Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Microsofts next partners: Mandriva and TurboLinux

Microsoft is on the march. Novell, Xandros, Linspire, hiring Tom Hanrahan straight from the Open Source Development Labs. There should be no doubt that Microsoft has a strategy to….. Yes, to do what to Linux? Did the Redmond Mogul finally realize that Linux is a worthy partner for the future and is it now investing in strategic partners to guarantee a slice of the future market? Or is this a repetition of the old browser wars with the embrace, extend and make extinct strategy and will the Linux world end up empty handed?

The first agreement with Novell was met with mixed feelings. Novell will have the honor of being embedded in the GPL 3 with it’s own clause. The agreement with Microsoft provided mutual protection against patent violations, coöperation in order to improve interoperability and it gives Microsoft the opportunity for Windows 2003/Suse Linux package deals to it’s own customers. Not a few expected Microsoft to use this agreement to repeat it’s own patent claims against all the other Linux distributions, which it did. The agreements with both Xandros and Linspire are quite similar, albeit that Microsoft won’t be offering the two distributions to the longing desktop users. Maybe I am wrong but it does feel that the uproar has become a lot less. Xandros and Linspire are distributions that are the most focused on current Windows users and they use a graphical interface that resembles the Windows desktop as close as possible. Linspire was also one of the first distributions to pay license fees in order to ship with MP3 playback on board. Linspire and Xandros can be considered very pragmatic distributions from commercial companies that focus more on user experience than on philosophical purity and have no qualms on adding proprietary and closed source software if that benefitted their market shares. Two other distributions that fit this profile are TurboLinux and Mandriva. So it wouldn’t surprise if one or both of these companies are next on the list of Microsoft’s Linux partners.

In the last few years I have become impressed with Microsoft. The company, not the operating system. Not everyone might have noticed, but Microsoft has really made some effort to become a friendly and strong communicator. Most of it’s products have been made available as public beta’s. I am about to start some tests on the third release of Windows Home Server, the release candidate. If you want to get your feet wet in coding you can download and use the Visual Studio Express products for free. Both the Technet and MSDN websites are packed with high quality and sound information that are really educational. The CD/DVD trial packages are free or cheap and often come with surprise goodies, like free versions of Outlook and Frontpage with the Windows 2003 Small Business Suite trial package. What I am trying to say is this: Microsoft is changing into a company with more coöperation, more transparency and more community development that ever before. Of course it didn’t invent it. To call Microsoft the most innovative company would be way to much honor, but it has been and still is a company that could learn from it’s mistakes and rectify them with a vengeance.

If you look back and see what has happened in the last couple of years you can see a strong strategy. Microsoft settled with Novell and Sun and build new strategic partnerships in return. It still has some problems in Europa, but those are simply a matter of time. Suppose Microsoft does partner with Mandriva. That would give it the support of the French government that can flex it’s muscle and make sure that the EU’s stand will be more pallatable. Redmond pays it’s dues and from then on Microsoft can do what it wants in Europa. Bill and Steve are also getting more buddy buddy, which means that already now Microsoft has solid footing in three operating systems (Windows, Linux and Mac OS X) with clear agreements and partners to improve the interoperability.

Meanwhile the other side of the arena is way too quiet. Where are the initiatives of Red Hat and it’s strategic partners like IBM, HP and Oracle. The strongest initiative for Linux interoperability seems to come from Linspire and the CNR warehouse. Dell is carefully testing the waters with a few meagre Ubuntu PC’s. It’s writers are trying to position the GPL 3 as the first and last line of defence against the proliferation of Microsoft-Linux partnerships. Well, I seriously doubt whether the so-called Novell clause with it’s historical date as a judicial watershed holds up in court, especially since no software has been released under the GPL 3 as yet. But will the GPL 3 get any teeth at all? Since we are looking into a crystall ball anyway, let us suppose that the Samba team decided to migrate all of it’s code to GPL 3 and that GPL 3 would prohibit Microsoft and it’s Linux partners from using Samba because it would force Microsoft to open source Windows at the same time. Victory! Yes, but a Pyrrhic victory at most. What would prevent Microsoft and it’s partners to develop an alternative under their current agreements? Nothing. And what would prevent Microsoft to release that alternative under an open source license or a “promise not to sue” license? Nothing! And how long will it take for other distributions to embed that alternative in it’s own releases? Well, Ubuntu won’t be the first but certainly not the last. Red Hat will refuse and Debian will do what it does best, ignore the whole thing. But there will be plenty of other distributions that won’t shed a tear and remove Samba. Besides it would do miracles for the case against Microsoft in the EU and shift the blame of frustrating Windows Linux interoperability to GPL 3 and it’s supporters.

If and when Microsoft allies itself with Mandriva and TurboLinux it will also get serious other benefits. At that point it will have strategic Linux partners whose key markets will encompass various important continents: the USA, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Mandriva is cash strapped -again- and can definitely use a multimillion infusion with Microsoft dollars. Suppose it would take $ 500 million to get Mandriva into the fold. It’s petty cash for Microsoft and a small price to get a solid foothold in the European and Latin American Linux markets.

Red Hat has some very rich supporters. IBM, HP and Oracle may be among the few companies that have the resources to come up with an effective strategy against the march of Microsoft. Sad to say, but these companies haven’t succeeded in doing exaclty that in the past. If history is to be used as a yard stick I would put my money on the Microsoft strategy, for better or for worse.

Tags: Microsoft, Linux, Mandriva, TurboLinux, patents

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17 thoughts on “Microsofts next partners: Mandriva and TurboLinux

  1. revdjenk on said:

    Suppose, using your scenerio, MS does release an open source Samba-like alternate in response to Samba going to GPL3…

    …My guess is, it would include more code, require more of the hardware, put an additional operating tax on the processor. It would depend, possibly, if it offered the same, and better, more capability.

    If this were all true, would Linuxers use it?

    hmmm OpenOffice did just that compared to KOffice, and look what happened…

    IAssuming it would be released as open source, the real issue is how it works compared to Samba, right?

    Some would still wonder, what data is being shared w/Redmond?

    hmmm…

    Doug

  2. It looks like Ubuntu is not talking to Microsoft. In his blog Mark Shuttleworth is stating the following in response to the question:

    vlad Says:
    June 15th, 2007 at 5:17 am
    I know its off topic but EVERYONE is waiting to hear your response and the one of ESR about Linspire.
    Will you go into the Click N Jog adventure with collaborators or not?
    Is extortion acceptable or not?
    I felt queasy enough with the annoucement of the Linspire/Ubuntu collaboration last year to have changed 2 out of 4 of my (K)(X)Ubuntu
    distros for other I experimented with since then.

    What was Mark’s response?

    Mark Shuttleworth says:
    Neither Canonical nor the Ubuntu project have any interest in signing an agreement with Microsoft on the back of the threat of unspecified patents. We have consistently (but politely ) declined to pursue those conversations with Microsoft, in the absence of any details of the alleged patent infringements.
    Speaking for myself, I welcome Microsoft’s openness to the idea of improving interoperability between free software components such as OpenOffice and Microsoft Office, and believe that Microsoft’s customers, many of whom are now also Linux users, will appreciate Microsoft’s efforts in that regard. I have substantial reservations about the quality of the specification for Microsoft’s OpenXML document formats and do not believe that Microsoft will limit it’s own Office implementation to that specification, which makes the specification largely meaningless as a standard. A specification which Microsoft won’t certify as being accurate as a representation of Office 12’s behavior, and will not commit to keeping up to date in advance of future revisions to MS Office, is not a credible standard.
    Instead of OpenXML, I would urge Microsoft to join the ODF working group. They are already a member of OASIS, I believe. Their participation in ODF would be genuine engagement with an open standards process. Microsoft would benefit from the innovation that comes from clean, well written standards that are widely implemented. They would have a large share of a larger market.
    After many years of participating in the free software community I know that neither I nor any other free software programmer has any desire to infringe on any intellectual property (trademark, copyright or patent) of any other person or company. Many of us are motivated precisely to ensure that we work on platforms which DON’T cross that line. So it is somewhat offensive to be threatened with an allegation of an IP infringement. I’m sure Microsoft doesn’t realise that its actions are being received in that light, otherwise they wouldn’t continue. But it is getting rather tiresome. I would be very happy to see the details of any alleged patent infringement so that we can engage with Microsoft more constructively on the subject.
    Mark

    Now, this seems to point at a few things. (1) Microsoft is willing to talk to Ubuntu, (2) Ubuntu is not openly reconsidering it’s cooperation with Linspire and (3) he would have little problems helping Microsoft implementing open standards.

  3. I already was quite sure Ubuntu would not be doing this, and thus this post was quite hilarious. Your post does seem more reliable though.

  4. scott on said:

    Everyone needs to pay very close attention to what is transpiring with Microsoft and all these so-called partnerships. There is alot more going on here than meets the eye, things that could have some disastrous consequences to the Open Source community if it’s not cautious.

  5. Thomas F. Williams on said:

    I have to tell you you draw the wrong inferences from Mr. Shuttleworth’s statement. Microsoft is the entity, according to all history, tries its best to ruin any standard it becomes a part of, uses very questionable tactics to further its business, and engages in FUD to keep competitors sales down. Linux is built to open standards anyone can look and build to to ensure interoperability. Microsoft has no such history.

    Tom

  6. Whatever the fate of Linux in general, within five years Novell, Xandros and Linspire will be just a footnote in the Encyclopedia Crushed-by-Microsoftica.

    Microsoft, friendly? Don’t make me laugh.

  7. paul on said:

    Trusting MS with anything is a lesson in how to lose your shirt. No company or entity has ever done business with Microsoft that has ever benefitted, long term. Want a list?

    Ask IBM, ask Apple, ask Netscape, ask Sybase, ask anyone who has ever trusted MS.

    MS has one goal and one goal only; own the technology space. Sure for a large IT company whose business model is owning the IT space, it is business wise and and aspiration that any company with their business model, may ascribe to. But for the consumer and IT professional, it has meant and does mean, that we must march to the tune of their drummers. Innovation therefore, naturally can only come from he emperors’ edict. Freedom, choice, and true innovation must die to continually fuel the empire and extend its world domination goals.

    The MS OS is deplorable. It is a hodge podge of an isolated Desktop system design, which has been patched, extended, added onto to try to make it network reliable. The results show that it is a hodge podge OS that should be as far removed from the WAN based world (I would even argue from the large LAN based world as well), as is humanly possible. It is not that MS cannot (with its engineers and software professionals), cannot make a decent OS, it is that the marketing teams of MS will not allow it. Even after all of these years, there are more security holes in MS than exists in all of the Unix based systems combined. But if MS and only MS sets the standards, it doesn’t matter how bad or good something is; without choice, you are stuck with what you get.

    MS wants to control what you use (Windows and Windows only based software) and how you use it (predefined closed source OS and applications that you the user or developer) The last thing MS desires is for the user or developer to have any free choice in developing new technologies that may be better than what they offer, but does not work within their marketing box. If this truly does occur, then the IT world must consigned itself to the fact that the technology world must stagnate; MS is not interested in any new technologies that does not further their cause. They do not want your innovations, unless it fuels their ideals of world domination and becomes their own Intellectual Property,

    There is no way that this should be seen as positive by the IT Professionals in any light. It should be seen as running contrary to the entire ideals of building a bigger and better technology stack, where the entire goal and motivation is building new technologies that are better, more powerful, and lend to make the computer a devise accessible to the masses with the benefit of advancing humanity in general.

    The MS based philosophy however, is that the only good is the sustainment of the empire and the world domination goals. The cart will always be driving the horse.

    If MS did rule all (as they aspire), what technologies would not now exist?

    There would be no internet, MS saw and sees the Internet as a hugh threat to their empire. There would definitely be no Linux, no BSD, no Open Solaris, no AIX, no anything that is not Windows. There would be no Oracles, no mySQL, no Postgres, no Java, no PHP, no Perl, no Python, no Ruby, no GNU compilers, no Palms, no Symbian, no free ISPs.

    Make no mistake about it;– an MS based world is a world where none of the above ground breaking technologies exists. The only world that exists in the MS universe, is the world MS will allow you to live in. You either live in that world, or you will cease to exist.

  8. paul on said:

    Trusting MS with anything is a lesson in how to lose your shirt. No company or entity has ever done business with Microsoft that has ever benefitted, long term. Want a list?

    Ask IBM, ask Apple, ask Netscape, ask Sybase, ask anyone who has ever trusted MS.

    MS has one goal and one goal only; own the technology space. Sure for a large IT company whose business model is owning the IT space, it is business wise and and aspiration that any company with their business model, may ascribe to. But for the consumer and IT professional, it has meant and does mean, that we must march to the tune of their drummers. Innovation therefore, naturally can only come from he emperors’ edict. Freedom, choice, and true innovation must die to continually fuel the empire and extend its world domination goals.

    The MS OS is deplorable. It is a hodge podge of an isolated Desktop system design, which has been patched, extended, added onto to try to make it network reliable. The results show that it is a hodge podge OS that should be as far removed from the WAN based world (I would even argue from the large LAN based world as well), as is humanly possible. It is not that MS cannot (with its engineers and software professionals), cannot make a decent OS, it is that the marketing teams of MS will not allow it. Even after all of these years, there are more security holes in MS than exists in all of the Unix based systems combined. But if MS and only MS sets the standards, it doesn’t matter how bad or good something is; without choice, you are stuck with what you get.

    MS wants to control what you use (Windows and Windows only based software) and how you use it (predefined closed source OS and applications that you the user or developer must work within) The last thing MS desires is for the user or developer to have any free choice in developing new technologies that may be better than what they offer, but does not work within their marketing box. If this truly does occur, then the IT world must consigned itself to the fact that the technology world must stagnate; MS is not interested in any new technologies that does not further their cause. They do not want your innovations, unless it fuels their ideals of world domination and becomes their own Intellectual Property,

    There is no way that this should be seen as positive by the IT Professionals in any light. It should be seen as running contrary to the entire ideals of building a bigger and better technology stack, where the entire goal and motivation is building new technologies that are better, more powerful, and lend themselves to make the computer a devise accessible to the masses with the benefit of advancing humanity in general.

    The MS based philosophy however, is that the only good is the sustainment of the empire and the empire’s world domination goals. The cart will always drive the horse.

    If MS did rule all (as they aspire), what technologies would not now exist?

    There would be no internet, MS saw and sees the Internet as a hugh threat to their empire. There would definitely be no Linux, no BSD, no Open Solaris, no AIX, no anything that is not Windows. There would be no Oracles, no mySQL, no Postgres, no Java, no PHP, no Perl, no Python, no Ruby, no GNU compilers, no Palms, no Symbian, no free ISPs.

    Make no mistake about it;– an MS based world is a world where none of the above ground breaking technologies exists. The only world that exists in the MS universe, is the world MS will allow you to live in. You either live in that world, or you will cease to exist.

  9. Pingback: FreeSoftNews » Blog Archive » Microsofts next partners: Mandriva and TurboLinux

  10. The blogosphere certainly got heated up about the latest Microsoft-Linspire deal, especially the rumours that Ubuntu might be next. Mark Shuttleworth is doing his utmost at damage control.
    I am glad I didn’t mention Ubuntu in my article ;-). That was no coincidence, because I really think Ubuntu wll not partner with Microsoft at this junction in time.

  11. It seems few people are discussing the Microsoft-Linspire deal, the focus goes to “Will Ubuntu be next?”. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is burned on the stakes by the Ubuntu community for implying that their favorite distribution might be next.
    I personally found this quote in Mark Shuttlewortth’s blog interesting:

    I have no objections to working with Microsoft in ways that further the cause of free software, and I don’t rule out any collaboration with them, in the event that they adopt a position of constructive engagement with the free software community. It’s not useful to characterize any company as “intrinsically evil for all time”. But I don’t believe that the intent of the current round of agreements is supportive of free software, and in fact I don’t think it’s particularly in Microsoft’s interests to pursue this agenda either. In time, perhaps, they will come to see things that way too.

    I thought this was a balanced and clear position on the issue of a possible partnership with Microsoft. Sad to say that my comment in hist blog is still held for moderation whereas more “Good for you Mark” comments are already accepted.
    Anyway, Steven wrote another article on this subject. He still clings to the argument that Ubuntu is also a distribution that might jump ship sometime this year. I don’t think so. Madriva and TurboLinux, yes. Mandriva because of it’s financial problems and TurboLinux because it already dealt with Microsoft a few years ago when paying for the Windows Media codecs. Ubuntu has little to gain from a partnership with Microsoft, but much to loose if it would partner. The community of Linux users is -in general- hardly diehard longterm loyal to it’s distributions (with exceptions a plenty, of course 😉 ). A move like this would push Ubuntu to the bottom of the Distrowatch charts and into a footnote in Linux history.

  12. Pingback: Ruminations on the Digital Realm » Archive » Ubuntu says no, but will the Mandriva management follow suit?

  13. Pingback: Ruminations on the Digital Realm » Archive » Is Microsoft turning open source friendly?

  14. When this article appeared most attention went to Mandriva, but hardly anyone mentioned TurboLinux. Today it was announced that Microsoft and TurboLinux made their own little deal to create ODF – OpenXML convertors.

    Nothing about patents in this case.

  15. Pingback: Ruminations on the Digital Realm » Archive » Microsoft partners again: with TurboLinux. My, my, was I right ;-)

  16. Pingback: Munich Unix » Microsofts next partners: Mandriva and TurboLinux

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