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Microsoft partners with a yet another FOSS company

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memenode's picture
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The subject of what's behind Microsoft's strategy of partnering with FOSS companies has been heavily discussed within the FOSS community and we've featured a few articles on the related subjects too. I've participated in many discussions on LXer.com and the feeling is that all of this what MS is doing lately just doesn't have teeth and is due to GPLv3 quite pointless.

You may have seen the news... MS just partnered, after Novell and Dell (who is now too, in a way, a GNU/Linux distributor), with Xandros.

Sander on LXer is baffled by the deals stupidity. Xandros is not doing too well as it is, and now they're about to face the wrath of the community for doing such a pointless deal, succumbing to whatever sweet candy MS offered them just to play in their playground.

There is an implication that this new strategy, apparently not suppressed much by the fact that GPLv3 is almost out (and will ban such deals on covered software), is a way for Microsoft to strangle whoever of GNU/Linux vendors it can (by tying them with these deals) as to weaken the FOSS ecosystem.

But that too is quite pointless too, isn't it? I mean.. how can they ever hope to kill the whole ecosystem? In place of companies which may fall, other ones may rise.

To be honest, to me this is either a puzzle or a fun show to watch, or perhaps both. What do you think?

Edit: In case this topic isn't spicy enough as it is, let's add some guesswork.. Who do you think will (be stupid enough to) partner with Microsoft next?

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One thing to notice is that

One thing to notice is that microsoft seems to be making deals with companies that create or distribute easy to use linux distros.

Novell owns SuSE, which is easy to use
Dell preinstalls Ubuntu (I suppose MS couldn't make a deal with Canonical, so making a deal with the company that creates a likely way for a newbie to encounter Ubuntu is the next best thing)
Xandros is easy to use

Why is MS making deals with exactly these? It's quite simple, actually. The more geeky distros are less likely to want any kind of deal with MS, because interoperability is less important to them, and promises of work on interoperability (apart from money) is what MS uses to make companies sign a patent deal they know is b******t.

But once such a deal is made, the geeks break their ties with the easy distro, which also means they won't recommend it to newbies anymore. This will lead to less people switching to linux, because newbies won't get free help getting used to a linux distribution that is easy enough for them to switch to from windows.

memenode's picture
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That could be, but I don't

That could be, but I don't think it will work. Geeks who leave these distros ultimately end up using and recommending another one and there are still some others to go, like PCLinuxOS and some Ubuntu derivatives which are easy to use and still recommended. There is also always a possibility of creating new distro projects if a lack of non-Microsoft related choice is recognized.

Also, I think Ubuntu is still largely recommended since the deal wasn't directly with Canonical, but with Dell and it seems to have more to do with SuSE than Ubuntu.

In any case I just don't see a solid strategy in it. I don't see any solid strategy in what MS is doing right now. I guess the only thing that this leaves us with is to conclude that MS is desperate.

Btw, easy to use distros are usually also most popular, high profile and most importantly often commercialized to a point (a company is formed around them). MS can do partnerships with these companies, but not the community, and most "geeky" distros are community based.

Btw2, RedHat has repeatedly shown unwillingness to partner with Microsoft which leaves one of the most popular and more and more easy to use distros, Fedora, a clean choice for recommending to newbies - a yet another hole in MSs plan.

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memenode's picture
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Some interesting articles on
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Interesting speculation...

Interesting speculation.

However, I wonder how much of this speculation isn't in fact driven by the history on antipathy between Microsoft and the Free Software community.

Allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment...

Once there was Netscape Navigator, and it was gratis. Microsoft force fed the world Internet Explorer, and it too was gratis. Half the world loved MS for it, and half the world hated it.

Then, in a bold move after it had lost the "Browser Wars", Netscape went "Open Source" and from it's ashed rose Firefox, and Firefox was good (sort of).

Now, several years later, Internet Explorer is again threatened by "Netscape". But figuring this was only a fluke, Microsoft continues developement of Vista, and expands it's internet based applications, Windows Live and MSN Search...

But Google, being a (formerly???) proponent of "Open Source" dominates the market, leaving Microsoft again at number two. Sad What's worse, the "competitors" Microsoft has are getting trounced too - even BUYING Yahoo couldn't have given them the edge over Google.

With the browser wars lost, and the Battle of Online Searches still leaving acrid smoke in the noses of Microsoft execs, they call a meeting.

In this room, there are three side. One proposes that MS can pass this "Open Source" fad. The other (legal team!) proposes to secure the ONE market Windows holds (for now) - Operating Systems. This explains the "patent" issues of late. The third team (the developers) propose a blasphemous solution: open source Windows.

None of these options will work, for various reasons, they all agree. Perhaps the solution is in the middle - open certain aspects of Windows. Actually produce interoperable code that can be freely used, and combine this with the closed code that Windows already uses heavily.

To do this, Microsoft has to do something it hasn't ever done before - learn from someone else. Hence, the Novell deal, and now the Xandros deal. With them there's already a base of Windows/"Linux" interoperability proponents - while the community would hate the deals, the customers of those respective OSes would be quite happy.

This also means that we'll begin to see something from Microsoft that we've never seen: Libre code. Fully fledged, REAL software libre. Probably not under the GPL, but likely under BSD...

From this Microsoft will become what Suse and Xandros have always wanted to be: the most Windows interoperable, "open source based" OS.

Some people argue that Microsoft is trying to "crush" GNU/Linux, but it's as clear to THEM as it is to US that that will NEVER happen: if they crush Linux we'll move to Solaris. If they crush Solaris, HURD will finally materialize. Free Software is about the spirit of the thing, not about the thing itself. And perhaps this time, Microsoft has decided that if it can't crush it it will capitalize on it.

User offline. Last seen 11 years 28 weeks ago. Offline
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I disagree one several of

I disagree one several of the points here, but not on the conclusion. Smiling Allow me to explain:

tbuitenh wrote:

One thing to notice is that microsoft seems to be making deals with companies that create or distribute easy to use linux distros.

I've used Suse before, and I don't consider it to be "easy" to use after Debian. However, I found that was because it was a lot like Windows. Yast resembled the "Control Panel" quite a bit, and rather than config files it had wizards that did stuff. Some argue that this is "easy" but I disagree. Mac OS X on the other hand doesn't require configuration, it uses sane defaults and allows you to "tweak" what isn't to your liking. Microsoft seems to be partnering with distros that aim to "work well with" Windows. Suse pioneered Samba and arguably integrates into Windows networks better and more seamlessly than other distros. Xandros ships with Crossover Office (at least, some versions do) which is designed to fill the "I gotta have this application" need from Windows converts. It's goal is to place itself on business desktops - in offices that most likely have to harmonize with Windows desktops, and feel comfortable to Windows users.

Gentoo doesn't make a premise to be a "replacement" for Windows, nor does Debian or Arch. These distros weren't targeted by MS.

tbuitenh wrote:

The more geeky distros are less likely to want any kind of deal with MS, because interoperability is less important to them, and promises of work on interoperability (apart from money) is what MS uses to make companies sign a patent deal they know is b******t.

I think it's more that those other distros aren't targeted to replace Windows literally. They're just as much Mac OS X or FreeBSD replacements as Windows replacements. They aim to be something Windows is not: a useable operating system. Perhaps this harkens back to the "pure" hacker spirit, but I've noticed that these distros also tend to be more innovative and care more about Freedom than the others. It's kind of a chicken and the egg thing here, but I don't think it's "they don't care about interoperability" it more "they care MORE about other things".

tbuitenh wrote:

This will lead to less people switching to linux, because newbies won't get free help getting used to a linux distribution that is easy enough for them to switch to from windows.

While I won't dispute that this MIGHT be a factor, I don't think it's exactly a bad thing. Smiling I left Windows because Windows annoyed the crap out of me. I didn't want something that "felt like Windows" - feeling like Windows was why I LEFT.

Users who have issues with Windows will find a Debian or an Arch or an Ubuntu (I'd argue that Ubuntu is easy, but isn't really that much like Windows) because they're NOT Windows.

Where the real "I want a Windows" thing holds true, sadly, isn't in the desktop market but in the enterprise market. The first thing people think about when migrating to GNU/Linux in the enterprise is savings. The second thing they think about is how much that savings "rocks the boat". Companies often depend on Windows applications not because they're better, but because their staff already knows it. Mentalities are hard to change: harder still when there's the silent "change or loose your job".

I speak on this one from personal experience: 9 months ago a friend and co-worker of my wife needed a "Linux" server for a specific application test-run. I gladly set it up for him. The problem is, 9 months later, this guy still doesn't "get" the idea that aplications are maintained centrally. His first instinct is to look "elsewhere" (away from the OS vendor) for solutions. To put his faith in Debian is so alien to him that he refuses to do it - to the detriment of his system.

Rather that take a moment to learn to connect to a MySQL server from ASP he began looking for an ASP implimentation on Linux. THESE are the kind of people that Suse and Xandros aim for: the people who will ONLY accept change if it looks the same. Smiling

I'd probably feel that same way of tomorrow I was told "Learn Windows or you're fired." The difference for me is that I know any job that tells me to do that isn't worth having.

memenode's picture
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You know, regarding the

You know, regarding the whole talk about interoperability I am hit with a question. Is it really worth pursuing interoperability with locked up "standards" and technologies? It is Microsoft who is feeding everyone the thought of "interoperability" as if it was some sort of a sacred principle to them whilst they did everything they could to break it in their (now diminishing) heyday and even as of today there are many fronts on which Microsoft is the reason why true interoperability doesn't exist.

True interoperability should really require open standards and Free Software, both of which Microsoft was and continues to regularly defy.

So while I might appreciate attempts of certain vendors to bridge to the non-free locked up technologies out of pure practical reasons, as long as this doesn't really detriment the cause of software freedom, the larger goal is to scale those locked standards back, kill them and replace with true open standards on which Free Software is built.

So if some of these community distros don't care all that much for bridging to Microsoft's technologies, so what? There are apparently plenty who've already jumped on that anyway. They should just continue focusing on what really is the future, the Free Software technology and standards.

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memenode's picture
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That theory sounds quite

That theory sounds quite fine if you ignore the part in which they sign patent promises with these companies and then go around threatening with lawsuits and implicating GNU/Linux' liability - a heavy FUD campaign.

I guess you could explain that part as doing all that they can to weaken GNU/Linux as much as possibly, even if knowing that wont kill it, while in the meantime working on capitalizing on it the way you describe, sort of joining the trend without yet fully embracing Free Software (merely building up "mixed" environments).

But there is a problem with that. Due to GPLv3 these very patent deals could potentially break the other code and technology sharing parts of the deals too. If they don't want to give patents away they basically have to steer clear of all GPLv3 code. The more they meddle with GPLv3 the weaker their whole supposed patent arguments are.

It's a very risky business, and I think that is an understatement. Microsoft is not in a very good position right now.

We could say that GPLv3 is building a wall. Microsoft will sure say this in the meanest possible way. But this was necessary. It is a protective wall. You can pass through the gates into this community only if you acknowledge that you are no more deserving than any other player in the field. Play by the rules or get out. That's the philosophy GPL has been enforcing all along and GPLv3 merely continues that with regards to modern threats. Microsoft hence faces a decision. To enter through the gate and play by those rules or to remain on the outside (which is by the way becoming less and less fruitful as the universe "inside" continues to grow).

And FSF is really trying to make sure that there is no third choice here for them, no circumvention, when it comes to GPLv3 code.

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I totally agree,

I totally agree, interoperability is only useful when it's equal. "Interoperable" doesn't mean "can trick Windows" in my book - interoperable is Windows stops caring what's connecting to it. Smiling

And that point is exactly what I made on this thread earlier, the hundreds of distros out there that want to make a strong foundation, and don't care about how well it works with Windows tend to make better operating systems.

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LG

No one guessed it right. It turned out to be LG.

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memenode's picture
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Gosh that was fast. I just

Gosh that was fast. I just found out about it on a binary freedom mailing list and then saw your post.

Microsoft sure is busy these days...

I guess LG isn't among smart ones here either. Sad

Edit: Despite the facts, I think that with each new deal of this kind the perception of GNU/Linux owing anything to Microsoft is gonna get stronger in the outside world (outside of the GNU/Linux and some parts of the IT community who are in the know about these things). Their FUD campaign could start hurting.

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