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01.11.08

Intel Sabotages Linux-based OLPC, Microsoft Wants to Hijack OLPC (with Windows)

Posted in Bill Gates, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, OLPC, Windows at 1:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“When you taunt the referee, he usually watches you even more closely. That’s what happened to Microsoft, whose “up yours!” attitude toward the Department of Justice has inspired investigators to dig even deeper. Now they’re looking at Microsoft’s efforts to take over Java. These relentless investigations sap Microsoft, and distract the DOJ from worse dangers such as Intel. And Microsoft’s childish, insulting behavior is largely to blame.”

Jesse Berst

This is definitely an off-topic post, but recent developments are too hard to ignore and leave alone without comment. Here’s just quick pointer to another new antitrust investigation of Intel.

New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has launched an antitrust investigation of Intel, after his office served a wide-ranging subpoena on the chip giant.

Cuomo is investigating whether Intel violated state and federal antitrust laws by coercing customers to exclude its main rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), from the worldwide market for PC central processing units (CPUs), Cuomo said in a news release.

The subpoena seeks information on Intel’s pricing practices and possible attempts to exclude competitors through its market power, Cuomo’s office said.

As you may recall, Intel dumped Classmates (covering their cost) just to drive OLPC out of the market. Do refresh your memory by looking at previous articles about Intel's case against Linux as a whole, not just Linux-powered OLPCs. This includes combating planned deployments of GNU/Linux in China and Russia, along with Microsoft.

Intel likes Linux only where money is involved. It strives to maintain hardware dominance and high profits regardless of the software which uses the hardware. To Intel, Linux is bad news, for reasons that Glyn Moody explained just a few days ago.

I’ve noted before that Microsoft is in difficulty over the ultra-mobile machines like the Asus EEE PC; now it seems that the other half of the Wintel duopoly is also in trouble because of the new triple-P (price, performance and power) demands these systems make….

This OLPC-Intel issue is already covered pretty well in Groklaw, so it requires little or no unique comments and interpretation elsewhere. I happen to have discussed this in Groklaw personally. Here is something that came up in the the midst of one conversation:

IIRC during the late 1990s Intel would threaten motherboard makers that if they made boards which supported AMD’s athlon they would get their engineering samples and documentation late, it took ages for any motherboards to appear which supported the athlon and the first ones were from small makers, then I think ASUS made a board but left their brand off the silkscreen possible to avoid a backlash from Intel. Intel knows the cost of building FABS and appears to be on a starve AMD of market volume thereby depriving them of funds to build their next FAB mission. This means that Intel will always be one or more generations ahead in process technology, this is a big thing in this industry.

The few articles I found are speculation but hardly unfounded Toms hardware Athlon MB review And another one

Tomshardware Athlon motherboard review 2 The reluctance of motherboard manufacturers to take up and promote the new AMD products even though they were technically superior at the time is telling.

The more terrible news comes as a correct assessment from Bruce Perens

Why Microsoft Must Control One Laptop Per Child

It’s a threat Microsoft can’t let stand: the entire third world learning Linux as children, and growing up to use it. And Microsoft is going to get its way.

It comes after a sudden wave of SCO-like problems for the OLPC project. A specious patent lawsuit over keyboards. Board-member Intel thrown out of the project for attempting to convince national governments to drop OLPC purchases and go with its own (Windows) product. First, OLPC is shown what its problems will be if it doesn’t cooperate with Microsoft. Then, Microsoft approaches with money and technical help – you just have to run Windows to get it.

[...]

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Microsoft’s intent toward the OLPC project is at all benign. They will promote their OLPC software load for DRM-locked content with the help of proprietary publishers who are threatened enough by open content to throw some zero cost but DRM locked e-books to the third world. If they can get governments to commit to the DRM-locked content on your platform, a non-Microsoft OS is going to be out of the race.

Also, nobody who wants an open platform for the third world is being “religious” about it, promoting sound public policy is not religion. I’m really tired of hearing that old saw brought up, please stop it.

According to Microsoft’s OLPC team, which is responsible for “addicting” children to Windows (to use Bill Gates' own terminology), Windows will come to OLPC later this year.

Between Microsoft employees and third party contractors that we have brought into the effort, we have over 40 engineers working full-time on the port. We started the project around the beginning of the year and think it will be mid-2008 at the earliest before we could have a production-quality release.

Do not be surprised if the Gates Foundation later steps in. It will probably become the Sugar Daddy that “saves the day” for OLPC, provided it runs Microsoft Windows. Yesterday, calls were made for an abusive spouse (Intel) to return to the project. Will OLPC end up being just another Wintel laptop after so much corruption, manipulation and sheer abuse of volunteers? Can the world ever accept so much evil? More importantly, will the world be told the true story?

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10 Comments

  1. Pandu Rao said,

    January 11, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Gravatar

    I am disappointed to hear that Microsoft is “helping” OLPC to bring XP to the XO.

    http://radian.org/notebook/paradox-of-choice#comment-93

    Here is my comment in its entirety:

    Pandu Rao said,
    January 10, 2008 @ 10:50 pm

    I have read Bruce’s article, your points and his counterpoints.

    I am afraid I have to agree with Bruce here.

    Having grown up in a developing country without access to computing resources, then having gone on the acquire them, I can vouch for the difference it made to my life and that of those around me.

    I can also vouch for the difference that Free Software made.

    Anyway, I meant to write in to OLPC with questions about Microsoft’s involvement. So here goes:

    1. This collaboration with Microsoft (to whatever extent), did they approach OLPC or was it the other way around?

    2. When did Microsoft first offer to help with the OLPC project? When the idea was first conceived? During the prototype phase? Or well after the prototype was proven?

    3. What is the point of Microsoft releasing the specifications publicly? The hardware is OLPC and those specifications are public anyway. As for what they release, what is it good for other than running XP?

    4. “…we don’t wind up with walled gardens”. You mean the kind they built with OEM licensing contracts? How did you miss the irony here?

    If Microsoft would have done a port without the involvement of the OLPC organization, it would have been obvious that it is trying to muscle its way into the third world. By collaborating with Microsoft, you offer a veneer of legitimacy to the effort.

    I am very disappointed with the fact that OLPC is using Microsoft resources in the XO effort.

    I have donated (not g1g1) one XO laptop early in December last year. The fact that XO runs Free Software is what convinced me to contribute to it. I saw a chance for next generation in developing countries to grow up with access to computing resources regardless of their financial capacity. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s corporate goals.

    I hate to say this, but if I had known about Microsoft’s involvement earlier, I might have simply donated my money to the Free Software Foundation instead.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 11, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Gravatar

    Both Apple and Microsoft offered their platforms for OLPC (Steve Jobs said OS X would be free), but Nick declines. He said, just as you did, that it was not the goal of the project. Over time, Nick seems to have lost some spine, due to Microsoft’s and Intel’s secret, coordinated, and heartless acts of sabotage (I have watched this closely for years). Nick then changed his definition of openness and project goals. Like yourself, I would be disappointed if the hundreds of hours I sacrificed to help OLPC were merely helping the LARGEST DIGITAL IMPRISONMENT CAMPAIGN EVER KNOWN TO HUMAN KIND.

    I’d rather see OLPC dead than see if serving such corporate agenda.

    I will end this with a quote

    “They’ll get sort of addicted [poor Chinese people], and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

    Bill Gates, pseudo-philantroist, secret owner of the media

    OLPC must not become part of the ‘drug dealers cartel’. It can do better than this.

    “Get me into that and goddam, we’ll make so much money!”

    Bill Gates, pseudo-philantroist, secret owner of the media

  3. SubSonica said,

    January 11, 2008 at 3:39 am

    Gravatar

    Another fragment of Bruce Perens insightful asessment:

    Nobody can pretend that the world has ever been absent any choice to run Microsoft software, or that Microsoft must work with OLPC to increase choice. Microsoft operating systems are the only option offered with the vast majority of desktop and server computers. By refusing to tolerate hardware that runs another OS by default, Microsoft is working to reduce choice.

    Microsoft will try to harm any such initiative, but fortunately, sooner or later, Gnu/Linux will break the floodgates of the pre-installed OEM OS, a field in which Microsoft has managed to keep a tight grip through strongarm business practices throughout 20 years -and wich is the fundamental pillar that ciments its overwhelming market monopoly over desktop OS-
    Either it will be a big OEM challenging Microsoft, maybe Dell initiative will catch maybe someone other’s, there is the Asus EEEPC, there is the Shuttle sub-200$ computer… Microsoft can try -and will doubtlessly try- to damage any of such initiative, but sooner or later one of them will be sucessful, thus quickly eroding Microsoft main pillar. It is shameful -and illustrative of Microsoft’s weakness and ethics (lack of) – that Microsoft is by no way trying to compete but trying to hijack and taking on a non-for-profit project that is focused on childs and education and not a business enterprise, though. Intel should be ashamed as well.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 11, 2008 at 3:58 am

    Gravatar

    Just so that you know, Microsoft’s OEM chief quit the company a couple of months ago. He quit quietly.

    For those who are not aware of the illegal tactics used to pressure OEMs, here’s a set of good links.

    I frequently thanked Bruce for criticising Novell (and taking heavy fire for it). Again, I wish to thank him for slamming both Microsoft and Intel for their predatory (and illegal) behavior. He is among the top 50 most influential people in technology, according to one ladder (surpassing even Linus Torvalds), so people will listen to him. We need figures of authority (Nicholas also) to speak out. Press coverage of this story has been a total disaster, and not surprisingly so.

  5. SubSonica said,

    January 11, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Gravatar

    Moreover, the aim should be to completely unbundle Microsoft Windows and the Hardware, for the better general health of the whole IT business (yes, including Microsoft), and not the opposite:

    http://www.digitalmajority.org/forum/t-23463/why-the-unbundling-windows-sceptics-are-wrong

    http://www.globalisation.eu/briefings/competition-policy/unbundling-microsoft-windows-200709231241/

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 11, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Gravatar

    It’s a tough day today.

    From a link in Groklaw

    Yes, we’ve been meeting with Microsoft about their XP port. OLPC has not dedicated resources to this work. We are not contributing engineering time to it, considering it as part of our strategy, or getting ready to replace Sugar. The extent of our involvement is having several meetings with the Microsoft staff and allowing a Microsoft-paid technical writer to work from our offices in order to produce specifications that will aid the port — on the condition that the specifications are also released publicly (they’re being posted to our wiki.)

    The meetings are important. Microsoft decided to do a port, and they would have done it with us or without us — but they did something remarkable: they asked us to work with them so we don’t wind up with walled gardens. They did not set out merely to make XP boot on the XO and declare victory; they actually want to partake in as much of our learning philosophy as they can. They won’t make XP open source, but they’re building mesh support, going to great lengths to support our security and theft deterrence model, and working on allowing Sugar and Windows XOs to collaborate and share seamlessly.

    The folks running this work on the Microsoft side are good people. They have left no doubt in my mind that they believe in what we’re doing and want to play along. I am also confident we have made the right decision at OLPC by embracing their work instead of stonewalling it.

    To set the dual-boot issue straight: Microsoft has not been working on an actual, side-by-side dual-boot system. We’re jointly making it possible to install XP on an arbitrary XO — subject to the constraints of the Bitfrost theft deterrence system — and then convert the machine back to Linux easily. I have made it clear that the XP port will not receive my security signoff without this Linux rollback feature, and have no reason to believe it won’t be implemented.

    One commonly-forgotten truth about OLPC is that our commitment to open source and free software isn’t religious, but pragmatic — we believe Linux and Sugar constitute a better software platform and, much more importantly, a better learning platform. Our existing customers agree, and we think new ones will continue to make the right decision while being reassured by the availability of Windows as a fall-back.

    Also via Groklaw:

    A team of Microsoft people flew out to Cambridge, Mass. to meet with engineers from the OLPC Foundation yesterday….I have to say I like these guys. They all seem like smart platform people, which is the type of people I seem to have worked with off and on for about 20 years now. In fact, it turns out that the OLPC’s CFO, Chuck Kane, worked with me at Stratus Computer back around 1990.

    We had a good discussion and left the meeting feeling positive about the day. We still have a lot of work to do before we make a final decision around our plans for the XO, but all in all it was a good day.

    For those who wonder, it’s ALL VAPORWARE. By the time you add pseudo ‘security’ to it, no resources are left. It may be a tactic for freezing the market, just like that lawsuit in Nigeria.

    Should people like Bruce B. not feel embarrassed to write articles that say “Microsoft doesn’t matter”? See what Beranger.org says about this ‘bury your head in the sand’ approach. I can’t quote or link to it simply because it’s too offensive.

  7. SubSonica said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Gravatar

    Yet another candidate to break Microsoft’s OEM monopoly (and it won’t run Vista, that’s for sure…):

    http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6962839488.html

    And to add insult to injury, not only it runs Gnu/Linux, but the gOS distro, with plentiful of google apps (i already can hear the chairs flying) :-D
    Remember Walmart’s success when they sold out the first everex desktop computer with linux pre-installed… the OEM pillar has already started crackling…

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, I’ve following gOS very closely (in other sites/forums). Version 2.0 seems to be very successful compared to the first one, which was a decent first go at unknown territories (Linux-based, Web 2.0-oriented, lightweight build). it’s not the only Enlightenment-based Ubuntu derivatives that gets attention.

    I suppose you’ve heard by now about Microsoft’s executive exodus. In the past 2 days:

    Raikes is out.
    Jafee is out.
    Fitzgerald is out.
    And now this http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1101

    Microsoft tries very hard not to cause panic at the moment (see http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1100 and http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1101), but I’ve watched the company long enough to know what’s going on. Mary Jo Foley hides the impact of this because her job depends on it.

    You could make the argument that Microsoft wants to get all its defection/churn announcements out of the way at once. But I’m not sure I’d look at things the same way, if I were one of the company’s “image makers”…

    The more desperate Microsoft gets, the more aggressively it will behave. Wear your ‘corruption goggles’ because it’s going to be a wild ride.

  9. SubSonica said,

    January 11, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Gravatar

    I know I might be going a little off topic but…Oh, yeah, the executives draining… and more good news: Every passing day VIsta is becoming more and more the new “Millenium Edition” even INSIDE Microsoft!!!!

    “Microsoft may have recognized Vista as [being] a damaged brand,” said Paul DeGroot, Directions on Microsoft’s lead analyst for Sales, Support and Desktop Strategies. “Windows is the brand for the long term.”
    source:
    http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/vista/ces_where_vista_wasnt.html?kc=MWRSS02129TX1K0000535
    And don’t miss this one:
    Holy Crap: Did Bill Gates Just Say Windows Sucks?
    source:
    http://gizmodo.com/342920/holy-crap-did-bill-gates-just-say-windows-sucks

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 11, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Gravatar

    Rex Ballard in a separate forum the other day:

    But let’s look at the rate of Vista adoption.

    Days Millions Average/day Rate/Day
    30 20 670k 670k
    100 40 400k 290k
    180 60 330k 250k
    300 88 290k 230k
    375 100 270k 160k

    Do we see a little problem here? Vista sales are going DOWN, when
    they should be going UP!

    And how many of these licenses, especially those in the last 180 days,
    were actually “Vista Business Edition Downgrades” to WindowsXP?

    If the industry also saw a blow-out lack of sales in PCs during the
    back-to-school and Christmas season, then Microsoft may have an even
    bigger problem, since they haven’t delivered the 20% growth AND the
    20% profit growth expected with a new version of Windows.

    Microsoft bet the farm on Vista, and lost the bet.
    Of course they will welch on the bet.

    Me (fragment of message):

    By the way, about the figures, it’s interesting to note that among those 100 million copies, half of these might be just boxes that contain a DVD and sit inside large warehouses collecting dust. Several shops have complained about Microsoft because Vista does not sell, so they are overstocked (examples below in [1,2]). Among those copies that are sold as opposed to sit on the shelf, not many are actually used. People switch to Linux or run away to XP almost every time [5]. Less than 1% of the businesses out there have adopted Vista after one year in the wild [3]. Too minor an update to be worth the ‘upgrade’? 6 years in development ought to say that something is amiss. Microsoft even /admitted/ this in private (off the record, but it apparently leaked) [4].

    __
    [1] Currys group blames Vista for poor sales

    DSG, the group behind Currys and PC World, has warned that poor sales of Vista could slash its profits by around £20 million.

    [2] DSG continues retailer woes

    DSG, the company formerly known as Dixons, became the latest British retailer to report a drop in profits for the summer months today. But it wasn’t all down to the rotten weather – this time it was also Microsoft’s fault.

    [3] Will Windows Vista Succeed In 2008? Don’t Count On It

    Vista has certainly been slow out of the gate. Sure, Microsoft is putting the operating system on newly shipped systems, but Vista sales didn’t benefit from the upgrade surge that previous OSes got upon release. A year after it began shipping, less than one percent of corporate desktops are running Vista.

    [4] Microsoft admits Vista screwed – report

    Vista SP1 is code named “Fiji”, presumably after a pretty looking island which is paralysed by coups.

    In a statement regarding the service pack Microsoft admits that Vista has “high impact” problems.

    [5] Windows Vista: Sold but not deployed

    Microsoft says it remains happy with enterprise sales of Vista — however, the software behemoth acknowledges that many businesses which have bought Vista licences are yet to deploy the software.

    There’s a lot more where that came from, but I do try hard to keep “Microsoft bashing” out of this site and cover just “Microsoft FUD”, i.e. show how Microsoft deceives, sabotages, bribes, etc. without resorting to making fun at its expense for internal miseries (of which there has been plenty recently). As I said many times before, 2007 was Microsoft’s worst year ever.

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