What would you do if Microsoft went bankrupt, and Windows became an orphan product?

This is a copy of what I’ve posted on the Daniweb forums in the JEM Report forums, and in the Semi Accurate Forums. I rather expect that in several of these places it’s likely to start a flame war – however I think it’s a valid question.

This question covers Windows only. I know Microsoft makes a wide variety of other software products (Office, Exchange, etc.), I’m not interested in them, only in the Desktop Operating Systems.

First – unlike the most of you, I’ve read Microsoft’s financial reports, and understand accounting. I know how much money Microsoft has on hand, and how unlikely this scenario is. I’m asking the question to find out what people currently think are their best options, if Windows is no longer available.

Second – this is not a troll. I know there are a lot of Windows fans here. I’m not trying to insult you. I’m asking what you would do in a theoretical situation.

Third – I’m going to be posting the same question in several places. The plan is to write an article based on the feedback I get. I am assuming that a response to this post means that I can quote you in full.

So what would you do if you could no longer buy new copies of Windows?

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  1. Nothing.

    I know that nothing is a simplistic answer, and is not completely true.

    For example. If I were to find out that Microsoft was going to orphan it's product, I would probably want to get the XP partition on this netbook authorized.

    I am assuming, and we know how dangerous that is, that once it is authorized, it won't necessarily be phoning home all the time, only when there is a significant change to the machine. I have no plans on changing this machine.

    The other machine I have has been running XP for years, and does not have WGA installed in the XP partition. Since this is a newer machine, I am assuming that I wasn't able to dodge that bullet.

    If it turned out that the XP partition died anyway, I would blow it away and use it as spare storage for my Ubuntu. 9.04 seems to be able to read and write ntfs partitions just fine. My older machine I would leave as is, though I am thinking of updating it's Ubuntu from 6.06 to 9.04.

    I've yet to boot Windows on this netbook and I've had it several months now.

    I am concerned about Microsoft going bankrupt and orphaning applications. I suppose I would be concerned about making sure more applications ran with Wine, that were designed to install on Windows.

    I would see if it would be possible to use my Linux and Mac experience in assisting others to switch from Windows to Linux or Macs. There is an awful lot that can be done without Windows, and more all the time.

    I don't know what there is in MS Office 2007 that can't be replicated in Open Office.org. I do know there is talk about collaboration tools that seems to be getting a lot of attention. Just got a Google Wave invite, and first glance looks like a pretty powerful collaborationntool, and it is still in early beta.

    I would be afraid that some patent troll might buy the MS "assets".

  2. Greg,

    The assumption I am asking everyone to make is that Windows is not available, and that it will not be available. I'm trying to gather feedback on what people think are their best options.

    This isn't meant to be a real life scenario, it's just meant to gather data on what users think would be their best option.

    Once I have enough data, I'm going to toss it into a blender, and write an article. Based on what I've seen so far, the article is going to be going in directions I didn't contemplate when I first came up with the idea.

  3. MS is not actually in very good financial shape right now, they are borrowing money. And they never used to do that. Revenues across all their divisions except x-box are down significantly. Ballmer is driving MS into a wall at 120 miles an hour.

  4. "The assumption I am asking everyone to make is that Windows is not available, and that it will not be available."

    Are you limiting it to Window specifically or Microsoft in general?

    The reason I ask is because of the impact on development tools which a lot of people use for the MS environment.

    Some stuff is getting ported, some stuff will run in Wine, and some stuff simply won't work without Windows underneath. But if MS is gone, then there is a larger issue.

    Also, if it is an issue of MS going bankrupt, I feel there is a very big problem with patents.

    As far as consumers are concerned, obviously with companies like Dell providing Ubuntu on some of their machines, the consumers buying new machines will have an option. A lot of people will continue to just use the machines they already have. There has been a remarkable lack of interest in migrating off XP. There is the other side, the corporate side where they like to have a reliable support system. Redhat has been doing that, and is quite respected in the corporate area.

    But again I am stuck with the patent problem. About the only company I see that may have protection in that area may be Apple. If somebody nasty got the patents, Apple may be the only one that could weather that storm. The Novell agreements are for a limited time, so they are about as useful as wet tissue.

    However that might be a US only problem, depending on what the European Union does with software patents. It is my understanding they are letting them be issued, but that they are un-enforceable. I may be mistaken about that.

    One of the other issues is something like like WGA locking you out of your machine if the MS servers are taken off line. People who bought plays for sure audio players are out of luck right now, but that number is comparitively small. Older XP without WGA may work, but newer systems might die.

    Were you thinking of breaking this up into smaller pieces, addressing just one issue at a time?

  5. Greg,

    As I said at the start – this is related to the Operating System only. What would you do if you couldn't get it, use your old copy, switch to Linux or OSX, write your own operating system, give up computing, commit suicide, start smoking pot, drop a nuke on Redmond, become a hermit, insert own solution here?

    What would you do. Ignore the rest of the shit, it doesn't matter.

  6. I would just use Plan 9, no matter how doughy it is at this point. It is a Thing of Dazzling Beauty.

    well, realistically, I would just keep trucking on with Mandriva Linux and KDE…. Gnome is a hateful thing, I have always disliked it for no good reason, and now there is very good reason to hate Gnome and all it stands for.

  7. "What would you do if you couldn't get it, use your old copy, switch to Linux or OSX, write your own operating system, give up computing, commit suicide, start smoking pot, drop a nuke on Redmond, become a hermit, insert own solution here?"

    Shorter answer, I'm already using Linux and OSX, and still running an old copy of XP, 98, 95, ME, WIN 3.1.. I wouldn't give up computing, or commit suicide. I'm too old to start writing my own OS. (The last "driver" I wrote was for a parallel port I added to an Ohio Scientific.) I don't believe in suicide or pot, and I don't have any pocket nukes tucked away anywhere.

    Or, I could use Chrome OS, which while it uses Linux, is enough different from the GNU Linux (Kernel and windowing system), that one might consider it a new operating system.

    However I still argue that if Windows goes away, I suspect that MS uses Windows for their servers that WGA phones home to. So, if those systems are off line, all XP after SP3, Vista and Win 7 systems will become bricks. My XP does not have WGA. It runs just fine for days not being connected to the internet. (I work remotely using a dial up modem and terminal emulator, connecting to a Unix system, if you can believe it.)

    Have fun with your article, I will look forward to seeing it.

  8. "What would you do if Microsoft went bankrupt, and Windows became an orphan product?"

    After I fall down in exhaustion from cheering and tap-dancing (being slightly elderly, that would only take about 5 minutes), I'd then feel very pleased for already having eliminated my dependency on Windows.

    THEN, I would volunteer to help the few remaining, die-hard Windows users in my family to make the final transition. A lot of hand-holding and reassurance would be needed, but they'd survive it just fine. In fact, I believe they'd be very happy with all the alternative choices they'd have.

    THEN, I'd make popcorn and sit back and watch as the world of technology explodes with new ideas and cool software…

    And laugh as companies like Dell and Asus eat a few slices of humble pie and vie for the privilege of selling pre-installed GNU/Linux systems…with no more "Dell recommends Windows Vista, blah blah blah" on their web site.

    And then we could all shake our heads in pity for all of the anti-virus makers with nothing to do.

    And we'd hiss and boo at all the spammers and malware purveyers as they helplessly watch their beloved Windows botnets dwindle away and die…

    Just think how many places Windows has infiltrated. There'd be a lot to clean up, and a huge need for new software of all kinds!

    And school children everywhere would rejoice…

    Ok, I'm getting carried away here, but the whole idea is such a joyful one. Mostly I'd be smiling. :o)

    (By the way, I really enjoy your blog)

  9. I'd be watching the millions of dollars in funding suddenly surging to ReactOS (the GPL Windows XP/2000 compatible OS). At their current alpha version 0.3.10, it's already remarkably feature complete and a lot of Windows apps run successfully there already. An orphaned Microsoft Windows would give that project a gigantic boost of 'shock and awe' proportions.

    Of the other alternatives, Mac OS X is poor value for money (only available on last year's hardware sold at grossly high margin prices). Linux is a bit hampered by its reliance on X11 and a lot hampered by its poor support for modern accelerated graphics drivers.

    Assuming for the sake of this thought experiment, that all my existing licensed Microsoft Windows drives and disks disappeared in a puff of smoke, I'd probably limp along on Linux until ReactOS became stable enough for day to day use.

  10. Take a look at newspicks on Groklaw.

    This is only a small sample of what would happen if MS was no longer available.

    When you no longer have the company that provides security certificates, you are simply out of luck.


    Microsoft Office '03 bug prevents access to protected documents
    As first reported today by the Technologizer blog, the company says that a problem with Office 2003 is preventing people from opening documents protected with Microsoft's Rights Management Services technology. Microsoft tells the site that the problem is caused by an expired certificate. A post on the Office Sustained Engineering blog says the company is "working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible." – Todd Bishop, TechFlash

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