OSDL says no to Microsoft

Summary:The report of a meeting between OSDL and Microsoft has raised a few eyebrows this week. To recap, Microsoft's Martin Taylor and OSDL's CEO Stuart Cohen met at Linux World Conference & Expo.

The report of a meeting between OSDL and Microsoft has raised a few eyebrows this week. To recap, Microsoft's Martin Taylor and OSDL's CEO Stuart Cohen met at Linux World Conference & Expo. Taylor proposed that Microsoft and OSDL do a joint research project for a study of Linux and Windows.

The eWeek report notes that OSDL had only confirmed discussing the idea with Taylor, but not a final response from OSDL. After reading the eWeek story, I couldn't think of any reason why OSDL should participate -- and, for some reason, kept thinking about the fable of the frog and scorpion -- but I was curious whether OSDL was giving it serious consideration.

On Friday, I had a chance to have a short talk with Cohen, and got a definitive answer. Cohen said that "there is no way we would do a joint research project with Microsoft." If OSDL were to participate in such a project, Cohen said that when the report came out, no matter what the broad outcome of the report was, anything negative about Linux would be exploited for marketing purposes by Microsoft.

Setting aside the marketing implications, Cohen also stressed that "no one is clamoring for" OSDL to do a market research paper with Microsoft. (Other than, I suppose, Microsoft...) OSDL does commission white papers and studies from time to time, when it makes sense to do so for their member organizations -- but "nobody's been asking" for OSDL to produce a research project like what Taylor proposed.

It's also worth noting that Cohen's conversation with Taylor was supposed to be off the record, and that he was surprised to see it turn up in the press a short while later. 

Just because OSDL is not interested in Taylor's proposal for a marketing research project, it's not to say that OSDL is unwilling to work with Microsoft. Cohen mentioned security and interoperability as areas where OSDL and Microsoft might be able to find common ground to work together, and as areas where the market would be interested in seeing OSDL and Microsoft working together.

And that's the crux of it. Microsoft seems to be interested in churning out more marketing materials -- and trying to get OSDL to participate in order to give those materials more legitimacy with the general public, because they're not buying Microsoft's "Get the Facts" campaign. At the very least, Microsoft wants to look interested in working with OSDL so it can stop looking like the bad guy.

OSDL, its member companies and their customers, on the other hand, are interested in doing what it takes to make it easier to manage environments with Linux and Microsoft products. If that means cooperating with Microsoft on interoperability, for example, then it's in the best interest of its member companies and the companies and organizations that actually are using Linux. If it's just churning out some marketing material, then it's not really doing any real good -- and could do some harm, by providing fodder for another one-sided "Get the Facts" type campaign from Microsoft.

Nobody needs another "study" from Microsoft about Linux. What organizations need is some real cooperation from Microsoft on interoperability with Linux and open source products. We've had enough marketing.

Topics: Microsoft


Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is the community manager for openSUSE, a community Linux distro sponsored by Novell. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist primarily covering the Linux and FOSS beat, and wrote for a number of publications, such as Linux Magazine, Linux.com, Sys Admin, UnixReview.com, IBM developer... Full Bio

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