Quora Answer : What would Windows be like without free software and open source software?
The main difference you see today because of free / open-source software is the dominance of internet giants like Google, Facebook etc.
It's free software that let these companies create their own OS's / platforms to run giant server farms and clouds.
Without free-software, all these internet startups in the late 90s, early 2000s, would have had to buy operating systems for their servers from either Microsoft (Windows NT) or Sun (Solaris). (They wouldn't have been big enough to write their own from scratch)
They'd have literally been paying a "per seat" (or per machine,per blade) "tax" to Bill Gates or Scott McNealy. This would act as an extra friction on expansion of the services, raising the cost of acquisition of users, possibly significantly. Which would make the "get big by giving away services for free" strategy harder.
Furthermore, Microsoft being the kind of company they were at the time would almost certainly have been trying to leverage the control they had over the server operating system to promote their own rival services.
So, Bing, relying on special API calls in Windows NT, might get performance that Google couldn't.
So, expect that :
Microsoft, would likely be at the forefront, state of the art, at server technology, scaling, clustering, clouding etc.
Google, Amazon, Facebook etc. would never have become so big, independent and powerful
Microsoft would have more successful rivals to all these services : Bing would be a closer rival to Google. M$, rather than Amazon's AWS would be at the forefront of services. Microsoft might well have promoted its own social media alternative to Facebook which would have had more traction.
Most importantly for Windows, we'd have seen more attempts by Microsoft to tie online, cloud-based services back to Windows clients rather than using the browser and open protocols like http / html. The Microsoft "Knowledge Explorer" client, a front-end to Bing, would be part of Office. The Microsoft "Message Book" to manage your social graph would come as a stand-alone client with Windows. Etc.
Without free software, Microsoft would have ended up dominating the social / internet space that today is divided between Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon etc.