Microsoft actions give Linux 'credibility'

The chief executive of Germany's SuSE Linux says Microsoft's aggressive attitude towards Linux proves the operating system is important and gives it credibility
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Microsoft's recent efforts against the Linux operating system only show that the open-source platform is gaining ground, according to Richard Seibt, chief executive of Germany's SuSE Linux.

At a SuSE press event late last week, he told ZDNet UK that the software giant might be adding to Linux's credibility by its recent activities. These have included a campaign to prevent the city of Munich from migrating thousands of obsolete Windows NT desktops to Linux, and a company-wide memo from Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer identifying Linux as a prime threat.

"You've got to ask yourself why Steve Ballmer is writing a letter to all Microsoft's employees about Linux, why he is travelling to Munich to talk to them about Linux," Seibt said. "It is evidence of the importance of Linux."

On Monday SuSE launched a new desktop version of its operating system, for businesses and government organisations aiming to run Linux on users' PCs as well as on servers. SuSE Linux Desktop (SLD), as it is called, is built on the same code base as SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), which is also aimed at large organisations and businesses who want a slow release pace and long-term technical support.

The software builds up SuSE's enterprise-focused product range, but the company will continue publishing the end-user-oriented software with which it originally made its name: SuSE Linux, SuSE Linux Pro and SuSE Linux Office Desktop. These have a more frequent release cycle and are sold through retail outlets or directly over the Web, while the enterprise products are sold through SuSE's channel partners and through big system integrators such as IBM and Fujitsu Siemens Computers.

The software, available as of next week, costs 544 euros (about £380), including a 12-month service contract -- a significantly higher price than the packages for end users.

Seibt said that Microsoft's rhetoric against Linux and the GNU General Public License upon which it is built is inaccurate. Microsoft claims that its proprietary software offers a clearer intellectual property position than open-source software such as Linux.

"There is no difference with the intellectual property model in Linux," Seibt said. "They have the same risk that their developers might include code that is the intellectual property of someone else, and they have processes in place to not let it happen."

SuSE also has processes in place to make sure that the open-source software code it uses doesn't contain unauthorised intellectual property, he said.

Seibt also took issue with Ballmer's assessment, in his memo, that Linux has no "centre of gravity" contributing to its ongoing development and improvement.

"The people contributing to Linux are working for Oracle, IBM, SuSE, Daimler Chrysler," he said. He pointed out that Linux developers become influential in the community due to their programming abilities. "It is based on skill, knowledge and creativity," he said.

Linux and other open-source software is based on licenses that prevent one single organisation from controlling the software's rights. In general, companies may make their own improvements to the code and redistribute the modified code, as long as their improvements are returned to the developer community.

For all your GNU/Linux and open source news, from the latest kernel releases to the newest distributions, see ZDNet UK's Linux News Section.

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