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Re: ActiveState Perl and Microsoft

by Starky (Chaplain)
on Oct 21, 2001 at 20:51 UTC ( #120386=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to ActiveState Perl and Microsoft

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.

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Re: Re: ActiveState Perl and Microsoft
by $code or die (Deacon) on Oct 21, 2001 at 21:32 UTC
    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).

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