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OSBC 2008 Conquered by Microsoft

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, Red Hat at 9:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…But the organisers have not realised this yet

The other day, the following amusing comic [image] got published. Have a quick look. It will only take 5 seconds of your time.

“Microsoft will give talks about its own definition of open source and why every FOSS developer should cozy up to Microsoft.”On dozens of occasions before and upon the appearance of new events of this type we showed how Microsoft infiltrates and sometimes virtually “hijacks” (to use the wording of actual attendants) open source and Linux events (recent example here). The story is far from new and the strategies recur to the point where they become boring.

To give only the gist of it, a poor bunch of people (not necessarily poor, but it fits this storyline nicely) want to set up a FOSS-related event and Microsoft comes with a big pile of cash, offering to be a sponsor. This more or less comes with the condition that Microsoft can strut about and brag about its sponsorship (“look! Microsoft ‘loves’ open source”). It will also attend the event and even become part of its agenda. In the event, Microsoft will give talks about its own definition of open source and why every FOSS developer should cozy up to Microsoft.

OSBC is no exception. It’s the de facto open source business conference and despite the fact that Microsoft was rightly rejected by the Open Solutions Alliance, it is once again invited to OSBC. To make matters worse, its role seems to be greater. Watch this nugget of information:

With Red Hat opening the conference and Microsoft’s Brad Smith giving the evening keynote (with many IT executives in between), it promises to be a killer show.

That’s right! It is a keynote from one of “intellectual property’s best friends”, as well as the man who intimidates businesses that use Linux to the point where they pay 'protection money' and then keep it secret.

“Brad Smith and Steve Ballmer opine that for the use of APIs one must pay Microsoft some money, based on some fee Microsoft decided to charge.”“Killer” is the right word to use when Asay says “killer show”. They are killing the spirit of open source, one small step at a time. Remind yourself of what Brad Smith said only days ago. Go ahead and watch. Brad Smith and Steve Ballmer opine that for the use of APIs one must pay Microsoft some money, based on some fee Microsoft decided to charge. That’s just Microsoft’s hilarious idea of ‘openness’ and here it is delivering a keynote.

OSBC, count out the Free software folks. Last year when Novell and Microsoft stood there shoulder by shoulder doing their thing, reactions were telling. It seems to have gotten only worse since then.

Asay also explains his decision to advise Microsoft (we spoke about this yesterday). Watch the first comment from Andrew, whom I happen to know from some Web forums:

I have no doubts about your integrity or your intentions – but, unlike you, I don’t trust Miscrosoft (or, indeed, most large corporations), all of whom are much more (and much less) than the sum of the human beings who are involved.

Microsoft’s approach is basically dishonest – declaring love for interoperability, coupled with weasel words (“We won’t sue anyone who uses it for non-commercial purposes”).

Be careful, watch your back, and in the words of the average Trojan – “Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts” (no offense intended to modern Greeks!).

Meanwhile, the following article emerged which talks about Microsoft’s financial side-effects (hint: none) as a result of the availability of more APIs.

Speaking to reporters, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said the impact from the decision to forgo certain trade secret license fees, to foster interoperability between its products and competitors’ products, will be small in the scheme of the company’s overall revenue.

Here is a thought. It’s a case of taxing rivals instead of locking them out, making them all abide by Microsoft’s non-standards (for a fee). Who would possibly fall for the scam?

This happens to be a good place to return to our discussions about Mono (see the recent Monopendencies Monalysis of Fedora). Microsoft intends to charge money for use of its technologies. It even involves things like simple programming interfaces. Patents are not the main issue when there is a complete loss of independence and departure of the spirit, but that’s another story.

There is some more good analysis and summary of the Mono issue, in case you are interested in a second perspective. To quote a portion of interest:

As a final note, it would be nice if the new Fedora Project Leader would make a public statement on Mono. Heck, Max could too know whether Red Hat is not shipping Mono with RHEL because of patents, because it’s wrong to do it, because they don’t want to support it, or because they don’t support it yet.

GNU meditatesAll in all, the takeaway is that unless you remain what Microsoft and Novell consider ‘hobbyist’, then the use of Mono is not likely to remain free (as in free beer). That’s the ambition anyway. It’s rather repulsive that OBSC is now making room to the very same people who want to make it a reality, as though they give validity by an invitation to occupy a keynote slot. What were they thinking? It’s probably worth exploring to see if Microsoft is a major sponsor of the event.

OSBC, have fun with Microsoft. You hopefully have enough cash to pay for protocols.

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  1. Matt Asay said,

    February 26, 2008 at 10:17 am


    Roy: What are you smoking? No offense, but did you not noticed that Panel: Stephen O’Grady, Analyst, Redmonk (Moderator); James Bottomley, CTO, SteelEye Technology; Mark Shuttleworth, Founder, Ubuntu; Andrew Updegrove, Co-Founder & Partner, Gesmer Updegrove LLP will all be “cross-examining” Brad after his first 30 minutes? And then the audience will be doing so for the next 30 minutes? I’m not sure how you cannot be happy about 60 minutes of the best in open source grilling Brad on Microsoft’s stance on open source. Wake up, mi amigo.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 26, 2008 at 10:36 am


    I appreciate the response, Matt, but having seen some lack of (well, what I consider) comprehension of the implications, I worry. Have you seen the reaction from Linus yet? Your colleague Michael has already responded to his very disappointing stance.

    Michael Tiemann – Subject: Torvald’s is not the guy to follow here…

    In my opinion, anything that Microsoft does that falls short of the published open source minimums is…sub-minimal. Torvalds is happy because his standards are lower–he cares more about himself than his community. But other people have higher standards–we also care about the community at least as much as we care for ourselves.


    To go further with my course of thinking, the issue as I see it is that Microsoft will convince a mind or two that it truly changed its way and as long as there are recipient — however few — to this message, the illusion works.

    Linus is important. He is more influential than merely anybody in this area because GNU/Linux/GNOME/whatever is simply labeled Linux, which gives him a God-like image.

    While his opinion is respected, hopefully he does realise the role of software patents here. Microsoft tried to hide this. Linus worries about Software patents (we have it well documented, extracted from a recent interview).

    Luckily enough, it seems like the EU bought none of Microsoft’s hypnosis. Tomorrow it shall announe a $2+ billion fine if the rumours are correct and bear in mind that Microsoft already approaches debt. It’s more feeble than you think. New item of interest (caught an hour ago):

    The Shadow Tales of Microsoft

    If you don’t believe me, take a look at what’s happening out there. Linux is cutting into Microsoft’s desktop dominance. It’s also wiping away any hope of it gaining server dominance. Firefox is quickly replacing its browser as the preferred method for surfing the internet. Outlook is being slowly knocked off its pedestal by open source alternatives, and other competitors are attacking them from all sides in their other fields as well. Open Source is on a roll and Microsoft is getting run over on all sides, and while it may not seem like they’re loosing the war, they are. Just because Open Source isn’t in the mainstream news doesn’t mean it’s not winning. And if this isn’t causing Microsoft and Steve Balmer to reach the point of being nearly panic stricken, then I’m a monkey’s uncle. I honestly believe right now that they’re terrified. Hence the battle for Yahoo is a battle for their very existence.


    Remember that you will never get the true picture from the press, which is disappointing. Don’t let them snatch victory and escape the jaws of defeat at this critical time.

  3. Woods said,

    February 27, 2008 at 12:46 am


    Well, I’m condemning myself to being a pariah with this comment but here goes…

    I think Mr. Tiemann’s comment is spot on, I don’t remember Mr. Torvalds having ever been one to be followed when it comes to issues of freedom in FOSS.

    Note also the continuation of the article at http://opensource.org/node/257
    I’m definitely with Mr. Tiemann here.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 27, 2008 at 2:17 am


    As much as I admire Linus, his stance on Tivoization has caused a lot of trouble in forums that I regularly participate in (he was compared to Jorg Schilling). I truly hope he will listen to Alan Cox, whose stance on this is a brilliant one.

    Without developers’ affinity, Linux could lose its charm to *Solaris. Also see the recent remarks from Samba:


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