees to OpenOffice from MS Office and stay on Windows than to change to Linux entirely. Or how about that linux advocates stupidly include linux on the desktop scenarios when they should be focusing on linux in the server room. That we are deluding ourselves as much as Microsoft's Get the Facts campaign deludes the "facts".

Hey! That's not what I want to hear. That certainly is a hard truth.

Personally I've never concerned myself with adding up the numbers. They're self-evident aren't they? No licensing fees, no per-seat nonsense, upgrade at will, work on the cutting edge (or as cutting as you need).

Still, these arguments were sound. Damn, I hate bad news. CNN doesn't attract ratings by saying, hey, maybe we don't know what we're talking about and neither do our readers. One paragraph, from yet to be published Part II rang with me, "Here ( people believe in Open Source in general, and Linux in particular. But a regimen of only agreeable points of view, while comfortable, may not be the best fodder for growth and improvement."

Ok, I was hooked. But I had to find out who this really was who was writing me. All I knew was that his name was W. McDonald Buck. I wrote to him, "This first thing, I think, people will ask is how qualified are you to answer these questions or present this analysis. Do you feel qualified to answer this? How so?" In other words, are you ready to be attacked for being heretical? I also pointed out some arguments that I felt were contrary to what he wrote. He only wrote back soundly detailing how those arguments weren't quite accurate. That was enough for me.

Later in the article, yet unpublished Part III, he mentions that he's the ex CTO of a large, multi-national corporation. I was editing this piece having already given the green light so I wrote to him again asking who the mystery organization was. After all, the ex CTO of Enron isn't exactly in our corner is he? He wrote back World Bank.

As I wrote back to him, I sat up a lot straighter in my seat when I read that. It's one thing to say you're a linux advocate but now its pretty obvious that indeed he writes some things that are hard to hear, but in the end are for our own good.

So, if you're a linux advocate, or a CTO, you should tune into what "Dee" has to say. The news isn't all bad. It's just a good adjustment of what you're used to hearing... or advising.


2005-02-05 07:55:07
What makes the PC economy work?
Mr. Buck's article seems to suggest that the PC economy is more complex than what I see reported in the media (Open Source or otherwise).

MS does everything they can to take advantage of their near monopoly position but in the end the manufacturers build what they can sell. They need to sell enough units to warrant setting up the production run that allows the PC to be manufactured at a lower cost...volume.

This is likely shortsightness on my part (I'm an I.S. manager, not an economist), but MS appears to be close to the middle of an economy that allows a lot of other folks make money. It makes me wonder why Apple backed away from allowing clones.

What I am seeing though is the local PC makers coming back. And thanks to the Internet they are more competitive. The big corporations are actually driving customers to the small PC makers that can give them what they need. It feels like 20 years ago.