Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Archive for the category “Ruminations on the Digital Realm”

There is nothing wrong with the Dutch software market. At least according to the Dutch Cartel Office

It was expected by some. For the third year in a row the Dutch Cartel Office (NMa) decided there were no reasons to look into the Dutch software market, despite requests made by people in the field of commerce and education and by the Dutch parliament.

In a letter send to me (and perhaps the other writers as well, link to Dutch text), the NMa explains that there is no evidence to suggest an abuse of the dominant market position by Microsoft in such a way that it prohibits other operating systems and software to compete. Since the consumer hardly requests anything else than a computer with Windows, it is no problem for the NMa if that means that vendors pre-install Windows.
Read more…


Dutch Government and Parliament: Open standards in 2008

It took a few years, but the Dutch government and parliament agreed yesterday to implement open standards in  2008 according to the “comply or explain” principle. This means that all central government institutions should use open standards from April 2008 onward, unless they have a very good explanation. The new policy isn’t just about open standards. When implementing ICT projects open source software should be taken into account as well and should be chosen when at least equal to that of proprietary software.

The Dutch Cartel agency, NMa, has been asked to do a market analysis of the software market in the Netherlands. Further, the ministry of Economic Affairs will sit down with it’s colleagues of Education in order to extend the use of open standards to schools and educational institutions as well.

In the days prior to the parliamentary debate, Microsoft tried to rally a final support for it’s own OOXML standard and to persuade the decision makers to set another time table. Microsoft beliefs this will stiffle innovation and might cost jobs. This didn’t work. Several major ICT companies in the Netherlands openly supported the new direction of the Dutch government as well as the open source organizations in the Netherlands (though one wouldn’t expect them to do otherwise).

No doubt there are a lot of challenges ahead to implement the policy and we can expect each mistake or problem to be blamed on open source and open standards. With this decision the Netherlands have put themselves on the forefront of adoption of open source and open standards instead of dragging somewhere in the back.

For Microsoft December 12th send out another clear signal. The way the company could do business in the last 10 to 15 years is on it’s way out. Both in Europe and on the national level governments and companies have decided that enough is enough, that new partnerships not based on vendor lockin are to be norm for the coming years. Microsoft has been dipping it’s toe in open source and maybe it is time to take the plunge. It is a company with a lot of innovative people and one that has proven to meet commercial challenges head on. With those assets it shouldn’t be much of problem to create a new line of products that are acceptable to the new playing field. The Dutch policy provides new opportunities for innovation, also for Microsoft.

NaNoWriMo – I made the 50.000

nano_07_winner_large.gifAnother challenge of life finished. It was fun to push myself to writing 50.000 words over a period of one month. With a few days to spare I finally crossed the 50.000 words barrier today. The basic idea is that you just keep writing and not allow yourself to be stopped by a writers’ block or other chores. One focus, one goal and in the end a lot of builiding blocks for a book.

In my case I have gathered and written about BSD mostly. Once the 30 day series about DesktopBSD is finished I will start re-working all the material into a publication again. But not today. Today I simply enjoy the feeling of succes. 😉

Open letter to the Dutch Cartel Office: Investigate software sales practices in Education

The Dutch Cartel Office (NMa) decides annually which sectors of the economy will get extra attention. Of course, the NMa is mostly interested in those sectors where market distortions have become too big to assure fair competition and pricing for consumers and organizations. Without a doubt the market for desktop software is highly distorted. For that reason it is puzzling that the NMa doesn’t mention the software market in it’s plans for 2008.

The 2008 plans are still open for debate, which makes it possible to influence the decision making process by our actions. For me that meant writing a letter to the NMa and ask it to adress the issue of the use of software in education and the influence that commercial parties have in the selection process. I decided to put the letter online in English as well. Should you agree with the arguments, please feel free to add your support by commenting here. Maybe it can even be of use in the country where you live.

When commenting I have but one request. The intention of the letter is not to bash Microsoft and/or Windows-based software, but to promote an investigation that will lead to a new form of ICT education on all levels where pupils, students and teachers get the skills to make informed decisions on the operating system and software they will use. It would be nice if Microsoft bashing isn’t the core of your comments.

Thank you for attention and support. The letter reads as follows:

Rotterdam, 15 November 2007

De Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit (NMa)
T.a.v. de heer mr. drs. H.J. Droppers
Postbus 16326
2500 BH Den Haag

Concerning: Agenda 2008

Dear mister Droppers,

With keen interest I read the Consultation Document for the NMa 2008 agenda. Unfortunately the agenda lacks attention for one of the most distorted markets of the moment: the software market in relation to educational institutions. With this letter I would like to reflect on various issues that warrant a closer inspection by your office.

In the past we have seen multiple cases where commercial companies offered to sponsor eduction and research or educational tools for schools. Within the framework of the Dutch educational system it has been debated numerous times whether such sponsoring wouldn’t harm the independence role that schools have as centers of learning. Most recently such a debate took place over the information package the Dutch government provided schools with a course about the Dutch mission in Uruzgan. The argument that commercial sponsoring both reduces the public cost of education and enhances the quality of certains courses has been considered insufficient in the light of possible commercial influence on present and future spending behavior by the children, the pupils and the students.

With this is mind it is extremely puzzling that the same critical attitude appears to be absent when considering the ICT-components in primary, secondary and higher education, even in ICT-education per se. No questions are asked whether the current monoculture of Windows and Windows-based software -that is offered at extremely low prices to educational institutions and pupils and students- is desirable and whether the public funds that are spend on it can be considered good investments. Currently those funds are used to support the virtual monopoly of Windows and Windows-based software on the market for computer end users.

At the moment ICT-training institutions on secondary and higher levels only marginally pay attention to alternatives for Windows-based solutions. These alternatives -among which Unix, BSD and Linux- have been integrated in the ICT-infrastructure of many companies, but future generations of admins -on various levels in the organizations- will no longer posses the knowledge and skills to manage them. At the same time, the future generations of CEO’s, board members, management, employees and consumers pnly get acquainted with Windows, Microsoft Office and other Windows-based software right now. If ICT-consultants will exist to consider and suggest the alternatives, they will meet a barrier of decision-makers that equate ICT with Windows-based solutions. The alternatives will be sucked into a black hole, a void of knowledge.

The institutions to train new teachers do pay attention to ICT-knowledge and skills by offering them the ECDL/ICDL program (Internation Computer Drivers License) in one form or another. The ECDL/ICDL curriculum in itself is consider vendor-neutral, but the accompanying instructions for students are far from neutral. Instructions like “you are required to use Word 2003 to complete this task” or “please create a Powerpoint presentation”. If you are not in the possession of this software, your are directed to Surfspot.

Surfsport offers commercial software to student at a 90% discount of the regular market price. At least, that is what is advertised. A quote from the Surfspot website: is the ICT-webstore for students and employees of universities and schools for higher education, employees of primary education and (parents of) children, where they can buy official software and related ICT-goods at highly reduced prices.

Surfspot is part of an organization that is paid for by public funds.

If and when the debate turns to these extremely low prices and calls it a dumping practice, the argument is used that the marginal costs of software are almost nill and that pricing policies are context dependent. Maybe so, but when marketing the software to students, the official price is used as an indicator for the true market value. And we shouldn’t forget the license conditions that after finishing your education your right to use the software stops and you are obliged to buy a new license at current official prices. This practice results in three to four years of highly subsidized software use and an almost complete Windows-izations of the ICT-component in education, which in turns leads to a new group of educators in primary and secundary education with no knowledge with or skills in alternative software.

The schools themselves can buy their software licenses via Surfdiensten en APS ICT, again at far below current market prices. This seems a good way to spend public funds, but one wonders how much freedom schools have to acquire alternative software via these compulsory clearing houses. Both organizations currently force schools to buy software bundles of Windows and Microsoft Office, even if the latter is not desired. Educational publishers -to finish this point- only offer educational software that require the Windows operating system.

So, we have educational institutions for admins and teachers that train their students in Windows-related skills only, we have primary and secondary schools that train their pupils in Windows-related skills only, we have related clearing houses and webshops supported by public funds that dump Windows-based software only with future consumers. And we see a small group of commercial parties influencing to an extremely high degree the future demand for their own software via these institutes of learning. The current and future demand for commmercial software is highly influenced by their sponsoring of ICT-components in education.

The effects are felt throughout the entire economy. Business and organizations have virtually no other choice than to set up an ICT-infrastructure with Windows-based software. The costs for training your employees have been shifted to the educational system and your admins know perfectly how to click through a Windows-based environment. Of course, the license fees are much higher, but your organization should pay that. Well, not all companies and organizations apparently do that considering the reports of software piracy in the Netherland. Then again, the commercial software companies have their own police for that, the Business Software Alliance, that pro-actively goes after the companies that fall short in their license payments. Could it be a coincidence that BSA members are among the companies that sell their software in the educational market at reduced prices?

Market practices with such negative repercussions for a free market -in this case the market for software- deserve, in my opinion, a close and thorough inspection and -where needed- a strong governmental response to rectify the situation. The educational system most likely is part of the NMa mandate, but it’s economic relations with commercial parties and the long term effects of the resulting market distortions surely are.

Kindest regards

Jan Stedehouder
Writer and Columnist


Open brief aan de NMa – Onderzoek naar de relatie van het onderwijs met de commerciële software aanbieders

De Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit (NMa) stelt jaarlijks vast waar haar aandacht in de komende periode naar uit zal gaan. De NMa is natuurlijk het meest geïnteresseerd in die sectoren waar de markt dermate is verstoord dat consumenten en bedrijven niet langer kunnen rekenen op eerlijke concurrentie en bijbehorende prijzen. Eén van die ernstig verstoorde markten is natuurlijk de markt voor desktopcomputers met bijbehorende software. In het zogenoemde consultatiedocument behorende bij de agenda voor 2008 wordt echter met geen woord gerept over deze marktverstoring.

De agenda voor 2008 is echter nog niet definitief vastgesteld en dat maakt het mogelijk om met een gerichte actie te proberen het vraagstuk van machtsconcentraties op het gebied van software naar voren te schuiven. In mijn geval heb ik een brief geschreven die de aandacht vraagt voor de relatie van het onderwijsbestel met commerciële software aanbieders en dan in het bijzonder de gevolgen van de huidige inkooprelaties en de inhoud van het onderwijs.

Ik heb de brief ook online geplaatst op mijn website. Mochten jullie het eens zijn met de strekking van deze brief, voel je dan vrij om jouw steunbetuiging als commentaar toe te voegen. Daarbij heb ik wel een vriendelijk verzoek.

  • Het gaat hier niet om te bepleiten dat Microsoft en Windows-gebaseerde software ‘slecht’ zijn, maar om te bepleiten dat Nederlandse onderwijsinstellingen op alle niveaus hun leerlingen en studenten de vaardigheden bijbrengen om een geïnformeerd en kritisch standpunt in te nemen ten aanzien van het besturingssysteem en de software die zij gebruiken. Het is prettig als de commentaren deze lijn ook vast weten te houden.
  • Het is in dit verband wel interessant om te zien welke onderwijsinstellingen -ondanks de structurele problemen in de markt- die keuzevrijheid bepleiten en ook in het curriculum verwerken. Eventuele voorbeelden mogen ook in de commentaren worden verwerkt. Graag zelfs.
  • Het is heel goed mogelijk dat je nu in het onderwijs werkt en een heel negatieve casus naar voren wilt brengen. Dat mag via de commentaren, maar voel je ook vrij om het direct naar mij te sturen. Dit laatste is relevant als je niet direct jouw naam en de naam van de school online wilt zien staan.

Bedankt voor jullie steun en aandacht. De tekst van de brief is als volgt:

Rotterdam, 15 november 2007

De Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit
T.a.v. de heer mr. drs. H.J. Droppers
Postbus 16326
2500 BH Den Haag

Betreft: Agenda 2008

Geachte heer Droppers,

Met belangstelling heb ik kennis genomen van het Consultatiedocument over de NMa agenda voor 2008. Helaas mis ik in de agenda de aandacht voor één van de meest verstoorde markten van dit moment, namelijk de softwaremarkt in relatie tot het onderwijsbestel. In dit schrijven wil ik graag nader ingaan op een aantal signalen die een dergelijke aandacht rechtvaardigen.

Regelmatig duikt in het onderwijs en in het publieke debat de vraag op of het aanvaardbaar is dat commerciële bedrijven onderwijs en onderzoek, dan wel lesmaterialen van reguliere onderwijsinstellingen sponsoren. De discussie spitst zich dan terecht toe op de vraag of de onafhankelijkheid van de onderwijsinstellingen als kenniscentra voldoende gewaarborgd blijft. Een soortgelijke discussie heeft zich recentelijk afgespeeld rond het lespakket dat de overheid heeft samengesteld over de missie in Uruzgan. Onderwijsinstellingen hebben de brede taak haar leerlingen en studenten op te leiden tot kritische, mondige en actieve burgers. Het argument dat sponsoring vanuit commerciële bedrijven nodig is/kan zijn om de kwaliteit van de leeromgeving en/of de leermaterialen te verbeteren wordt in veel gevallen als onvoldoende gezien in het licht van mogelijke ongewenste beïnvloeding van het (toekomstige) koopgedrag van de kinderen, leerlingen en studenten.

Het is dan ook buitengewoon bevreemdend dat deze kritische houding ten enenmale lijkt te ontbreken ten aanzien van de ICT-component in het onderwijs en zelfs in hoge mate afwezig is in ICT-gerichte opleidingen in het MBO en HBO. Er worden nauwelijks vragen gesteld bij de bestaande monocultuur van Windows, Microsoft Office en andere Windows-gebaseerde software, welke weliswaar tegen extreem lage prijzen wordt aangeboden aan organisaties en instellingen in en rond het onderwijs én aan leerlingen en studenten, maar waarbij nog steeds miljoenen aan publieke gelden worden besteed aan het in stand houden van het bijna-monolopie van Windows en Windows-gebaseerde software op de markt voor eindgebruikers.

Op dit moment is het zo dat in de ICT-gerichte opleidingen op MBO en HBO niveau slechts marginaal aandacht wordt geschonken aan alternatieven voor Windows. Deze alternatieven – waaronder Unix, BSD en Linux – hebben een volwaardige plek in de ICT-infrastructuur van bedrijven, maar de komende generaties beheerders -op de verschillende niveaus- zullen niet meer beschikken over de kennis en vaardigheden om hier mee om te gaan. Tegelijkertijd is het zo dat de komende generatie van bestuurders, directieleden, werknemers en consumenten in het huidige onderwijs slechts kennis maken met Windows, Microsoft Office en andere Windows-gebaseerde software. Zo er nog ICT-adviseurs binnen en buiten organisaties zijn die op een gedegen wijze de alternatieven kunnen beoordelen en presenteren, dan nog zullen zij in toenemende mate tegen besluitvormers aanlopen voor ICT gelijk gesteld wordt aan Windows etc. In toenemende mate worden alternatieven in de blinde hoek geduwd.

De HBO lerarenopleidingen besteden aandacht aan de ontwikkeling van ICT-kennis en vaardigheden bij de toekomstige opleiders via het ECDL (het Europees Computerrijbewijs), dan wel via een afgeleide vorm daarvan. De terminologie van het ECDL is weliswaar pakketneutraal geformuleerd, maar de flankerende instructies richting studenten bevatten wel termen als “voor het uitvoeren van de opdrachten dient u gebruik te maken van Word 2003” of “u maakt een Powerpoint presentatie”. Vervolgens worden de studenten verwezen naar Surfspot voor het geval men deze software niet tot zijn/haar beschikking heeft.

Surfspot kan de commerciële software aan studenten aanbieden met 90% korting op de reguliere winkelprijs. Tenminste, zo wordt het geadverteerd. Een citaat van de Surfspot website:

SURFSPOT.NL is dé ICT-webwinkel waar studenten en medewerkers van universiteiten en hogescholen, medewerkers van basisscholen en (ouders van) basisschoolleerlingen officiele software en andere ICT-producten tegen zeer lage prijzen kunnen aanschaffen.

Zodra er een discussie begint over dumping praktijken wordt het argument van stal gehaald, dat de marginale kosten van software vrijwel nihil zijn en dat de prijzen in die zin vrij te bepalen zijn. Dat mag wel zo zijn, maar in het vermarkten van software aan studenten wordt de reguliere winkelprijs gepresenteerd als de werkelijke marktwaarde. Overigens komt de software dan wel regelmatig met de voorwaarde dat na het beëindigen van de studie een nieuwe licentie moet worden gekocht tegen de dan vigerende prijzen. Het effect is derhalve dat na 3 a 4 jaar zwaar gesubsidieerd softwaregebruik en een vrijwel volledige afstemming van de ICT-component van het onderwijs op deze commerciële software een nieuwe groep opleiders de scholen betreedt die geen kennis van of ervaring hebben met alternatieve software.

De scholen zelf kunnen via Surfdiensten en APS ICT diensten eveneens softwarelicenties aanschaffen tegen sterk gereduceerde prijzen. Dat lijkt aantrekkelijk, maar de vraag is in hoeverre scholen überhaupt de keuze hebben om via deze inkoopcentrales alternatieven aan te schaffen. Op dit moment worden scholen vrijwel gedwongen om samengestelde pakketten software (én Windows én Microsoft Office) aan te schaffen. Educatieve uitgevers ten slotte brengen multimediale lesmaterialen op de markt waarvoor het Windows besturingssysteem een vereiste is.

Dus: de opleidingsinstituten voor beheerders en docenten/leerkrachten brengen hun studenten uitsluitend Windowsgerelateerde vaardigheden bij, de onderwijsinstellingen op basis- en middelbaar niveau brengen de kinderen en leerlingen uitsluitend Windowsgerelateerde vaardigheden bij en via handige inkoopcentrales kunnen de toekomstige consumenten tegen sterk gereduceerde prijzen slechts Windowsspecifieke software aanschaffen. En bij dit alles zien wij een beperkte groep commerciële marktpartijen die op deze wijze de toekomstige vraag naar hun eigen software in extreme mate weet te beïnvloeden. Daarmee komt het argument: “wij sluiten in het onderwijs slechts aan bij wat de markt en de samenleving van ons vragen” wel in een ander daglicht terecht. De huidige en toekomstige vraag op de markt is sterk beïnvloed door de verregaande sponsoring van de ICT-componenten in het onderwijs en bij ICT-gerichte opleidingen.

De effecten hiervan zijn natuurlijk door de hele economie voelbaar. Bedrijven en organisaties hebben vrijwel geen andere keuze dan het inrichten van een ICT-omgeving met Windowsspecifieke software. De kosten voor de opleiding van medewerkers zijn al gedragen door het onderwijsbestel, de beheerders kunnen prima uit de voeten met de Windowsspecifieke omgeving. De veel hogere licentiekosten moet men dan maar voor haar rekening nemen. Dat niet alle bedrijven en organisatie dat doen blijkt ook uit de relatief hoge cijfers voor softwarepiraterij in Nederland. Maar goed, de softwarebranche heeft hier haar eigen waakhond voor, de Business Software Alliance, die actief op zoek gaat naar bedrijven die in overtreding zijn. Toevalligerwijze zijn de BSA leden ook de partijen die hun software tegen zwaar gereduceerde prijzen op de onderwijsmarkt zetten.

Een economische praktijk die zo’n sterke negatieve uitwerking heeft op de vrije marktwerking -in dit geval op de softwaremarkt- verdient mijns inziens een nauwkeurig onderzoek en -waar nodig- een actief ingrijpen van de overheid. De inrichting van het onderwijsbestel behoort wellicht niet tot het terrein van de NMa, maar het geheel van inkooprelaties, de invloed van commerciële marktpartijen en de lange termijn effecten van een dergelijke marktverstoring is dat wel.

Met vriendelijke groet,

Jan Stedehouder
Schrijver en columnist


Certified Open – new initiative to reduce vendor lock-in

One of the key issues in W2L migration in organizations is how to deal with the current vendor lock-in. This is especially important when making decisions about new investments in the server room and business applications. If a decision leads to an increase in vendor lock-in (meaning: you are stuck to a specific vendor in more ways than you imagined) this reduces the flexibility of your organizations to tailor the ICT environment to your own needs.

OpenForum Europe and the Free Software Foundation Europe have founded Certified Open. This new organization aims to provide tools with which organizations can evaluate their technical and commercial lock-in. In their lingo:

Certified Open® is designed to evaluate technical and commercial lock-in. It promotes fair competition and increases the ability of suppliers to compete effectively in the provision of software, hardware and services.The Certified Open Products & Services Framework is an industry-agreed, highly granular framework that defines the characteristics of products and services.

You can’t find fault with the intentions of Certified Open. For instance:

Certified Open® programme enables SMEs to:
Ensure that purchasing decisions take open standards and the potential for lock-in into account when purchasing decisions are made.
Ensure that managers can manage the skills of their staff and provide a lifelong learning environment as the basis for professionalism.
Allows effective choice of partners when outsourcing support, integration or services.
Maximise speed and implementation of new innovation into the business.
Benefit from lower cost alternatives.

The program is open for trial until the end of January 2008. I will definitely give it a try in the coming period.

The first impressions are pretty good. One wouldn’t automatically associate the Free Software Foundation with business, but the two founding partners have created something that has a business-like appeal. It uses arguments that can be recognized by non-free and open source evangelists. Certified Open has various stakeholders in mind:

The Certified Open programme in general, and the Certification Framework in particular, represent strong value propositions for each of the key stakeholders:
Public Authorities – readily available accepted criteria against which to assess the openness of products and services.
Procurement – the ability to specify and objectively assess the openness of products and services.
Hiring Managers – the ability to assess products and services developed by would be job applicants.
External Service Providers – differentiation based on the degree of openness achieved by the product or service; in addition, a tool to guide developments by accredited partners.
Free Software/Open Source Product Providers – greater visibility for quantified advantages of services and products offered.
Enterprise Computing – the greatest possible level of granularity for ensuring openness of products and services in order to avoid supplier lock-in.

Lofty goals and ones that deserves our support.

Fedora 8 launches with 54.000 installs

In the article “2007: The year of candy, not innovation” I mentioned how nice it would be to see Mac OS X sales statistics mirrored for Linux distributions. Ars Technica has an article about first week adoptions for Fedora 8. With 54.000 installs in the first four days it’s not quite close to the 2 million for Mac OS X, but -as the article writes- Fedora 7 would climb to 1 million in 12 weeks.

If you want to track the statistics for this new release, just go to this page.

NaNoWriMo 2007

I am still in the middle of that insane challenge: to write 50.000 words in one month. Insane, but fun nonetheless. I spend hours writing and in this way gathering building blocks for another book. Neil Gaiman designed a nice widget that takes my current stats and creates this:

38% and still counting. I might even make it.

Preparing for the next month

I have almost finished moving from one house to the next. Most boxes have been unpacked already and the only thing lacking is a cable from the router on first floor to the basement where the study (and all the computers) is located.  New surroundings provide new insights and new desires. I started Ruminations on the Digital Realm about a year ago and gradually it focused on W2L migration issues. I like Linux and open source, but also realize I have my own ideas on what is needed for it to make a serious leap to the endusers’ desktop.

Last month I spend most of my time on PC-BSD and -as I wrote before- I will spend some more time on the *BSD’s in the coming months. I do believe that the cluster FreeBSD/PC-BSD/DesktopBSD will provide a serious candidate for the open source desktop in the near future. The Linux world would do well to keep a close eye on what is happening outside it’s own realm. Microsoft is moving ahead with it’s own initiatives and even succeeded in getting some licenses approved as open source licenses. If ever there is a time for some serious consolidation in the Linux world the coming year might be a good time to start. But then again, that is just my opinion.

Anyway, today I launched a new version of Ruminations. The content is still the same, though the packaging has changed. I run this site on WordPress and my previous theme didn’t support most of the new features. This theme is somewhat brighter and more colorful, which seems to fit my mood and my intentions. I am still working on the new categories, the new tag system and some quirks here and there.

There are some more challenges ahead for the coming months, involvements in other writing activities, and an update on the dvd for the readers of the book. Enough to keep a busy man occupied.

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Microsoft partners again: with TurboLinux. My, my, was I right ;-)

On June 15th of this year I wrote a brief article about possible partners for Microsoft after it signed a deal with Xandros and Linspire. The article was called Microsofts next partners: Mandriva and TurboLinux. I remember that time fondly because it created quite a stir in the Mandriva community, eventually leading to a formal statement by Mandriva that it wouldn’t make a patent-related deal with Microsoft, much to the joy of many Linux afficionados. Of course I was accused of spreading FUD all along. But was I?

Well, this Linux Watch article of October 22nd comes with the news that TurboLinux is the next company to sign a patent-related agreement with the guys in Redmond.

This isn’t the first time that Turbolinux has worked with Microsoft. Indeed, in 2004, Turbolinux was the first major Linux distributor to make a deal with Microsoft. In that agreement, Turbolinux got the rights to ship a media player that could legally play movies and music encoded in Microsoft’s proprietary WMF (Windows Media Format). Then, in July, Turbolinux joined the Microsoft-sponsored Open XML-Open Document Format Translator Project .

This latest partnership, however, goes well beyond the scope of these earlier agreements. While Microsoft downplayed the IP (intellectual property) assurance part of the agreement, the arrangement includes IP assurance for Turbolinux customers who purchase Turbolinux server. No mention was made of Turbolinux desktop customers. With this move, Turbolinux joins Linspire, Novell, and Xandros as Linux distributors who have signed up for Microsoft’s undisclosed IP protection.

For business customers, the key component of the agreement is that the two companies will work together on a single sign-on (SSO) program. The goal is to create an SSO enabling customers to use one set of credentials to log onto Windows-based and Turbolinux-based systems. This will be built, in part, on a WSPP (Workgroup Server Protocol Program) evaluation license, which Turbolinux signed to evaluate additional technical collaboration opportunities on which to focus in the future.

So it wasn’t all FUD, was it?

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