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06.19.07

Novell Helps Microsoft Build Its World Wide Web Fortress of Lockin

Posted in Linspire, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents, Xandros at 9:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

On several occasions in the past we mentioned Silverlight, which is Microsoft’s attempt to hijack by the Web by embedding and incorporating more O/S-specific functionality into Web sites. It’s similar to ActiveX in that respect, but it’s worse. What’s more, it involves heavily-patented technology, which takes us back to the ‘clone’ products debate. Mono and Novell continue their embrace of this worrisome direction, whereby they support Microsoft’s attempt to turn the Net into .NET.

According to Miguel De Icaza, Mono project leader and Novell open-source president, Mono engineers have been working 14-hour days to create an implementation of Silverlight on Linux using Mono, an open-source implementation of Microsoft’s .Net software.

We realise that a lot of dedicated people and labour are involved in making this possible, but would such technology be ‘safe’ if one uses Linux distributions that are not ‘protected’? Red Hat has always avoided Mono for a reason. If there is perceived Linux support for Silverlight, then a nightmare scenario could emerge. Have a look at the following message.

Silverlight is about The Microsoft Web

Silverlight is not about the World Wide Web. It’s about The Microsoft Web. It’s about getting fools to rally around Microsoft. After all of this time and experience with Microsoft, anybody with half a brain will be smart enough to avoid doing that. The last thing you want to be is dependent on Microsoft and set yourself up to be a DIRECT competitor with “Microsoft Cloud Services” down the road. Dumb. Foolish. Stupid. Smart investors won’t invest one dime in your company and might even short your stock.

Remember, it’s Microsoft’s cloud. Microsoft is not investing in huge datacenters all around the world for no reason. And, Microsoft will do whatever it takes, including operating that new online services business at a huge loss, to starve off any smaller competitor that foolishly chose to develop on the Silverlight platform. Microsoft sold $44 BILLION and cleared $18 BILLION profit last year. How many billions did you make last year?

This is apparently something that Novell, being a so-called Linux distributor, is willing to support rather than protest against. The same argument can be applied and used in the context of the ODF-OOXML duel. By supporting technology that benefits a monopoly, you only make that monopoly stronger. Perfectly valid (and cross-platforms/vendor/application) solutions already exist. Even Mark Shuttleworth is not being fooled by this. To quote what he said the other day:

“I have no confidence in Microsoft’s Open XML specification to deliver a vibrant, competitive and healthy market of multiple implementations. I don’t believe that the specifications are good enough, nor that Microsoft will hold itself to the specification when it does not suit the company to do so,” Shuttleworth said.

Novell is a friend bought by Microsoft. As long as it gives power to technologies which literally break compatibility with other Linux distributions, Novell is not a team player in the Linux world. Novell, Xandros, and Linspire should be shunned for taking some money and selling their soul to those who want them destroyed. It is not only them who suffer harm, but those who supplied them with code as well. They took the products they received free of charge for granted.

ISO and Office Open XML (OOXML): What REALLY Happened There?

Posted in Formats, Fraud, ISO, Linspire, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Xandros at 9:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Letters from the dead” strategy is back from the graveyard

Well, well, well…

Some months ago we mentioned a surprising turn of events where Lisa Rachjel of the ISO decided to let OOXML slide into the fast-track route. Later we found that Microsoft may have simply voted for itself, using its own employees. If that wasn’t bad enough, then have a look at this new little discovery. It turns out that, as one site puts it, Microsoft puppets were spamming ANSI.

An impressive list of spam comments asking for supporting OOXML and backward compatibility, claiming also that “Open XML in no way contradicts any other international document standard”.

Have a look at the evidence the Web site presents. This ought to remind you of something controversial which Microsoft did in the past, namely:

In 2001, the Los Angeles Times accused Microsoft of astroturfing when hundreds of similar letters were sent to newspapers voicing disagreement with the United States Department of Justice and its antitrust suit against Microsoft. The letters, prepared by Americans for Technology Leadership, had in some cases been mailed from deceased citizens or nonexistent addresses.

Antitrust exhibits from Comes vs Microsoft have taught me that executives at Microsoft were talking about grassroots tactics. The other component was an OEM stronghold, but that’s another story altogether. Also recall how they started an astroturfing campaign (pseudo grassroots) in the UK. This was not an isolated incident. Be aware of all the manipulation that is involved in keeping the lockin in tact. They are protecting the cash cow. Microsoft’s deals with Novell, Linspire and Xandros (including Corel, which is linked to Xandros) play a significant role. They give the illusion that there is wide OOXML acceptance.

Novell and Microsoft Decided for that World That Interoperability Requires “Assurance” and ‘Tax’

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Servers, Standard, Virtualisation, Windows at 9:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As Shane indicated earlier, we are apparently seeing a troublesome new situation. Microsoft discriminates against Linux distributions that are not ‘taxable’. Novell supports this. Sadly enough, this may become a future theme and a new method for pressuring vendors to enter unwanted partnerships. One item worth quoting here comes from Andy Updegrove.

The most timely exchanges, not surprisingly, involved the questions, comments and answers focusing on the string of agreements with Novell, and more recently with other distro vendors (most recently Linspire), in the context of the “235 patent” Fortune article. Not surprisingly, Microsoft and Novell painted their arrangement as being “for the benefit of their customers,” and as beneficial to the growth of Linux. Novell’s Justin Steinman, Novell’s long-suffering corporate spokesman for the Microsoft deal, pointed to the huge growth of it’s Linux business since the deal was inked, but whether this is incremental Linux market growth or simply sales that have shifted from other distro vendors is, of course, a different question. I felt constrained to point out that for 20 years Unix, and then Linux customers, hadn’t felt the need to be protected by such agreements. It’s curious why customers should now suddenly need assurance.

It is clear that Novell helped Microsoft’s plot become a reality. Compliance through punishment seems to be the strategy. It’s a case of “pay us, or be snubbed”, which is anticompetitive. Open standards that are the key to real interoperability haven’t a cost and they should be simple.

Mandriva Not Interested in Paying Protection Money

Posted in Deals, Formats, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Linspire, Mandriva, Microsoft, OpenDocument, Patent Covenant, Patents, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Xandros at 1:56 pm by Shane Coyle

Matthew Aslett notes that, following Mark Shuttleworth’s posting that ruled out any Microsoft negotiations based on unspecified patent infringement claims, we also have word from another distribution oft-speculated as being "next" on Microsoft’s list: Mandriva.

So its 3-3 with Novell, Xandros and Linspire on one side and Red Hat, Ubuntu and Mandriva on the other (as noted here the deals with Samsung, Fuji Xerox and LG Electronics can be considered differently).

It’s not surprising that people were speculating about Mandriva being the next on Microsoft’s list given its financial position but CEO, Francois Bancilhon has ruled it out.

It should be noted that, the other day in one of our discussions it was pointed out that Mandriva’s finances may not be as dire as seems to be universally presumed.

Here is some of what CEO Bancilhon had to say regarding the Microsoft patent deals, referring to them as "protection money":

We also believe the best way to deal with interoperability is open standards, such as ODF which we support strongly and we are ready to cooperate with everyone on these topics.

As far as IP is concerned, we are, to say the least, not great fans of software patents and of the current patent system, which we consider as counter productive for the industry as a whole.

We also believe what we see, and up to now, there has been absolutely no hard evidence from any of the FUD propagators that Linux and open source applications are in breach of any patents. So we think that, as in any democracy, people are innocent unless proven guilty and we can continue working in good faith.

So we don’t believe it is necessary for us to get protection from Microsoft to do our job or to pay protection money to anyone.

First Fruit of Novell’s (Known) Microsoft Patent License?

Posted in Deals, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Red Hat, SLES/SLED, Virtualisation, Windows, Xen at 1:01 pm by Shane Coyle

Novell has announced that, sometime in July, they will be releasing a "Virtual Machine Driver Pack" which will deliver improved performance of Microsoft Windows (and eventually Red Hat Enterprise Linux – "later this summer") on the Xen Hypervisor in SUSE.

In November, Microsoft and Novell entered into a controversial partnership where Microsoft would offer sales support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and both companies would work to simplify running the Windows operating system and SUSE Linux in mixed operating system environments. One of those projects, according to Novell senior Linux applications specialist Ross Brunson, was the creation of a “translation layer” that would allow interoperability between various hypervisor technologies.

“One interesting aspect is that Novell is using these [virtualization] capabilities to charge some extra money. SUSE Linux has tended to have more of a flat pricing structure than Red Hat in the past,” Haff said. “But this makes sense; the alternative is a product like VMware that certainly doesn’t come for free.”

It is interesting that Novell is delivering the Windows Driver Pack first, I would assume that creating a driver for an open-source operating system would be easier, but I suppose that it was important to justify not only the licensing of Microsoft’s Hypercall API patents, but also the price tag on the Virtual Machine Driver Pack. Red Hat EL support will be added later at no additional charge as a maintenance update.

I had been interested to see what the license terms will be on Novell’s shim, or "translation layer" if you like, Stafford Masie had indicated that VMWare was certainly a competitive target of the Microvell deal, but it was promised that Novell would compete in an "open source way":

(a paragraph or two before it cuts off.)
…virtualization is very very key, customers want to utilize Linux as either a host operating system with Microsoft as a guest operating system, or vice versa, and yes we are going to support the XEN technology there, the XEN hypervisor technology, Microsoft is going to support it too. Yes, there is a competitive angle there, yes we’re coming at VMware yes yes yes we are, ok thats part of it because but we’re doing it in an open source way, so were going to support the XEN technologies in our server platforms and togther collaborate and ensure it works properly, supported properly, etc

So, will we be able to see these Virtual Machine Drivers for Windows on Xen available to other distributions and the overall community without veiled patent threats? Or, is it virtualization and interoperability only for those willing to pay a patent tax? Early reports indicated that the MS drivers will be under a proprietary license.

Did the Intellectual Property Threats Fail, Backfire, or Had No Effect?

Posted in Antitrust, Courtroom, Formats, FUD, GNU/Linux, Interview, Microsoft, Novell at 9:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Some of us would love to argue that the deals with Microsoft have little or no effect on the decisions made by an IT manager. Last month, a poll found that Microsoft’s deals did it more harm than good. Managers may in fact use Microsoft’s aggression as an excuse to boost their use of Free software.

Here is another interesting point of view. We seem to have overlooked the fact that a bogus relationship with “the open source community” plays a role too. Although it is not the purpose of the deals (consider document format monopoly and IP ‘tax’, among other things), the following aspect is definitely worth considering.

…overall, Microsoft’s pacts with open source vendors are likely to have little impact on IT shops. “It’s all probably just a fact-finding mission for them or a way to say they’re involved with the open source community so people like myself won’t say they’re not a player,” said Vince Arcuri, manager of Unix administration at Home Shopping Network in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In other words, attempts to squash Free software can actually be spun in order to pretend there is some affinity and reciprocity. We have seen this whenever Novell sidled with Microsoft (and vice versa), but we must also learn from history how these relationships end up. The article cited above concludes that the deals will have no effect on IT managers, who will continue deploying Linux with confidence.

In another new article which quotes Jim Zemlin, it is eloquently explained why Microsoft faces the infamous SCO dilemma and it will therefore not sue.

“The reality is that they are not going to sue a single customer,” says Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. “It would not be in their business interest. Microsoft is not going to sue their customers.”

The Linux Foundation seems to be missing a few low-profile-yet-worrisome events. And how can a day pass without FUD from the white collar press? A new Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) talks about Linux getting a price tag because of Microsoft. Where is the balance in a responsible discussion?

Why We Must Unite to Squash the FUD and Untangle the Patent Mess

Posted in Deals, GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patent Covenant, Patents, Windows, Xandros at 8:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We have assembled a bunch of analyses from the blogsphere. At least a few of them deserve or receive some attention. The first one stresses the need to fight what has unfortunately descended to being a ‘political’ rather than a technical battle.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand for our right to build an operating system from scratch without being harassed or receive demanding bills. Recall what Bill Gates said back in the 90s about the absurdity of software patents. This thought- and emotion-provoking item is the reason for the title of this post, which perhaps begs for attention and urgency.

The Open Source community, and not just Linux, needs to wake up, stop being lazy and start fighting again. If they won’t, then they may as well just declare Microsoft the winner, because if we, the members of the Open Source community don’t start fighting back like we used to, and soon, the victory is and will be entirely Microsoft’s. And after seeing Vista and their recent ideas of what “quality software” is, I certainly don’t want them to win.

The second item talks about the possibility of Microsoft entering the open source ecosystem with Linux, rather than transforming its own software and its accompanying licenses. It is not so far fetched.

This would give Microsoft an open source future in a very painless way: adopt the already established Linux platforms as your own. Extend the olive branch, give them their new GPL 3 and reap the benefits of Linux in the commercial market, the future commercial market based on open source.

The last short item explains why it all goes back to document formats and how Microsoft exploits the deals in its ongoing struggle to protect the cash cows from emerging openness and vendor-neutrality, such as OpenDocument format.

The game goes like this: On the one hand, suggest that Linux might infringe on some of their patents. On the other hand, pay a few Linux distributions to integrate a technology (OOXML) that people think actually infringes on Microsoft’s patents. That makes it easier to convince other people to pay up.

This has always been a very valid point, which Sam Hiser raised once again (yesterday). Such ‘organic’ support for a lockin should not be accepted. It is only one among several subtle implications of the deals. We shall continue to cover them in this site, which no longer focuses solely on Novell.

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