Xandros deal is Microsoft water torture strategy

Xandros deal is Microsoft water torture strategy

Summary: The fact is that Microsoft can't be completely written out of the open source world. Too many companies run mixed environments. If we try to boycott each customer touched by this boilerplate we're going to be in a very lonely place.


Xandros logoLong-time readers of this blog may remember how two years ago I sat down to lunch with Marc Fleury, then running JBoss.

Fleury was celebrating because he'd signed a re-sale agreement with Microsoft. The deal was superior to one IBM offered, he told me, in that it did not interfere with his existing business practices.

Xandros has now signed a nearly-identical deal, but many open source advocates are angry at the company over what Microsoft considers boilerplate clauses acknowledging the legitimacy of its "patent protection" deal with Novell.

The fact is that Microsoft has an extensive ecosystem of Linux partners, companies which help it fit open source and Windows together, since that is what businesses want. This language is going to appear in all such contracts, both new ones and those which are renewed.

And it will be passed along, by these vendors, to their customers. They'll consider it a benefit, a feature. In this way Microsoft hopes to make its Novell deal as viral as the GPL itself.

Think of it as a Chinese water torture strategy. Each drop by itself means nothing, but eventually you go crazy.

Stephen Walis says there is less here than meets the eye, and I agree. Xandros is a minor vendor. The Microsoft language has never been enforced, and has never met any court test.

A forum at Xandros.Com is already urging that customers vote with their feet, switching to another distribution. But as of this writing only a few dozen had responded to the accompanying poll.

The fact is that Microsoft can't be completely written out of the open source world. Too many companies run mixed environments. If we try to boycott each customer touched by this boilerplate we're going to be in a very lonely place.

That's what Microsoft is betting on.

Topics: Microsoft, CXO, Open Source

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  • Won't work

    If MS is counting on people leaving distros which sign their devilish deals, they are sorely mistaken.

    Look what is happening to OpenSUSE. That distro has been in freefall on DistroWatch since they signed the deal. In fact they have been knocked out of 2nd place by PCLinuxOS.

    Xandros' small userbase will dramatically shrink over the next few weeks and they will regret their mistake just as Novell will (and I believe already do) regret it.

    Other distros which witness this fallout will think twice before signing deals with MS.
    Tim Patterson
    • Tim

      Another reason PCLinuxOS has knocked OpenSuSE out of second place is that PCLinuxOS is a better distribution on so many levels. I just migrated recently ALL my desktops to PCLinuxOS and have been wondering why I stuck with OpenSuSE so long. ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • agreed

        PCLinuxOS is an awesome distro.

        All of my boxes run Debian but the kid's boxes both run PCLinuxOS. They love it. It is truly a great distro.
        Tim Patterson
      • And...

        I was a long-time SUSE user (since 8.1). I watched the Novell/MS webcast on Nov. 2 and immediately understood the implications of the "patent covenant". There was no way I would support a Linux distributor which would hand so much ammunition to MS to use against the community. Much the same reaction that many xandros users are now exhibiting. On Nov. 3 I began the migration from SUSE to Debian.
        Tim Patterson
        • I had other reasons than the MS Novell deal

          that got me to move. I was noticing that OpenSuSE was slowing down when other distributions seem to be speeding up. Case in point, the following system:

          [B]CPU:[/B] AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2GHz dual core 640kb + 640kb cache
          [B]POWER SUPPLY:[/B] Coolmax 80mm ATX 450W
          [B]HARD DRIVE:[/B] Seagate 80GB SATA-II / 8MB cache / SATA-300
          [B]HARD DRIVE:[/B] Seagate 160GB SATA-II / 8MB cache / SATA-3G
          [B]VIDEO CARD:[/B] MSI NX7300LE PCI-E 128MB DDR2 nVidia GeForce 7 Series
          [B]MOTHERBOARD:[/B] ASUS M2V Socket AM2, VIA K8T890/VT8237A, HT2000, DDR2 800, PCI-e x16 Green ASUS
          [B]RAM:[/B] DDR2 Kingston 2GB 800MHz
          [B]SOUND:[/B] Creative SoundBlaster AudioPCI 128
          [B]OPTICAL DRIVE:[/B] Sony 16x DVD RW/R
          [B]OS:[/B] PCLinuxOS 64bit TR4

          Seemed to perform really sluggish. Especially since it's a new system. I just put it together a month and a half or so ago. But applications seemed to take forever to open and it just didn't perform like a dual core 64bit system.

          So I tried Kubuntu, but didn't really like it. I kept reading about PCLinuxOS, so I tried TR3 out... it was like moving from a Lada to a Lamborghini! Now it sails.

          Here are some applications and timings under each system: (these are averages from 3 cycles)

          Boot (power to login screen) ? 2m 23s
          Login - 56s (able to open an application and start working)
          KMail - 10s
          OpenOffice Writer - 19s
          OpenOffice Calc - 21s
          Firefox - 16s
          The Gimp - 12s
          ManDVD (Load) - 20s
          ManDVD (Process 2GB of photos and music) ? 4h 23m 17s
          System Manager (YaST2) ? 2m 36s
          Desktop Configuration - 12s

          Boot (power to login screen) -1m 8s
          Login ? 17s (able to open an application and start working)
          KMail - 2
          OpenOffice Writer -3
          OpenOffice Calc - 4
          Firefox - 2
          The Gimp - 3
          ManDVD (Load) - 4
          ManDVD (Process 2GB of photos and music) ? 2h 10m 36s
          System Manager (Drakeconf) - 7s
          Desktop Configuration ? 4s

          Now here is the kick in the backside, I had the OpenSuSE system tweaked to the max for speed... the PCLinuxOS is a straight up install with only security tweaks done! There are other things as well, but this is the biggest reason. YMMV. ]:)
          Linux User 147560
    • Would you advise people to change distributions...

      ... because their current distribution:

      - is protected against IP difficulties with Microsoft
      - works better with Microsoft products, and interoperability will improve(?).

      I think Microsoft has done far more than just show a willingness to work with open source and a responsiveness to customers who wanted interoperability. That would be enough.

      But, from the company's point of view, imagine the gain received from open source supporters criticizing the handlers of distributions because they (the handlers) insist on cooperating and obtaining improvements for their customers.

      The mixed environment customers may be less impressed with the purity of belief they're seeing, than surprised by the way philosophy trumps normal commercial considerations. They may have a greater comfort dealing with another company rather than a group of individuals united by beliefs which do not make a high priority of money.

      There are still the companies with which Microsoft has signed agreements for businesses to choose, but, as you know, if those distributions are no longer supported by their (un/der-paid) development staff, they can become obsolete.

      If open source wanted to endorse Microsoft, there would be few better ways.
      Anton Philidor
      • Anton

        You contradict yourself.

        You attempt to imply that these "deals" are about interoperability and then you portray resulting differences between the conspiring companies and the community as some sort of "gain" for MS. Clearly even you know that these deals are NOT about interoperability. With GPL software the code is open and transparent and thus MS could have chosen to inter-operate at any time. No patent deals needed.

        "- is protected against IP difficulties with Microsoft"

        No proven "difficulties" exist. Which means that MS PR is nothing more than FUD at this point. Propagating such FUD is indicative of an unethical company which is afraid to compete on the merits of their products.

        "- works better with Microsoft products, and interoperability will improve(?)."

        MS has chosen NOT to inter-operate. The community naturally resents attempts by MS to gain de facto control of Linux and other GPL works in exchange for interoperability.

        These deals are an attempt by MS to either control FOSS or destroy it or both. THAT is why the community is so vehemently opposed to these deals and are rightfully critical of "Linux" companies who enter into them.

        Clearly freedom is the enemy of MS and they are actively working to destroy ours for profit.
        Tim Patterson
        • Vantage points

          Your contentions are not incorrect.

          Microsoft's motives for making these agreements include an attempt to improve their reputation with companies operating mixed environments, if not with the open source "community".

          Microsoft has not publicly stated which patents are infringed. Instead, the company is relying on the general assumption, to which even Mr. Stallman has publicly subscribed, that open source does infringe on IP, specifically patents.
          Companies which use open source probably believe that open source does in fact infringe on Microsoft patents, and are relieved to know there are no circumstances in which that will become a problem.

          Microsoft is trying to have some "de facto" control over Linux by choosing some distributions instead of others, and even by selling at least one of the company's partner's distributions.
          As IBM has shown, sometimes control can be obtained with gifts.

          And yes, Microsoft wants to out-compete Linux and other open source products in order to sell more of the company's own products. That's commercial competition, with the unusual degree of cooperation among competitors required in IT.
          I agree that "Clearly [open source] is the enemy of MS and they are actively working to destroy [it] for profit." The use of freedom is a philosophical as opposed to commercial word.

          But note that in each case Microsoft is looking at this as a business competition, while your approach is more concerned with an abstract view of what should happen based on (other) first principles.

          While Microsoft's actions are comfortable for the organizations which are the main audience, they're aggravating for those who try to attach some views of the greater good.

          In short, I don't think I've contradicted myself or you. I've instead chosen a different vantage point from which to observe the same events.
          Anton Philidor
  • Its just too bad...

    It's really sad that the Linux community would hang OSS companies out to dry simply because they are trying to do what is right for their customers.

    No, instead, the community of linux zealots call on their evangelical faithful to burn them at the stake for their treachery. BURN THEM ALL!!! MAKE THEM PAY FOR THEIR SINS!!!

    Too bad really, funny thing is that Microsoft is trying to do what is right for its customers, many of whom run hetergeneous environments. What's likely to happen if the zealots are allowed to continue to run the show here for Linux is the more their tighten their grip, the more companies and customers will slip through their fingers.

    This is business folks, not a religious war. Time for the linux community to wake up and listen to their customers. The evil proprietary software companies have had to do this for years.
    • I Believe!

      ...that you have just identified the new divide that has existed for years but has just become important and has emerged as a result of the recent agreements. There are those who work very hard to develop good free and open source software because of unresolved emotional (e.g. the key words "resent" and phrases "live free or die") and, yes, even spiritual motivations. Then there are hard working open source software developers that are already whole and complete who simply want to create tools for which real users have a need and for which the only "spiritual" motivation is subliminal but is perhaps to ensure the success of future generations, even though you hardly hear them whine about it.
    • Funny thing you don't get

      ... is that this really is a religious war. Things like this poke through the "Open Source" veneer and show that the reality is very little about openness and very much about anti-MS.

      If you don't believe me, take a closer look at the next GPL license. If you can't see that it's just a thinly disguised slap at MS, you might want to get your eyes checked. ;-)