Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Is Red Hat the pot calling the kettle black?

My my. Who would have thought that Microsoft actually would dominate the discussions in the world of Linux and Open Source. In a fascinating article at Reuters Red Hat’s Matthew Szulik admitted that a year ago he and Microsoft were discussing some sort of patent deal. Yes, a similar deal that Novell and Microsoft agreed upon. Wasn’t Red Hat the company crying “foul” when that happened? Didn’t they put themselves forward as the rallying point against patent-based deals with Microsoft?

Mr. Szulik’s current position is reassuringly clear:

The developer of Linux software, has yet to sign such a deal which could see Novell, its biggest rival, woo customers away from Red Hat and work on product development and sales with the world’s No.1 software maker.
In an interview with Reuters, Szulik declined to say whether his company is now in negotiations with Microsoft over signing such a patent agreement.
“I can’t answer the question,” he said.

He can’t answer the question…. What reasons could there be for it?
(1) He wants to but some evil witch has cast a spell and now he can not say the words “patent agreement” and “Microsoft” anymore.
(2) He has absolutely no clue what is happening in his company. For all he knows, most of the people working for him already signed up with Microsoft Technet or MSDN, in effect having signed patent-based agreements already. Don’t forget, he’s just the CEO. You can’t hold him responsible for not knowing.
(3) He thinks we and all other Linux afficionados wouldn’t understand a thing about business, making money and delivering quality service to business customers and decided it is best if we were left out of the loop on this.
(4) Matthew and Steve are already practicing a duet version of “developers, developers, developers”, but want to keep it a secret untill Bill’s birthday.

Is there anyone still out there that wants to call my articles about Mandriva FUD? Who will be next out of the closet.


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10 thoughts on “Is Red Hat the pot calling the kettle black?

  1. well, couple of items here. First, the author at the opensourcelearning site has been caught in F.U.D. multiple times. I’d like to say that he has the reputation of the Inq’s Mike Magee, but that would apply a reputation to begin with.

    Anyways, here’s something a lot of people don’t realize. Red Hat, Novell, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, AMD (+ATi), Nvidia, Via, Mainline, Tyan, Foxconn and everybody else involved in the creation and/or distribution of hardware
    and or software are always talking to each other. Microsoft is always in talks with Red Hat about technology, patents, software, and the distribution. Saying that Red Hat was in negotiations with Microsoft over patents is sort of like saying the Sky is blue on a clear day. It’s a “No duh.”

    What matters is… what happened? Did Red Hat say yes to a patent deal, or did Red Hat say no? Where janstedehouder is dead wrong is that there was some malicious intent behind the discussion on the part of Red Hat.

    The fact is, anytime Microsoft’s lawyers come knocking on the door, it is typical practice to sign a non disclosure agreement, a fact janstedehouder not only conveniently overlooks, but dismisses entirely. When most business’s have a failed negotiation, or cannot come to terms, it is general practice to… oh yes. NOT SAY ANYTHING.

    Fast Forward to today, and the Reuters report. Okay, ignoring that Reuters has been caught falsifying news more times than CNN, lets presume that what they reported is taken at face value. The bad news is… I don’t see the question. The linked quote simply says

    [quote]In an interview with Reuters, Szulik declined to say whether his company is now in negotiations with Microsoft over signing such a patent agreement.[/quote]

    Now, right off hand, I can come up with 10 different ways to ask about Patent agreements in a way that my target is not going to either A: Want to answer, or B: cannot answer. Why? Because I just DID that to Novell this week in Atlanta. Without knowing the exact question that was asked, we don’t know what the answer means.

    Ever hear of a little book called Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? Was made into a Radio show, then made into a couple of movies? What is the big number we associate with it?

    42. The answer to life and everything.

    But… what was the question?

    See the parrallel. Now, right off hand, I think janstedehouder is full of it. Red Hat so far has followed allowed their actions to speak louder than their words. So, it’s safe to ignore him.

  2. LOL. I don’t even know where to begin here. Reuters an unreliable newssource? Hmmm, maybe that is why CNet and some other news sources had the same “problems” with using this quote.
    FUD multiple times? Oh, you mean the article about Mandriva. Yep, that was so much FUD that it creeped up in various Mandriva forums, but quite regularly with a question “It couldn’t be true, could it?” or “Sounds reasonable” in one form of another. If you mean by FUD all the critical articles about distributions and me not being in the Linux Hallellujah Choire I guess you are right and gladly so.
    The non-disclosure agreements. Interesting one. Now, I do understand the nature of NDA’s and when you are negotiating or cooperating with various companies no doubt your desks are littered with them. But when a reporter (not me, I am just a simple FUD blogger aiming at a career with Wired) asks the question (yes, there was a question, the quote from the Hitchhikers Guide notwithstanding) whether you are discussing/negotiating a patent agreement with Microsoft the answer could and should have been a lot better and lot clearer. What I see you doing is political double-speak, since the context is clear: the deals that Microsoft signed with Novell, Xandros and Linspire. Either you are talking with Microsoft about a similar deal or not. And the answer “I can’t answer the question” is a bit too little for a company that publicly burned Novell for signing up. That was the point of my article. So, grow up and deal with criticism in a mature way.

  3. rupe on said:


    Zerias lite your candle with a blow torch ;- ))

    “So, grow up and deal with criticism in a mature way.”

  4. ROFLOL. You have to love the Linux world. Always put out a fire with a blaze. 😉

  5. rupe on said:

    “You have to love the Linux world. Always put out a fire with a blaze.”

    Thus to “fight fire with fire” is to counter a threat by responding in kind.

    And that is about the only thing you have gotten right so far. Welcome to planet Earth!

  6. And that is about the only thing you have gotten right so far.

    And you were doing so well. You might not like the opinions that I present in my articles, but like-dislike is something different from right-wrong.
    In the case of this article I have the opinion that Mr. Szulik is a bit of a hypocrite and is now hiding behind doublespeak. At least Mandriva was more adamant in their statement and at least Ubuntu was more honest by stating that they won’t make a deal with Microsoft now, but wouldn’t rule out an agreement in the future if and when Microsoft changes enough to warrant it.
    Fight fire with fire? I am almost sad to conclude (though not surprised) that the Linux world meets any form of criticism with crying F.U.D. and personal attacks on the messenger. If you throw enoughs F.U.D’s around the argument becomes stale. It did become stale already. At least on planet Earth.

  7. Terry Lechecul on said:

    I think the first poster does a great job but Id like to add one more thing:
    the majority of FLOSS developers and coders I know are NOT against having cooperation with Microsoft.
    Its the IP protection racket that annoys most of them.

    If IBM, which was the big bad guy decades ago can live in the open source community benefitting and contributing, then I would have no problems with Redmond doing the same.
    BUT it would have to be in the same manner IBM has done.

    Apple was smart changing to BSD and I think that Microsoft would be served in doing the same with Linux.
    Of course, they would want to control it.
    Dont get me wrong, Im sure IBM has some ways of pushing some things that they want to see done but its gonna take some serious culture change for Microsoft NOT to be the ones with the final say and controls.

    THere are plenty of large corporations that are good members of the open source movement and if Microsoft wants to join on the same conditions, then that would be great.

    Its when you start threathening developers as well as insinuating foul play without backing it up (the very definition of FUD) or try to undermine the collaboragite effort by limboing under the GPL that people get defensive.

    I dont agree with the ‘we cant talk to Redmond’ people but after two decades of seeing them in action, I can totally understand why people would want to keep them at arms length.

    BTW, if Red Hat came out with a patent deal which protected ALL of our community that would be a good thing. THe Novell deal was bad because it protected a few and put everyone else at risk.

    Red Hat has explained before what parts of the Novell deak they didnt like and even mentioned that they would have no problems doing business with Microsoft IF it played by the rules of the open source world.

    Like your blog design, you are too black and white and have no understanding of nuance.

    I dont think anyone involved in tech actually thought that Red Hat NEVER talked with Microsoft (it was actually menioned a few times that they refused this ‘deal’) . This is not high school were Tiffany doenst talk to Tracy because she told her friends that she has fat ankles.

    I give you a C-
    You can do better.

  8. Don’t forget the various reddish shades, it’s not all black and white.
    One thing I didn’t write about yet is my personal viewpoint on the Microsoft deals. So far it has been assumed that I am either employed by Microsoft or opposed to deals like that.
    I appreciate the time Zerias and Terry took to respond to this article and explaining their viewpoints. Though I am willing to admit that some of my remarks could use some nuance I do stand behind my words.
    Of course businesses discuss business with each other. Competitors are often colleagues in the field. There are plenty of server rooms where Unix, Linux and Windows-based servers are located and the people on the floor need the cooperation of all companies involved. That is realism. Red Hat can’t ignore Microsoft just as the other way around. Nor do I think it would be wise for any commercial company that is build around open source and Linux to take the ideological high road. That would be bad for customers and would only drive more customers to Windows based solutions.
    One of the problems I see for companies like Red Hat is that they understand this, but a (serious?) part of the open source developing community doesn’t. They might not be opposed to a form of cooperation with Microsoft but the conditions they would need to agree on that are unacceptable by Microsoft at this moment. For Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, Canonical etc. etc. it makes business sense not to wait for those conditions to be met and to make interim agreements as business partners with Microsoft. Not under the threat of patent infringements (though threats are part of busniess culture as well) but as partners with mutual interests.
    What I would like to see -and I firmly believe that the Linux communities would benefit from it- is not just an open source code but also a more transparent discussion about what is realistically feasable in the hybrid world where Microsoft can not be ignored. In that desire for transparency I find that Red Hat falls short.
    Would this get me a higher grade? 😉

  9. At LinuxToday there were some talkbacks about this article as well. I found this one nice and balanced. I liked most of the other too, but – hey- I can my own choices here. 🙂

  10. And then there was some clarity from the side of Red Hat. In an article at eweek the following was said:

    Even though patent talks between Microsoft and Red Hat broke down last year before Microsoft went on to sign a technical collaboration and patent indemnity deal with Novell, Red Hat is still willing to work with the Redmond software maker on the interoperability front.
    But the Linux vendor wants to limit those talks to pure interoperability between Windows and Red Hat Linux, with the goal of solving real customer problems, Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s executive vice president of engineering, told eWEEK.
    “I want to talk to the folks at Microsoft about our two operating systems and how we can work together to solve real customer problems without attaching any unrelated strings, such as intellectual property,” he said.

    As the article shows Microsoft is willing to talk cooperation, but won’t remove the IP issues from the table.
    More on this by Stephen Vaughan-Nichols here.

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