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ActiveState Perl and Microsoft

by rob_au (Abbot)
on Oct 21, 2001 at 16:26 UTC ( #120371=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I was browsing through the Windows 2000 Professional Resource Kit earlier this week when I was most surprised to find ActiveState Perl in the Scripting Tools section of the installation. It appears that while included on the installation CD, ActiveState Perl (version 521) is not installed by default, rather included in the /apps/ directory of the CD.

The content of this meditation is about the mixed message coming from Redmond. While, it is true that Microsoft offers absolutely no support or warranty for the tools provided in the Windows Resource Kit, the inclusion of ActiveState Perl in the Windows Resource Kit indicates a recognition and validation of the worth and role of Perl in system management and administration. This I feel is in great contrast to some of the messages of late coming from Redmond with regard to Perl and Open Source in general in the context of .NET - This article has been discussed before on PerlMonks by Ovid here.

Is this simply a case of the right-hand not knowing what the left-hand is doing? Or is there a fundamental flaw in the understanding, application and deployment of open source within the ranks of Microsoft? An interesting point to ponder ...


Ooohhh, Rob no beer function well without!

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Re: ActiveState Perl and Microsoft
by Starky (Chaplain) on Oct 21, 2001 at 20:51 UTC
    The strategy is not at all irrational if you consider the various initiatives that provide or will provide profits for Microsoft.

    They have subsidized ActiveState (for about a million bucks if my recollection is correct), as well as many others, to assist them in their adoption of .NET and Visual Studio. The idea was to provide as many tools as possible for the developer community to foster the adoption of .NET.

    Of course, Microsoft's optimal strategy, in terms of profit-maximization, also includes promoting Visual Basic over Perl.

    So while on the surface they appear to be subsidizing Perl, increasing the size of the Perl community and the effectiveness of Perl is not their intent. That simply wouldn't maximize their profits, which is their primary strategic concern.

    At this point they have no intellectual property rights over Perl or Python or other open source alternatives to Visual Basic (one can argue whether they're direct competitors or not, but let's abstract that argument for now) whatsoever. However, if they provide a development environment that is used by most Perl programmers when they work on Windows (Visual Studio) and a library that forms the cornerstone of programming for Perl on Windows (.NET), then they have effectively inserted assets over which they have control of some sort into the language. It also provides developers easy access to tools that tie into other Microsoft profit-making initiatives, such as Passport.

    So the subsidy of a million bucks or so is not irrational, even with a profit-maximization strategy and even considering Perl as a competitor of Visual Basic.

    There are also associated indirect benefits the strategy provides them; for example, .NET will likely provide a shield against future anti-trust litigation. However, I won't get into that in this response.

    In any case, Microsoft executives are almost wholly concerned with maximizing profits and nothing else. If you believe otherwise, you are incredibly naive. Thus, you can rest assured that whatever behavior you see, even that which may appear contradictory, is pretty much intended to maximize profits.

    Finally, I don't mean to give the impression that a profit-maximizing strategy differs wholly from the strategy that would be the social optimum. In many cases, economically, a firm's profit-maximizing strategy also provides for the greatest social good, which is why capitalism seems to be on the whole more effective than other economic systems.

    However, in the case where there are market distortions (e.g., monopoly, oligopoly, or other forms of market power, as would be the case when discussing Microsoft), the profit-maximizing strategy is very often *not* the socially optimal strategy. Why that is so would fill many pages.

    I hope I haven't rambled too much ... the main point to remember is that whatever is happening, it could accurately be interpreted as an attempt at profit maximization.

      I don't think that the investment in ActiveState was related to .NET. I get the impression that ActiveState's involvement in .NET is something that came about as a result of working a bit more closely with Microsoft. It benefits ActiveState just as much to provide a VS.NET plugin for Perl and to develop PERL.NET.

      More information on Microsoft's 3 year investment in ActiveState can be found here

      Simon Flack ($code or die)
      $,=reverse'"ro_';s,$,\$,;s,$,lc ref sub{},e;$,
      =~y'_"' ';eval"die";print $_,lc substr$@,0,3;
        Well put. I think the relationship works for both of them.

        I should also note that although I've seen ActiveState maligned for their relationship to Microsoft, and some have cast them as being somehow tainted by accepting money from a company decidedly hostile to open source, my experience with them in the past is that they put out an excellent product (I've been extremely impressed with PerlApp) and have been an excellent member of the community. They have, in my opinion, been very conscious of the principles that are important to the success of open source and have played a very important role in the Perl community.

        This is coming from someone who doesn't use Windows (I switched fully to Linux a couple years ago and haven't looked back).

Re: ActiveState Perl and Microsoft
by rchiav (Deacon) on Oct 22, 2001 at 04:17 UTC
    And for their published opinion on Perl, look here. Not to say you should belive that it's their actual opinion.
Re: ActiveState Perl and Microsoft
by Rex(Wrecks) (Curate) on Oct 22, 2001 at 21:17 UTC
    Just an FYI.

    I worked on the dev team for Win2k at MS, and the reskit is pretty much a collection of internal tools that get so much use they decide to sell them. Don't get me wrong, there is also marketing requirements and all the regular crap, but usefulness to the internal teams is one of the main reasons tools get into the reskit.
    I used a ton of Perl for test automation when I was at MS and trust me when I say I wasn't the only one. MS has an interest in this stuff for a reason most people don't think of...most of thier developers are *nix geeks, almost all of them in fact! And the tools start to reflect that. In fact I didn't really understand sed until I started using it on Win2k :) (used awk til then)
    So, for anyone who has seen a little of the inside of MS this comes as no surprise.

    "Nothing is sure but death and taxes" I say combine the two and its death to all taxes!
Re: ActiveState Perl and Microsoft
by Zaxo (Archbishop) on Oct 22, 2001 at 06:47 UTC

    When you install, does the paperclip phone home and void licenses? ;-)

    After Compline,

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