Microsoft and Ballmer and Nokia, Oh My!

The days of summer may be dwindling at last here in the Linux blogosphere, but that doesn’t mean things are cooling off. No indeed, the unseasonably scorching temperatures have been matched only by the sizzling nature of the news — in particular, Ballmer is out, and Microsoft is purchasing Nokia!

The closure of Groklaw and the failure of Canonical’s Ubuntu Edge funding campaign have had more than a few Linux bloggers stuck in the doldrums, truth be told. Now, however, the news out of Redmond has everyone bright-eyed and bushy-tailed once again.

All that remains is to figure out what the heck it all means.

‘It Looks Like Elop Is a Shoo-In’

“What to make of all the news out of Redmond the last couple days? Watching Ballmer being shown the door wasn’t much of a surprise,” began Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone. “It was becoming more and more of a surprise that he was still at Microsoft after the abysmal (and worsening) showing he’s had there in recent years.”

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Nevertheless, “with Ballmer’s ‘retirement’ came the CEO replacement lottery,” Stone added. “Who was going to get the Big Chair? Honestly, I had my money on Julie Larson-Green — she was tangibly different from Ballmer, and I thought that was something that Microsoft should be shooting at with their new CEO.”

The announcement that “Microsoft had decided to buy Nokia’s devices business (and Stephen Elop),” however, “dashed those dim hopes on the rocks,” Stone continued. “Now, it looks to me like Elop is a shoo-in for the top spot. This solves Microsoft’s problem, but to be honest, it doesn’t change much for the rest of us.

“Elop mirrored Ballmer at Nokia,” he added. “He took a company that was a significant player in the mobile market and relegated it to virtual irrelevance. Ballmer has done the same with Microsoft. It will take a real shift in policy to reverse this downward spiral, and I don’t see it coming from Microsoft under Elop.”

‘We Have Stepped Into Bizarro World’

Indeed, “during his time there, Elop changed Nokia from a leader in its market to an also-ran in dire financial straits, and we certainly hope that he can do the same for Microsoft,” chimed in Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza.

“Another observation one might make is that we have clearly stepped into Bizarro World when someone who endangered a market-leading company by partnering with Microsoft is being considered as CEO of Microsoft,” Espinoza told Linux Girl. “Unless, of course, you subscribe to the Microsoft-Nokia conspiracy theory.”

To wit: “I believe it was their idea, since day one: Since they injected Elop in Nokia, it was meant to destroy the company, make its share price fall and then, buy it with spare change,” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol told Linux Girl.

‘A White Collar Crime’

“It is a shame to Finland, it is something immoral and, if the antitrust regulators of the U.S. let it go, it’s a white collar crime,” Ebersol added.

Now, “the real danger is M$ doing patent terrorism against Free Software projects, which is their intention,” Ebersol warned.

“I feel sad for every Nokia worker, as now they serve the empire of evil,” he added. “What a sad end…”

‘I’m Sorry for the Workers’

Microsoft is “waving its arms as it sinks,” Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. opined.

“Now, they are trying to save something of their business,” he added — “but I’m afraid with Mr. Elop as CEO, the company is not better than with Ballmer.

“The world will be a better place without Microsoft polluting the market, selling second-class OSes and using patents to harm others,” he concluded. “I’m only sorry for the workers both at Microsoft and at Nokia, because they will have to look for other jobs.”

‘It Would Be a Shame’

Google+ blogger Brett Legree had similar concerns.

“I do hope that development continues at Microsoft, as they do have some interesting ideas which, if good, may make their way into other systems — thus, good for consumers and for Linux/open source,” Legree opined.

“I also hope that Nokia and the reborn Newkia can continue on some level — many talented people there, and it would be a shame to lose their contributions,” he explained.

“For Linux?” Legree concluded. “Business as usual.”

”A Classic Distraction’

Microsoft is “acting like a company that wants to win all markets simultaneously, and that is a strategic error,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien opined. “As Frederick the Great said, ‘He who defends everything defends nothing.'”

At this point, Microsoft “cannot do anything significant in the telephone market,” O’Brien suggested. “The next CEO should focus on the one area where Microsoft still can be a leader, and that is enterprise. Large organizations by and large depend on Microsoft, and they can succeed there with well-thought-out cloud solutions, for instance.

“So they need to focus on one thing they can win at big, and stop the distractions,” he added. “Buying Nokia is a classic distraction that cannot produce anything good.”

‘Neither Are Fit to Run a Company’

With Ballmer and Elop “we have the two Steves who, when their strategy fails, double down rather than change direction,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack observed. “Neither of them are fit to run acompany.”

Ballmer, for one, “needs to realize that people really don’t want the Windows phone,” Mack suggested. “Is it a good OS? By many accounts yes, but it doesn’t offer enough to tempt people away from Apple and Android. Windows phone has been a disaster for everyone who has manufactured it and everyone except Microsoft’s lapdog Elop has noticed that Windows mobile just doesn’t sell as well as Android and the time spent engineering Windowsphones is time lost keeping market share in the Android space.”

By merging the two companies, Microsoft and Nokia are “essentially setting the current, failing strategy instone and leaving the mess for the next CEO to fix,” Mack concluded. “Whoever takes over the helm at Microsoft has my sympathies.”

‘Like a Serial Killer Finally Being Caught’

It’s all “another example of why doing business with M$ is a bad idea,” blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl. “Nokia made a deal for some of M$’s ill-gotten gains only to be run into the ground. Now M$ gets to buy the company for peanuts.”

Now, Microsoft will “either ruin Nokia completely or destroy its relationship with OEMs,” Pogson predicted. “Either way is probably good for FLOSS except that Nokia’s devices will likely never run */Linux. Fortunately, dozensof OEMs have seen the light and ship */Linux.”

Microsoft can’t defeat FOSS, Pogson asserted.

“This is just rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic,” he explained. “M$ will become a shadow of itself, but with such a huge lump of cash and still so much cash-flow, it will take years before the dust settles.

“I see a lot of good coming from M$’s decline: hundreds of millions are experiencing FLOSS, including potential billions who likely could not have afforded Wintel, and M$ will finally have to work for a living, something they have scarcely done for three decades,” he concluded. “It’s not something to rejoice over. It’s a bit like a serial killer finally being caught. The world is a better place but all the harm cannot be undone.”

‘It Was a Smart Move’

Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, wasn’t so sure.

“Steve Ballmer has made many contributions to Microsoft, but is not the visionary that Microsoft needs right now to face the new arena where the software is now just one component to success,” Lim began. “Hardware and services are now at the forefront. I think Microsoft’s Eric Rudder might be a good fit for CEO.”

As for the acquisition of Nokia’s devices and services business, “it was a smart move,” Lim opined. “Well, it really was the only move Microsoft could make. Nokia controls about 80 percent of the Windows Phone business, which is slowly making some headway. Despite better sales, Nokia’s devices and services business is bleeding cash.

“Unless sales suddenly picked up beyond any expectation, Nokia probably would have burned through its remaining cash by 2014,” he explained. “Limited cash would force more cost cutting, result in loss of talent and limit the ability to innovate. Ultimately, this could even lead to the closure of Nokia’s devices and services business. This would have taken Microsoft completely out of the mobile game.”

So, the move saved Microsoft from “mobile oblivion,” Lim concluded. “At the same time it put a $60 billion cash reserve behind the Windows Phone platform.

“Stories of the demise of Windows Phone are now history,” he added. “Microsoft can and will be willing to take losses for several years to push its smartphone platform. Mobile is a fight Microsoft just cannot afford to loose, and I think Microsoft’s stockholders are well aware of that.”

‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

Last but not least, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet saw it differently.

“Well the people that hate MSFT should probably dance in the street, because not only has MSFT blown north of 10 billion to buy Nokia, but the rumor is that Elop will get the big seat,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl. “Elop? The guy that pulled an Osbourne effect on Nokia not six months in? Talk about a mess — I wouldn’t trust this guy to lead a blind man down a hall, much less lead a company that has lost its way like MSFT.”

Looking ahead, “all I have to say to it all is… be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it,” hairyfeet said. “At the end of the day if you didn’t want Windows? You could be installing one of a half-dozen OSes in under four minutes.”

Meanwhile, “notice how Google+ doesn’t have a third-party API? Notice that the new Chrome OS laptops take what WAS a bog standard X86 laptop and locks it down so badly that you can ONLY install another OS by forcing it into ‘dev mode’ and then you can ONLY use one of a couple of Linux OSes with hacked bootloaders?” he pointed out.

Nothing to Celebrate

“What we are gonna end up with if we are not REAL vigilant will be Apple, ersatz Apple (MSFT) and network-based Apple (Google) with the thing they have in common: a love of lock-in and control,” hairyfeet predicted.

“People can complain about MSFT all they want, but thanks to open hardware and economies of scale you can literally find dual-core PCs on the side of the road; thanks to open hardware and economies of scale you can take a giveaway 10-year-old PC and make a good Linux netbox in minutes,” he explained.

“What happens when it’s ALL mobile?” he added. “Think anybody is gonna let you load any OS you want and use the device on their network?”

Bottom line: “I had high hopes that MSFT would bring in someone who could see that desktop/laptop and mobile are different markets and should be treated differently,” hairyfeet concluded. “Instead, it looks like we are gonna get ‘WinPhone Web 3.0 powered by Xbox Live,’ Apple’s walled gardens or Google slowly locking things in. None of these options sound like something anybody should celebrate.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered ECT News Editor by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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