Skip to content
Welcome guest. | Register | Login | Add
About | Wiki | Legacy

Microsoft is not the boss, we are

Do you fear the penguin, Ballmer?After celebrations over Dell announcing that it will soon be selling GNU/Linux Ubuntu desktops and laptops we are seeing a bit of an uproar after, just a week later, Microsoft announced it's partnership with Dell akin to the one it made with Novell last November.

It is interesting how some people are equating this move to Microsoft showing us who is the boss in the industry. It is being said Microsoft *allowed* Dell to start selling Ubuntu under the condition that it also sells Novell SuSE GNU/Linux. I suppose the reason why Microsoft may care so much for pushing Novell sales is because this is where they are asserting their supposed patent rights. The stronger Novell's version of GNU/Linux is, the more people will, in some way, be admitting to Microsoft's patent rights, even if unwillingly. In fact even Novell isn't willing to admit that GNU/Linux contains any of the Microsoft patented code, but as long as the deal between them is valid, Microsoft can and will make such claims and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt on this basis.

A way in which the deal between Dell and Microsoft asserts Microsoft's interests is simply that Dell too now basically participates in an agreement which implies that GNU/Linux owes some patent royalties to Microsoft. I am not surprised that people are starting to believe that, once again, by its ability to corner big players to such admissions, Microsoft is making the rules of the game.

But something really smells about that whole theory. Was this really where Microsoft thought it would be ten years ago? Is this really Microsoft's idea of making the rules and leading the industry? Being forced to *deal with GNU/Linux* by making fuzzy deals with vague patent implications? Knowing Microsoft, I would quite confidently guess that this is not where Microsoft really wanted to be. If not then it really must be a reaction to something unexpected that happened to them.

What happened? Here is what happened. The GNU/Linux community made GNU/Linux too strong, too loud and too succesful to ignore!

At the end of the very article which argues that "with one stroke, Microsoft has reasserted its number one position as deal maker and decision maker in the computer industry", there is this insightful gem which in a certain sense contradicts the whole premise of the article:


The spread of Linux on the desktop is not going to come from the efforts of any big industry player; it is only going to come from concerted efforts by smaller players. Linux became what it is today by such efforts and it isn't going anywhere by any other methods. There's a certain heritage, a certain breeding, in everything and you can't get rid of your genes. No matter that a number of people would love to see that happen.

Most people may have understood this quote as advising the GNU/Linux advocates not to expect big players to be the ones suddenly pushing the explosive surge of GNU/Linux on the desktop and that instead we should do it all ourselves, with help of smaller players that are more likely to cooperate. This is quite a good advice actually, but the sentence I emphasized reveals another very important point. We, the small ones, were the ones who brought GNU/Linux where it is. And we brought it to a point at which Microsoft is forced to make deals with what are basically their enemies, hoping to in some vague and not very smooth way assimilate it.

So tell me, who is really the boss? Who is the maker of big deals here? Is it really Microsoft who is reacting to the threat *we* caused? I think it is us, the Free Software community and the smaller companies that aligned with us.

Microsoft is just trying their best to apply some version of their old "embrace, extend and extinguish" strategy to a disruption which is not susceptible to such attacks. They couldn't embrace it because in their terms embracing can only mean acquiring it, not joining with it (which would beat the whole point of the EEE strategy). They are trying to "embrace", that is *acquire* it by making deals which imply its control over something it really cannot control (implications of patent rights over GNU/Linux).

But how can this ever work? How can it ever lead to the achievement of the ultimate goal of Microsoft, to control GNU/Linux fully? This thing is doomed from the very beginning. Even if they manage to put companies like Novell and Dell under control, there is a whole world of other independant GNU/Linux entities and the whole community with them that doesn't care what Microsoft wants and will not be intimidated by their petty "we own patents to that code" scares. In fact, software patents aren't even valid in many parts of the world.

This community is, besides, what made GNU/Linux important enough for it to be adopted by companies like Novell and Dell and then threatening enough for Microsoft to start meddling into their affairs. If it was capable of doing that, it sure is capable of surpassing any other challenges Microsoft can throw at them. Remember SCO? That "challenge" was not only surpassed, it was destroyed! And don't forget that Microsoft may have very well be the one behind the scenes of the whole SCO suit. That does imply that Microsoft was already defeated once and certainly offers confidence that it can be defeated again.

No, Microsoft is not the boss, not in the Free Software and GNU/Linux realm. We are and we have always been. If it cannot control GNU/Linux it cannot control a growing and increasingly more vital part of the overall computer industry. In fact, we can use Microsoft's own deals to our advantage by, as always, blowing the whistles as loud as we can. We don't have anything to hide. Microsoft does.

Where are the Microsoft's patents in the GNU/Linux code? Where is the proof of their implications? Where are their open standards, genuine interoperability efforts, innovation for the consumer not for the consumer to control? Why DRM? Why restrictive EULAs? Why do we need to put up with that? Give us one good reason to use Windows Vista over GNU/Linux. What is your future, Microsoft? What do you intend to do with the sinking ship that is Windows? Threaten GNU/Linux with lawsuits? Do you think that will work?

Confront them by asking sensitive questions. Use them and exploit them by pointing to their deals as, not confirmations of their patent rights, but confirmations of our power as a community. It is not we who are vulnerable, it is them. We, in collaboration with the failing nature of secrecy of proprietary code made them so weak. It's time to shred them apart, to charge them the price for keeping software in a standstill while reaping the monopoly tax. Is this Microsoft hatry? No, it is justice. Every action has a reaction, a consequence. It is an universal law of reciprocity. They removed choice from the world, and we are out to restore it, making them pay for it in the process.

And just what else are they going to do about it? Another patent deal? Is that all they've got?

Thank you
Danijel Orsolic


Quite interesting Danijel,

Quite interesting Danijel, it shows that Microsoft has been weakened over the past years, as they are now dealing with GNU/Linux. Though one could argue that GNU/Linux isn't the only reason for this weakness, as poor project management and buggy code have also contributed to their weakening.

A note on your formatting; wouldn't it be better to use <em></em> or another markup instead of ** around words you wish to emphasize?

Well said! Great picture!


Well said! Great picture, too, but the Tux's and the BSD Daemon in the background of Mr Ballmar's head were surely added after for a touch of evil wickedness.

@dylunio, thanks. You're

@dylunio, thanks. You're right about poor management and buggy code contributing to their weakening, but I would also add the inherent weaknesses of proprietary code and secrecy as contributing factors. Code isn't overseen by anyone on the outside and hence they are not pressured to keep the quality and form high, which in turn leads to buggy code being released and new versions being released on fragile foundations.

About emphasization, yeah you're probably right. It's just a habit, but I'll fix it.

@linuxuser, of course, it was added after. I guess I wanted to make my point clear, and have a bit of fun with it at the same time. GNU/Linux is here to stay and grow, and Microsoft has to deal with that wether they like it or not, so Ballmer will sure be seeing a lot of penguins for a long time to come. That is, after all, why I am saying that Microsoft is not the boss, or at least we shouldn't be so quick to assert them as such.

It's really about having the winning attitude. They may have the money, the connections, the ability to corner big players, but they don't have you and me and our wits, our enthusiasm, the things which brought Free Software where it is. If we came this far, sure as hell we shouldn't be turning our heads around now and asserting Microsoft as "the boss", the big deal maker etc. They are not all that they sometimes appear to be. Case in point, these patent allegations, so far it's been nothing but hot air and yet those who fear Microsoft for the sake of it being Microsoft are having second thoughts about GNU/Linux. Why?

If Microsoft was really such a big deal, they wouldn't be having to deal with an operating system built by "the people" cooperating over the internet. Of course they'll want you to still think they are someone to fear and watch out for, but it's an illusion.

Microsoft no longer matters. We do.

A more blunt point of view...


"I suppose the reason why Microsoft may care so much for pushing Novell sales is because this is where they are asserting their supposed patent rights.

Let's not forget that Microsoft is now raking in the cash by selling the "Suse Certificates". Don't you find it a bit obscene that Microsoft has found a way to profit from Linux when we have FOSS Developers and Distro Authors struggling to raise funds for a lousy video card so they can test it against their latest build? We can form circular lines from LUG to LUG and pass each other distro disks all day. That's not doing any good and that's about the extent of our collective efforts in the past ten years. Recently someone mentioned that Linux is ready for the desktop. Ahem...that would be MS by the way. THEY made the announcement by making the Novell Deal... while we were busy slitting each others throats. Linux is not only ready for the desktop, it is ready for it's Coming Out Celebration.

It's a shame such a noble idea is being smeared with fecal matter. I suppose the old saying is as apt today as it was in it's day:

You only hurt the one you love.


Welcome helios. I can

Welcome helios.

I can appreciate the constructive criticism you are extending to the GNU/Linux community and more unity and less bickering certainly is always a good thing and can help our cause, but I would personally be a bit more positive about what the community was able to accomplish on its own, with no Microsoft, not even Novell, despite and sometimes even because of the differences of opinions.

Microsoft may be making some nice money selling SuSE, but so what? This is still SuSE, not Windows, not their old cash cow, and this SuSE is not something they can control the way they can control Windows. In fact, I don't care if they make money selling GNU/Linux, as long as this is contributing to them making less and less money on Windows. Smiling

If we weren't there. If GNU Project was never started and if Linus never hacked up this incredible kernel that we have. If the community didn't grow around it in cooperation (despite the differences), Microsoft would be selling us their broken OS for $1000 or more. We have to acknowledge that the community did something to Microsoft that Microsoft didn't want to happen.

We have to acknowledge that we are restoring choice (and not just choice of masters) and freedom and that we have *made* Microsoft react to this.

So I tend to be an optimist. We're here, aren't we? We can do even more. And in fact you're among the guys who are actually doing it! Smiling



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.