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03.11.08

Speculation: Who or What is Walli? (Or “How Microsoft Invades FOSS”)

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Black Helicopters” caveat

A reader of this Web site, who sincerely wishes he is wrong on this one, has had some finds and thoughts to share about Microsoft’s open source strategy. Here it goes. Judge for self and take it with a pinch of salt.


IT is a small world: From your blog to Eric Raymond’s to S. Walli’s to Andy Updegrove

I know this is focused more on Microsoft than on Novell, but I wanted to share my opinion and two interesting pieces of text I reached thanks to your Web site linking to the first stop in the way.

From one of your articles referring Eric S. Raymond story about how Microsoft tried to hire him, I searched for S. Walli, a former Microsoft employee with whom, at the time, Eric had an interview. Here is an inspiring excerpt from Eric where he explains the ultimate reason why Microsoft can’t ever ever be trusted, and it is absolutely impossible that this company will ever change its behaviour:

“I had my serious, constructive converstation with
Microsoft last year, when a midlevel exec named Steven
Walli took me out to dinner at OSCON 2004 and asked,
in so many words, “How can we not be evil?” And I told
him — open up your file formats (including Word and
multimedia), support open technical standards instead
of sabotaging them, license your patents under
royalty-free, paperwork-free terms.

I believe Steve Walli went back to his bosses and
told them that truth. He is no longer with Microsoft,
and what little he’ll say about it hints that they
canned him for trying to change their culture.

This didn’t surprise me. Microsoft’s profit
margins require a monopoly lock on the market; thus,
they’re stuck with being predatory evil bastards. The
moment they stop being predatory evil bastards, their
stock price will tank and their options pyramid will
crash and it will be all over.

That being the case, negotiation is pointless.
Microsoft is not reformable. Jeering at offers like
this is actually the most constructive thing we can
do.”

Sam Walli got the boot and he runs a blog where we can
find some insights from a person who has been in both
sides of the wall: He is at the same time an
(ex)insider and an open source convert, and he even
quotes Andy updegrove in the war Microsoft is waging
for the ISO rubberstamp, so I think it is an
interesting source wher to look for strategic insights

I found a most interesting and clarifiying comment from one of the readers of Walli’s blog:

Personally I would have to think long and hard at what kind of IT future we want. One where MS controls everything, or one where developers and IT are free to innovate.

Make no mistake, MS has no love for Open Source, any more than it does for Linux. MS will offer empty platitudes to the Open Source administrators and developers who support MS with their efforts, while behind the scenes, they will only use Open Source as a means to prop up their fledging server business.

The two faces of MS will invariably show, as they always have. On the left side of the face, MS will claim victories of working well with Open Source. On the other side of the face, MS will be doing everything they can to destroy the OS movement. How? They will look at the Open Source solutions and attempt to find fault with the OS projects. They will start hiring the top Open Source talent to create MS proprietary equivalents or to create extensions that only run in a MS environment.

Those developers who take the MS deal, will be forced into a campaign through coercion and wild MS laced koolaid parties, to vociferiously refrain, “Open Source OK, but MS much better.”

MS knows that they are in serious trouble, Vista is a show piece of why MS is so bloated and over managed, that they cannot even put out a competent OS that has been cooking for five years. MS is rapidly seeing Open Soruce taking over the Web. MS knows it cannot compete with Linux Servers in price, features, security, nor scalability. This is rapidly becoming so apparent, that even financial magazines are starting to see and report on this phenomenon. It will not be long until even the most ardent Microsoft devotee will have to acknowledge that E-Commerce does not run on Microsoft.

IIS is not king, Apache is. NET is not king, Java and PHP are. MS has been and still are losing the Internet/Intranet/Extranet battle. Yes there are some areas where MS is entrenched, but as more and more IT shops start trusting their Web based infrastructure to Open Source, it is only a matter of time till they start replacing the Exchange and Sharepoint servers for Open Source solutions. If Open Source is reliable and trustworthy enough to run their B2B, why would it not be trustworthy enough to run their email and File sharing needs?

Of course there are true developers and engineers at MS who really want to work with and on Open Source projects, They see really neat stuff being done in Open Source and are truist to their professions. These developers and engineers want to be in on the action. I am sure their employer actually feeds them the line that, “MS wants to do some real Open Source as well”, and encourages them to take a look, but not leap.

In reality, MS is the same predatory company it has always been. The “Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish” philosophy of MS has not changed. It only has a new target.

IT is a small world: Part 2: Now in BLACK HELICOPTER MODE

***Warning: This is a BLACK HELICOPTER MODE PARANOID SPECULATION***

I just read in S. Walli’s blog that this guy is coming to Spain and is jumping inside the advisory boards of some of the more promising Open Source projects in my country.

He spoke about some very interesting and promising projects based in Spain (where we have been traditionally handicapped by a culture of disregard for science, technology and innovation): BitRock/Bitnami, OpenBravo and EBox-Platform.

I am specially a fan of Ebox-Platform ( http://ebox-platform.com/ ), quite similar to SMEServer; it is a Debian GNU/Linux-Based full-featured perfect replacement for Windows Server, and I think of it as a direct threat to the SmallBusiness server Microsoft product. Any SME implementing this solution would be automagically free from Microsoft Lock-in, since it replaces Windows Server as file-server, replaces Exchange Server, ISA Server (it includes a firewall), etc and is costless. Moreover, it takes 10 minutes to install and configure.

I wonder why this solution is not better known. I also sent a letter to the developers suggesting them to release it under the GPLv3 in order to avoid patent threats (very much as I did with the developer of hmailserver), still no reply.

“Can it be that Microsoft is disseminating its “droids” (even if they present themselves as ex-Softies) as fifth-columnists in the companies they perceive a biggest threat to their closed business model?”What ringed my “Bad Karma Master Alarm” was this article about infiltrating Open Source through marketing and how well he knows the intricacies of this business.

And the way it praises and promotes Microsoft marketing campaign in order to gain brain share among open source developers and try to fight back the web going open standards and free software innfrastructure-based.

And he is also advertising the latest EclipseCon, where Microsoft has just infiltrated with Sam Ramji.

Can it be that Microsoft is disseminating its “droids” (even if they present themselves as ex-Softies) as fifth-columnists in the companies they perceive a biggest threat to their closed business model? Is Walli still working for the Borg?

I know I might sound a bit paranoid, and while I really look forward to see that Walli’s intentions are honest and I really want to be wrong, it seemed quite a coincidence to me to see Walli reaching some of the most interesting projects in my country, which is not much reputed for innovation in IT, though we are seeing some very interesting developments related to GNU/Linux and Open Source as of late, e.g. www.linex.es and www.guadalinex.org. This latter one caused an emergency flight of Steve Ballmer to my country in order to avoid the regional government of Andalusia adopting it and ditching Windows (www.molinux.es).


Again, take this with a grain of salt. For context and further reading, consider this recent post about Microsoft infiltrating Eclipse. The many links there help draw a broader picture.

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18 Comments

  1. Stephen Walli said,

    March 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Gravatar

    Oh please. I did customer work, standards, UNIX, the MKS toolkit, and open source long before Microsoft acquired the assets to my company, and I worked there for 5 years. (http://stephesblog.blogs.com/about.html)

    Take a stroll through the blog where I shred their standards strategy around OOXML, or harass them for a lot of rhetoric and no action in the free and open source software community. And Eric got it wrong — he was the blog response to that post:
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2005/09/on_why_i_left_m.html

  2. Black Helicopter Pilot said,

    March 12, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Gravatar

    Hi Stephen. Thanks for responding. I was just wondering myself about what your intentions were and your motivation for participating in these exciting developments as Bitrock/Bitnami and ebox-platform, which I find great. I was just surprised to see how well you knew and exposed part of Microsoft strategy towards free and open source (please, don’t forget the free part), and my natural suspiciousness towards everything Microsoft-related made me think of a worse-than-worst-case scenario that (unjustly, I must confess) involved you, so please take no offense, at it was just pure speculation on my part.

    It is my view that Microsoft strategy is trying to profit as much as they can from cross-platform open source products, while at the same time trying to inject in these products windows-only compatible features in order to marginalizae GNU/Linux and BSD and to protect their Windows platform. You know better than me the EEE strategy is still at work here, only the target now is not a single company but a new (for Microsoft) way of doing software. It is also very significative for me that they and their environment always try to avoid the “freedom” part.

    I would agree with Eric that Microsoft behaviour is broken beyond repair, and that it is not reformable. Lawsuits discoveries keep proving it once and again. This ruthless predatory behaviour is inextricably rooted in Microsoft corporate culture (and it was, indeed the cause of its huge sucess)

    Now, Stephen, would you let me ask you a few questions?:

    Are you involved into FOSS because you share some of the values regarding software freedom of the free (and open source) community or just because it is fun and you see a business oportunity at FOSS? (well, now that most small ISVs have been fagocitated or made out of business by Microsoft and the rest of the big “consolidated” privative software businesses, there is not much innovation left outside the FOSS community…)

    What are your intentions towards Bitnami and ebox-platform?

    Are you in to promote these projects as FOSS (don’t forget the “F”reedom) or to try to woo their developers in some sort of interoperability/patent/PR operation with Microsoft?

    Would you agree to GPLv3 these projects or at least, the parts of these projects that can be GPLv3 licenced as a measure to avoid Microsoft’s patent threats?

    What is your position on Software Patentability? Do you know software patents are ilegal in most European countries? Would you promote a clear ban on software patentability in order to promote competition from smaller players and threat-free innovation -this would also benefit the US industry-?

    Thanks for joining and for your reply. And as I told before, I sincerely hope that your intentions towards these projects are honest (and my speculations are crazy and wrong), without shady exclusionary deals or any of the recent maneovers we have witnessed once and again from your former employer in its quest for a way to open a breach inside the FOSS community in order to destroy or fagocitate any development that menaces its chokehold position over the whole IT business. If that is the case, I welcome your interest on them. I’ll be watching.

    Best regards: A software freedom advocate based in Spain.

  3. Stephen Walli said,

    March 12, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Gravatar

    Let me try to cover your questions slightly differently (but hopefully to your satisfaction).

    I believe collaborative software development using liberal licenses is fundamentally important from an economic perspective (http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/05/why_the_economi.html). Economics lives in the uncomfortable space between commerce and politics. If I developed software unrelated to a business initiative, I would publish it freely.

    I believe in O’Reilly’s Freedom 0. I need neither the FSF’s nor the OSI’s approval. My work, my copyright, my right to choose the license that best enables my goals for a project. I think the GPLv2 is the best conservative business license I can use in many but not all circumstances. I don’t have an opinion on the GPLv3 yet, because it’s essentially untested. I think the FSF did an amazing job of developing that piece of text in a collaborative manner and have complimented Eben publicly. If I can better build a business by liberally sharing the software assets with a developer community, I will. If I can better build the business by sharing the assets with other users that aren’t yet able to become customers, I will.

    I think software patents are broken from an economic and commercial perspective. I can go from concept to product in the market in ~6 months in the software world. If I did everything “correctly” with respect to software patents in the U.S., applying for a patent or three to protect my product, etc., it will be 3-4 years before the patent comes out of the system in some form. I will have invested ~US$15K per patent, which could have been spent on product development, and I may discover n product generations later that I may have a ticket to enter a negotiation with a company that may be infringing my claims. It’s just not money well spent. If I’m a business, I’m happier to make customers happy and use copyright licenses and trademark law for asset management. The system is further broken because of the lag time. If I did everything “correctly” before product launch, searching the existing patent database to ensure I’m not infringing, then I can still be blown out of the water over the next 3-4 years if someone else has a patent in the system that is finally approved.

    I’ve been pretty clear in what I think of Microsoft and patent discussions:
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/02/three_things_st.html
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/06/microsoft_messa.html
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/06/the_latest_micr.html
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/07/microsoft-and-x.html
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/05/the_microsoft_o.html

    I am an advisor to Bitrock, and a director at eBox. The executives in both cases are personal friends. My intention to each of them is to do whatever they need me to do to best enable the success of their businesses.

    I don’t always bash on Microsoft. I was a partner for 4 years, and an employee for 5 years at a sufficiently senior level to have a view of how some things get done, and I’m in a position to provide context to some discussions. That’s all.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Black Helicopter Pilot said,

    March 12, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Gravatar

    Dear Walli:

    Thanks for your kind reply. I had a quick browsing over the articles you quote, I promise to comeback and review them thoroughly since they seem very interesting and I appreciate your insights on Microsoft strategy and the issues arising from the Free and Open Source Software development and how they conflict with the Microsoft agenda.

    According to what you reply in your comment, I’d suggest you to review your priorities, since I disagree that economics are more important than ethics. And if you ask me I don’t think anyone sufficiently informed can honestly disconnect economics from politics from ethics. About your quote of O’reilly’s own freedom zero (i’ll comebak on that later) it could make me think you would rather prefer the BSD than the GPL licence and you somehow seem to disregard GPLv3 (at least for the time being). I am sure many people inside Microsoft would agree with you: The GPL allows maximize everyone’s freedoms while not precluding anyone to make a reasonable economic benefit. On the other hand to maximize and obtain an ever-growing benefit you have to reach a situation where you have to restrict everyone’s freedoms, that is what is happening at the moment with Microsoft and the intelectual (imaginary) property maximalists worldwide.

    I appreciate your opinion about patents but you equally seem to argue “practical reasons” for not liking them, but the problem of the patent system when applied to software is nor one of inconvenience, neither one of the time that the application takes to be made effective neither of the high entry-cost, it is one of applying a state-granted monopoly (something that the economic liberals are oposed to) over a pure idea, concept or algorithm (math) no matter if is is as complex as a computer program. And that they have become a legal mechanism that is tried to be used by the aforementioned intelectual (imaginary) property maximalists in order to subvert and de-facto proprietarise Free Software and control the market. Not to speak about patent trolls. The damage both things are doing to innovation and to the society is simply unnaceptable. The GPLv3 is devised -among other things- to addres this problem.
    Do review http://endsoftpatents.org/resources-for-computer-scientists and http://endsoftpatents.org/resources-for-economists since the economic and developerr-business part seems to be the subject you focus more on.

    It is right that you don’t ask the FSF permission to licence YOUR software, but if you benefit from an existing GPL’ed codebase and you distribute the modification, then you do have to respect the terms of the licence and pass the freedoms you beneffited from in the first place.

    Although being wary about your background (not because you must bash Microsoft at every occassion, and I am able to distinguish betwen the people and the company” or at least its highest management, I am sure many good-heartened people must work there and not everyone has been so thoroughly brainwashed as not to discern the corporation’s agenda from what is socially acceptable or desirable), I wish to concede you the benefit of the doubt, and hope time will prove I am wrong about my distrust: I really hope you can help the projects you are involved into to become successful as FREE (and consequently Open Source) SOFTWARE, and that they don’t end somehow being trapped into Microsoft or any other propietary software company orbit and legal traps. Since you are an (ex)insider from Microsoft I am sure you know better than I their strategy to “win” over Free Software, and with the right decissions you can help these promising projects escape corporate grab. Otherwise, with the wrong ones, much harm can be done to them. So let’s hope you take the right ones: If that is the case, I wish you good luck and you can count with all my support to promote those projects or any other effort I coan contribute to them with, so do consider my suggestion of GPLv3′ing ebox, it would make for a superb alternative to Microsoft servers, and as such, it deserves extra protection against the company’s threats. I will keep watching the developments of these projects and your involvement in them with the utmost interest.

    Now about O’reilly’s freedom zero let me quote here a most interesting article for the rest of BN readers to know:
    Source: http://www.linuxdevcenter.com/pub/a/linux/2001/08/15/free_software.html

    “Freedom is being able to make decisions that affect mainly you. Power is being able to make decisions that affect others more than you. If we confuse power with freedom, we will fail to uphold real freedom. That is what Tim O’Reilly did in his essay, My Definition of Freedom Zero. He advocated a “basic freedom” which is really a form of power.

    Tim O’Reilly says the most fundamental software freedom is: “The freedom to choose any license you want for software you write.” Unstated, but clearly implied, is that one person or corporation chooses the rules to impose on everyone else. In the world that O’Reilly proposes, a few make the basic software decisions for everyone. That is power, not freedom. He should call it “powerplay zero” in contrast with our “freedom zero”.

    We in the Free Software Movement want programmers to have freedom. Most of us are programmers, and we want freedom for ourselves as well as for you. But each of us uses software written by others, and we want freedom when using that software — not just when using our own code.

    In the Free Software Movement, we stand for freedom for all users, whether they program often, occasionally, or not at all. We look at what permits a good way of life, and at how useful programs can foster a community of goodwill, cooperation, and collaboration. Our criteria for free software specify the freedoms that a program must offer its users so that they can cooperate in a community.

    We in the Free Software Movement are not opposed to business. But we have seen what happens when a software business has the “freedom” to impose arbitrary rules on the users of software. Microsoft’s conduct illustrates where that power leads.

    O’Reilly says that Microsoft has put its past behind it. The courts did not think so. He also says that the problem with Microsoft wasn’t the proprietary software, just the monopoly. But a choice of masters is not freedom. Microsoft is an egregious example of how denying users’ freedoms can lead to direct harm, but it is not the only example, and monopolistic actions are not the only way proprietary software can harm society.

    Proprietary software is an exercise of power — it harms the users by denying their freedom. When users lack the freedoms that define free software, they can’t tell what the software is doing, can’t check for back doors, can’t monitor possible viruses and worms, and can’t find out what personal information is being reported (or stop the reports, even if they do find out). If it breaks, they can’t fix it; they have to wait for the developer to exercise its power to do so. If it simply isn’t quite what they need, they are stuck with it. They can’t help each other improve it.

    Discussions of rights and rules for software use have usually concentrated too much on the interests of programmers alone. Few people in the world program regularly, and fewer still are owners of proprietary software businesses. But the entire developed world now needs and uses software, so decisions about software determine what kind of world we have. Software developers now control the way the world lives, does business, communicates, and is entertained. The ethical and political issues cannot be avoided under the slogan of “freedom of choice (for developers only)”.

    If code is law, as Professor Lessig has stated, then the real question we face is: Who should control the code you use — you, or an elite few? We believe you are entitled to control the software you use, and giving you that control is the goal of free software.

    Current copyright law places us in the position of dictator for our code, whether we like it or not. We cannot escape making decisions for others, so our decision is to proclaim freedom for each user, just as the Bill of Rights exercises government power by guaranteeing each citizen’s freedoms. That is what the GNU GPL is for: It puts you in control of your usage of the software, while protecting you from “powerplay zero.” This is the ethical choice, in a situation where laws give us and others such power.

    Honest people can disagree. We believe, though, that with time, as more and more users realize that code is law, and come to feel that they too deserve freedom, they will see the importance of the freedoms we stand for — just as more and more users have come to appreciate the practical value of the free software we have developed.”

    Best regards: The Mad Black Helicopter Pilot.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Gravatar

    Stephen,

    I’ve just noticed that you blogged this:

    Brad Smith Keynotes the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC)
    http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2008/03/brad-smith-keyn.html

    See:
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/02/25/ms-open-source-business-conference/

    While I enjoy your writings, I believe there’s a fair bit of substance in what Mr. Black Helicopter Pilot says.

    Moments ago I posted this:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/03/12/trips-to-microsoft-speculation/

    It contains details about the pattern which raises concerns. Jim Zemlin I will write about later today. (re: http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/03/12/Linux-Foundation-Wed-love-to-work-with-Microsoft_1.html ). I also noticed that Al Gillen will speak at the Foundation’s meeting. They really get the whole Microsoft bunch in every Linux bash, do they not? If Microsoft is not physically present, then it’s present ‘by proxy’, looking to change people’s perception and project that mythical “Microsoft religion”.

  6. Black Heli at it again said,

    March 13, 2008 at 3:46 am

    Gravatar

    Dear Stephen: I see that you have a company: http://www.initmarketing.com/ and I see that Microsoft is your customer. I just read this:

    http://sandro.groganz.com/weblog/2008/02/14/marketing-microsofts-open-source-partner-program/

    So it seems your company’s mission is to be a “facilitator” for extending Microsoft corporate grab to the free and open source software world, transforming conceptually and from a pr-perspective Free Software projects into Just-Open-Source ISVs through marketing, making free softwaer palatable to traditional business mindsets (like Microsoft’s, but not limited to it) in order to keep feeding the Microsoft environment now that most proprietary commercial ISVs have been bought, made out of business or pissed-off by Microsoft.

    So I can only expect that you work for in the best interest of your customer, whose agenda is destroying the free software movement as clearly revealed by the wishful thinking of some of its executives (the original bankok post has been deleted for good even from the internet archive):

    ” While on tour in Southeast Asia recently, Microsoft Platform Strategy Director Bill Hilf sought to debunk some of the myths around Linux and the open-source movement. Hilf said that the goal of his tour was to provide “descriptive and intelligent” arguments that refute conventional wisdom about Linux and the-open source movement. Although Hilf clearly knows what he’s talking about, his controversial choice of words is sure to get him in hot water with open-source fanatics.

    “The Free Software movement is dead,” said Hilf in the “Bangkok Post.” “Linux doesn’t exist in 2007. Even [Linux creator] Linus [Torvalds] has a job today.”

    According to Hilf, the Linux phenomenon is really about Apache and related Web technologies, such as Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) and MySQL, and not about Linux itself. Developers who target those technologies are increasingly interested in Windows, which accounts for about 67 percent of the server market. “That’s the dirty little secret,” Hilf said. “When I talk to open source developers, at least half are talking about Windows, from SugarCRM, MySQL, PHP. Every single one.”

    And as for the notion that open-source solutions such as Linux are supported by a hidden army of programmers thanks to the availability of source code, Hilf said that, in reality, most active Linux development is coming from paid employees at companies that release Linux distributions. “They are full-time employees, with 401K stock options,” Hilf said. “Some work for IBM or Oracle. There is no free software movement. If someone says Linux is about love, peace, and harmony, I would tell them to do their research. There is no free software movement any more. There are big commercial companies like IBM and there are small commercial companies like Ubuntu.””

    It is striking that sandro just speaks about “pragmatists” and “where the money is”, he repeats once and again Open Source whereas he never says “Free(dom) Software” . Not very trustworthy intentions towards software freedom indeed…
    http://sandro.groganz.com/weblog/2008/01/03/winning-pragmatists-with-open-source-products/

    And by the way I don’t agree with you or any of the business-marketing-salespersons embracing the Open-but-not-free-source song lately about IP. IP is a bogus term. While I can respect software copyright, software patents are illegal outside the US and Japan (despite USPTO and WIPO efforts) and if you truly defend open development of software you can’t agree with the software patentability calamity being exported to other parts of the world.

    So, now if your customer is Microsoft, what is your role inside Bitrock and ebox-platform’s boards? what are you offering to your customer in relation with these projects? Don’t you feel there is a bit of conflict of interest between your obligation to satisfy your company eggregious customer’s requirement and your obligation towards what is best for the companies you occupy a chair in? I do.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 13, 2008 at 4:12 am

    Gravatar

    Don’t you feel there is a bit of conflict of interest between your obligation to satisfy your company eggregious customer’s requirement and your obligation towards what is best for the companies you occupy a chair in? I do.

    Whether it’s rhetorical or not, I’m surprised that Matt Asay and others cite Walli very frequently. But then again, they are also friends of Bill Hilf and they defend Microsoft’s keynote at *GASP* the Open Source Business Conference 2008.

    Nice covert ops you got there.

  8. Black Heli at it again said,

    March 13, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Gravatar

    Well, at least Matt’s company GPL licenced alfresco… is it v3 yet?
    Also some of the things he says are interesting as well:

    http://www.cnet.com/8301-13505_1-9892174-16.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=TheOpenRoad
    “Well, no, Bill. Such changes are largely irrelevant at this point. You’ve already lost the mindshare war, and tepid changes to Microsoft’s server licensing policies won’t change things, either. Your company’s limp olive branch to the open-source community (“You can use our software royalty-free and without fear of legal retribution…so long as you never make a penny from your efforts”) is worse than insulting.”

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 13, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Gravatar

    Well, at least Matt’s company GPL licenced alfresco… is it v3 yet?

    No, he has been tossing dirt at it for about a year, but I correspond with Matt sometimes I know he’s against Microsoft. I just can’t help but wonder what they tell him when they meet (the brainwash factor).

    Remember what happens to people after mysterious invitations to Redmond. It’s not some fable, but an actual pattern of compliance and dissent, Patrick Durusau being a very recent example. More listed here. I opine that Walli may be among those who do the ‘sweet talk’, but I am not entirely sure. He did in the past spread some subtle patent FUD (yes, I remember specific examples), but it’s better to have this discussion and resolve this in case we are both just pilots of a very large helicopter.

  10. Stephen Walli said,

    March 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy: Thanks for the commentary, and the courtesy of your name while you raise your concerns and ask your questions. I’ll try to respond to both yours and the Black Helicopter’s comments together.

    First, I live in the commercial world. It doesn’t mean I think it’s better than the political or the academic worlds. It’s just where I found I can better contribute. It’s where almost 30 years of experience with software lies, as a customer and vendor, and as a developer, business person and consultant.

    On being Covert: There’s nothing covert about what I do. I share my opinions and my experience on my blog, with clients, and with colleagues. I am consistent in those opinions, and have been my entire career. I am clear who employs me, and I think I’m clear on what’s my opinion versus my experience. The fact that Sandro and I even began the discussions on our blogs about conversations we could have with Microsoft /is/ the point. And to be factually clear, I am an associate of InitMarketing — it is not “my company”, and Microsoft is not yet a customer of InitMarketing.

    On Software Patents: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about software patents. I probably come down against them, but since I think software patents are mostly irrelevant to a software-based business, it has not yet proved to be a good use of my time to spend more on the subject. I reserve the right to change my opinion when I have better data. [That isn't an invitation to send me more data. Time is my issue. When it becomes necessary for me to spend the time, I'll go investigate the sources I trust.] And while we’re on the topic, go do Google patent search on my name. You’ll find a patent app with my name on it from four years ago from while I was employed at Microsoft, so I even have real experience in the futility in the system for businesses.

    On Microsoft: I keep all the discussions, both public and private, very simple: What has been contributed? No amount of rhetoric or publishing of licenses can make up for the contribution of code or clear useful patent covenants. Encouraging or paying others to contribute isn’t a contribution. I believe (and have consistently written) that they are missing an enormous opportunity to re-invigorate their Windows and Office franchises. I believe (and have consistently written) they are being beaten in business innovation by the likes of IBM, Sun, and others. I’ve been clear and consistent as an industry observer, consultant (including consultant to them), and employee in the kind of experimentation and engagement I would like to see Microsoft do.

    On Software Freedom: All free and open source software licenses depend upon strong copyright law, and the fact that the software has an owner and it is property. Free software is not the opposite of commercial and neither is it the opposite of proprietary. I can use free and open source licenses to enable people to do things with my property and the law upholds that right. If what you really want to have here is a debate about absolute software freedom versus all other forms of software licensing then I’m not really interested in the debate today. I will probably need to take BH’s offer at the end of his long comment, “Honest people can disagree ….”

    For my part in this discussion, I’m winding it down. Speculate if you must, and you find entertainment in it. Casting innuendo on me, my colleagues, and my friends is not a way to build your reputation with me, earn my trust, or keep me engaged. Doing it from a pseudonym even less so.

    pax

  11. Black Helicopter Pilot said,

    March 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Gravatar

    Ok, as my pseudonym states, it is just pure speculation, Stephen, please don’t take much offense at it. and if I offended you, I offer my apologies since it was not my intention, just I got a little uneasy at knowing you keep so closely linked with Microsoft which, as you know is not friend of freedom when applied to software. I’m only concerned about the future of the projects you are engaged with and how Microsoft well documented tactics can affect them if ever they go on its radar. Agree with most part of what you say in your last comment, and I fully recognize that strong copyright is the basis for protecting software freedom and opennes as intended by the FLOSS licence, whereas for the patent part, thankfully in Europe, we have not quite reached the sorry litigious situation you suffer in the U.S. as of yet, and we must keep working to avoid reaching it, and again agree that Microsoft is loosing a lot of oportunities and its own customer’s and the general public goodwill due to its shortsightedness. Best luck and sincerely hope you can help those projects in a positive manner.
    Again, take no offense since it was not my intention and have my best regards. I will also “wind up” in this conversation. Thanks for your interest in commenting and clarifying.

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 13, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Gravatar

    Stephen, I only wish to add that Microsoft’s strategy of making FOSS projects more Windows- and Microsoft-dependent are very well-documented, even with figures to show this. It is hardly a secret, but it’s rarely stated out in public.

    As such, I tend to believe that your role in these companies hardly favours GNU/Linux, let alone all 4 freedoms that herein we speak of.

    I shall continue reading your site with great interest, but your professional affiliations will remind me of your motives.

  13. Jose_X said,

    March 25, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Gravatar

    I am not writing off specific individuals, but look at what is going on. Microsoft is not a growth company. What it is is an anchor (think monopolies) that many will try to use to leverage and grow (in a few cases thinking Microsoft early 1980′s). Thus the whole MS ecosystem helps itself. Leverage the company they were willing to be a part of for many years (and even if they weren’t) to help themselves. Do you think many of them want the monopolies to be eliminated/wasted if instead they could be exploited? Certainly they don’t have an ethical thing against exploiting that power or, for many, helping a company that was ruthlessly trying to maintain the monopoly. And of course, there is always the hope that if MS turns up and up again (imagine MS in the place of Sony, IBM, TiVo, DirectTV and even in areas outside technical industries) that these people that helped it become a reality by spreading the MS gospel will be rewarded well (this is assuming they aren’t rewarded directly through stock options or stock). Execs at Microland likely realized a while ago that they were lacking support abroad and that this was a key impediment to growth.

    Look at it this way, there are many billionaires out there that don’t come from the MS clan. Why aren’t former Microsoft execs and employees replacing them they should ask themselves? Certainly there is room for the wealth concentration so what they have to do is replace those that are taking up those spots. Think of being a part of the “family.” There is strength in supporting each other and people that work at MS likely are very much into team things and of course into winning and control. Those other billionaires and titans of industry are generally working against each other a bit (certainly not as part of a cohesive team with a clear and focused team strategy). Why not have team Microsoft overtake as many as possible? Later on, they can fight each other, but that is in the future. Today they can rally behind each other instead of fighting each other, and that certainly if a preferable choice for someone in their shoes to make today. So the reward is actually much simpler than what was suggested in the prior paragraph. It is, you keep what you get. Replace TiVo and you become head of the MS TiVo.

    Many ambitious individuals hate to have customers that have control. They want to control end users. If they *think* leveraging Microsoft will facilitate that task for themselves, they will attempt it. Fight the mighty Microsoft or join them?

    Microsoft had no problem finding people willing to play dirty with OOXML. And they love to be able to get those that support other causes to support them since that adds credibility among the many that don’t know all the details of the particular issue (think NDA’s galore).

    So, I am sure many will try and find an angle they can use to turn their years aboard the mothership into something that sounds positive. “Hey, we’ll help you be like Microsoft and succeed.” Now doesn’t that sound attractive? How many want to be part of a large successful team they could not be a part of before, or to think they are using former team members of a bad company to beat the bad company to the punch, to the sale? How many really understand the math involved and think they are actually helping themselves?

    “If we only help assure that Windows/etc stays a monopoly, our road will be filled with goodies. But if we let the monopolies fall, we will lose our special position. Quick, before someone takes our place and bumps us out.”

    Microsoft, through their execs and employees and some partners, is a sales company. And they are a successful sales company. Making sales is a skill. The more skillful can sell you garbage and get you to come back for more. Where do you think these talented individuals (the cream of the crop) will end up? At the local supermarket or with Microsoft?

  14. Jose_X said,

    March 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Gravatar

    I should add that people can be part of a team without actually strategizing together. What matters is not whether they worked for Microsoft but how do they view end users and are they taking actions that support the monopolies?

    Smart business owners and other consumers should realize that they can vote for more Microsoft entrenchment (meaning less control, fewer choices, less privacy, less ability to challenge them in the future, less potential growth themselves, a greater likelihood of being manipulated and exploited in a greater number of areas, etc) or for breaking the monopolies and maintaining control themselves and out of the hands of Microsoft (and of companies dealing closely with Microsoft).

    You’d think sometimes by looking at Microsoft’s behavior that there weren’t more interesting, enjoyable, and “worth living” things to do in life than exploiting others for money.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 25, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Gravatar

    I’m not too sure what to make of this anymore, but yesterday afternoon I saw Todd Bishop writing about Walli sort of taking questions for the opening session with Brad Smith (OSBC). I still think of this as the function of a bridge.

  16. Karen Crickmore said,

    April 8, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Gravatar

    Novell is the best operating System in the world

    *sings* squidward is my best friend in the world
    squidward..

  17. Karen Crickmore said,

    April 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Gravatar

    a

  18. Karen Crickmore said,

    April 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Gravatar

    b

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