08.16.07

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Linus Torvalds Has No “Hugely Strong Opinion” on Cross-licensing Deals (Updated)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interview, Kernel, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, Xandros at 9:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…but he won’t reveal his opinion

Several days ago we mentioned what appeared to be the first response to the Novell/Microsoft deal from Linus Torvalds himself. There is another new interview where he is questioned on these matters. Here are some bits of interest:

Q: The soon to be released Windows Longhorn is touted to be Microsoft’s answer to the Linux threat, as Windows NT was for Novell in the 90s. Are there any improvements planned in Linux, keeping the technology advancements of Longhorn in mind?

Linus: I actually don’t worry about MS at all. Their strength is in their marketing, and in the (obvious) market share they have. They’ve never been all that interesting from a ‘technical’ angle. And since all I personally care about is the technology, I don’t end up being all that interested in what MS does.

[...]

Q: What do you think about Microsoft’s efforts to sign cross-licensing deals with Linux distros like Novell, Xandros and Linspire? How is this going to affect the development of the kernel?

Linus: I don’t really have a hugely strong opinion on it. Business is business, and I don’t get involved with it; I worry about the technology. Yes, software patents are certainly worrisome, but I also tend to think that people just overreact a bit whenever MS is involved, and that some of the shrill reactions on the Internet have been a bit over the top.

Let’s see what happens.

As it stands, Mark Shuttleworth and Bruce Perens appear to be the loudest prominent protesters who denounce and condemn such deals. Alan Cox, Jeremy Allison, and Eben Moglen are not too pleased, either. Linus Torvalds tactfully avoids picking sides. He does not allow Linux to become fragmented, but at the same time he attacks Microsoft for its FUD tactics (common ground to all except Microsoft).

Linus recently complained about people selectively parsing his words and taking them out of context. However, despite his dislike for such habits, let’s consider the words “I don’t really have a hugely strong opinion on [cross-licensing deals]” more carefully. It sounds like he certainly does have an opinion. That opinion is possibly “strong”, but it is not “hugely” strong. It sounds like the man is biting his tongue. Based on previous interviews, it seems possible that he won’t mind seeing his Free kernel being commercialised (even if it means being ‘taxed’ by third parties).

Update 19/08/2007: Another new interview with Linus Torvalds has just been published. Torvalds is being more specific in it.

ITB: Microsoft and Novell announced last year a partnership for the interoperability of Windows and Suse Linux. Do you think Novell betrayed the principles of open software?

LT [Linus Torvalds]: I actually thought that whole discussion was interesting, not because of any Novell versus MS issues at all, but because all the people talking about them so clearly showed their own biases. The actual partnership itself seemed pretty much a nonissue to me, and not nearly as interesting as the reaction it got from people…

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6 Comments

  1. ohmygod said,

    August 16, 2007 at 9:58 pm

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    Longhorn? How old this interview actually is?

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 16, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Gravatar

    It is said to be new. Longhorn was renamed Server 2008 about a month ago though. Maybe the interviewer was not aware of this.

  3. akf said,

    August 17, 2007 at 3:06 am

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    Free Software is not against commercialisation.
    The danger for Free Software is becoming unfree or becoming dependent on unfree software.

    I know you mean the right thing, but please be more careful with your wording.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 17, 2007 at 3:12 am

    Gravatar

    Spot on, akf. I couldn’t think of a good word to use (English is my second language), so I put a better description in the brackets. In retrospect, it ought to have said something like “proprietarised”, not “commercialised”. It’s the cost of writing quickly — sloppiness and ambiguities.

  5. Stephen said,

    August 17, 2007 at 3:32 am

    Gravatar

    It makes no sense to try to “know the mind” of someone like Linus (or anyone, for that matter). If he has an opinion that he wants to express he’ll surely do it as he has done before (i.e, use KDE, not Gnome).

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    August 17, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Gravatar

    Stephen, based on things that he says in the mailing lists, not only me but some people whom I talk to compare him to Joerg Schilling. One could also argue that he learned his lesson from the GNOME incident, even though he repeated it some months ago.

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