Today's news is dominated by stories about a world where Microsoft is an also-ran, trying to steal market share away from market leader Linux, and where Microsoft is trying to enhance its users' experience by supporting the Firefox browser.
What strange world is this, you ask? Is it, perhaps, the Bizarro world, the square planet where everything is the opposite of what it is on Earth, populated by deformed duplicates of Superman and Lois Lane?
Oh, no, silly reader! These things are happening here, today!Aaron Ricadela describes Microsoft's plans to become a contender in the scientific and supercomputing market, an area where Microsoft's market share doesn't even move the needle, and Linux (as the young people say) r00lz. Check out this list of the operating systems run on the top 500 supercomputers, as of this month. Almost three quarters of the systems are running Linux, and the other contenders are varieties of Unix (including, strangely enough, MacOS--a great desktop OS to be sure, but not what we usually think of when we think of a high-performance operating system. What's up with that?).
Be sure to check out Aaron's terrific one-on-one interview with Bill Gates, wherein Gates describes how work done at Microsoft Research can apply to science, medicine, and engineering; how more-powerful desktop processors can improve user interfaces; and his evolving role at Microsoft. I thought that one of the more intriguing points that Gates raised was that computer programming has become the language of science, the way math used to be.
As long as we're talking about Q&As, check out Tony Kontzer's one-on-one with interview with Microsoft product manager Brian Goldfarb about the trendy new Web technology called Ajax, and Microsoft's plans for tools to make Ajax development easier.
Also, check out this short item about how Microsoft is making available a Firefox plug-in that allows users to validate that their Windows systems are legal and not pirated, prior to downloading Microsoft software.
Similarly, when Microsoft launched its Live portal a few weeks ago, Firefox users received a warning when visiting the site that Firefox was not supported yet. Now, the warning is gone.
In and of themselves, that's not such a big deal--I'm a Firefox user myself, and it's not exactly a lot of trouble for me to switch to Internet Explorer when I need to download software from Microsoft.com. And I really have no interest in using Microsoft Live. But Microsoft supporting Firefox could be a signal of big strategic changes at Microsoft, a warmer attitude toward open source. Or, it might simply be what it is, and nothing more.
What do you think? Will Microsoft succeed in becoming a contender in supercomputing and scientific computing? Is Microsoft warming toward Firefox in general, and open source in particular? Does this tie go with this shirt?