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04.01.08

Hewlett-Packard Does Microsoft’s Dirty Job Again, Lobbies for the Monopoly

Posted in Antitrust, Deals, Debian, Europe, Finance, GNU/Linux, Hardware, HP, IBM, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Standard, SUN at 8:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

H-P is on whose side again?

An old familiar story and somewhat of a deja vu. That’s how you can describe the latest post from Groklaw, which brings a translation.

The France Shift From No to Abstain — HP helped Microsoft France do it

Here’s the scoop from Les Echos.fr on France’s sudden change from its No vote to Abstain. Microsoft France’s President Eric Boustouller sent AFNOR a letter [PDF] in French, of course. He tells a tale about OOXML and ODF progressing side by side and how if OOXML is approved, a group will be working hard to make the two more interoperable. Attached was a an HP statement of support for OOXML. HP sings the same song. And AFNOR?

[...]

Could it be any more cynical? So, now we know that HP is not supportive of Linux and FOSS as we thought. Knock me over with a feather. So, they got them to change on the basis of promises for the future. I’m sure there’s more to the story, of course.

Let’s just take a short history lesson based on the past year’s news. We really ought to get the facts straight.

Collusion

To gain insight into the tight integration between Microsoft and large OEMs like H-P, see this post about collusions. Many of the findings came to light in the courts last month, amidst a class actions lawsuit brought against Microsoft. Of particular interest is the following story:

E-mail: Microsoft ‘botched’ dealings with Intel, HP

Internal Microsoft e-mails revealed through a federal class-action lawsuit arising from the troubled launch last year of the Windows Vista operating system have provided a provocative inside look at the software giant’s machinations with Intel, HP and Dell.

The e-mails include an exchange in which one senior Microsoft executive described dealings with computer makers as “really botched.” Another manager complained Microsoft was “caving to Intel” and “really burning HP.”

The e-mails are included in 145 pages of documents unsealed by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle late Wednesday. They include internal reports and some handwritten notes that offer a rare look inside at the famed “Wintel” partnership, and touch upon the alliance’s dealings with Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other computer makers.

H-P and Microsoft: The Formal Business Alliance

It was only about a year ago that Microsoft and H-P made a huge fuss in the media about their collaborative charade, which at the time made you wonder if H-P had actually become Microsoft’s semi-formal hardware department (kickbacks quite likely). Like insecure children, Dell and H-P (even AMD and Intel) compete for “favourite” status to be gained from Microsoft, whose margins are much greater (albeit seemingly decreasing) and have tremendous impact on the OEMs (or chip makers, respectively). The same goes for Linux companies, which is why Novell and 3 others have selfishly defected. Anyway, here is one article about H-P and Microsoft from around that time:

A new deal announced Wednesday calls for, among other things, more HP workers to be trained to sell Microsoft products.

H-P in France: Unbundling Controversy

There are several memorable articles from times of backlash against preinstallation of Windows. France was the nation in focus and the following article speaks about H-P specifically.

The consumer protectionists of the French organization UFC-Que Choisir are demanding of the IT group Hewlett-Packard and the vendors Auchan and Darty that they offer PCs without preinstalled software.

[...]

UFC-Que Choisir last year also took action against Sony and Apple, taking the two companies to court for allegedly putting their customers at a disadvantage through proprietary DRM technologies and curtailing their choice of devices.

H-P Helps Microsoft in Antitrust Case

Our Comes vs. Microsoft archive is far from complete, but there is a lot of truth therein, plenty of which was buried at one point or another. Some of Microsoft’s dirty tricks are kept safe (“safe” from Microsoft’s point-of-view) thanks to H-P’s service of dishonesty. Details in the following article.

In my last post here I revealed that a former Microsoft contract worker had come to me some time ago to reveal details about the possible destruction of evidence in the Burst.com v. Microsoft case– destruction of evidence that I expected to be a factor in the recently settled Comes (People of Iowa) v. Microsoft case.

[...]

So the outside vendor was Hewlett-Packard, one of Microsoft’s hardware OEMs, which is to say Microsoft’s bitch.

The tape disappearance was blamed on HP, which accepted the blame, and the employees directly involved kept expecting there to be repurcussions, especially legal ones. They expected to be deposed by Burst lawyers. But it never happened.

This was, for Microsoft, a perfect ending. The damning tapes were lost in a way that could be blamed on a contractor — a contractor over which Microsoft had great power — power greater than just a services contract. The contractor “accepted” responsibility though there was no real evidence they had done anything wrong. It could just as easily have been a Microsoft employee who destroyed the tapes.

And Then There’s the “Good H-P”

Hewlett-Packard is caught in a dilemma. If it swaps over to Linux the ‘cold turkey’ way, then it can have its business imbalanced and troubled virtually overnight. So gradually, to H-P’s credit, it attempts to make some changes. Just a day ago we saw H-P announcing more product support for GNU/Linux.

The remaining item in the HP announcement is new Linux capability for mid-market server and cluster environments in the HP Inside Control Environment for Linux (ICE-Linux) management tool.

Going a few days further into last week, you’ll find a good review of their new Linux-based home server.

In the end, this product isn’t just another NAS, but a bold statement that HP is making, that it doesn’t have to be saddled by the rough riders of Redmond when it can build (license?) its own practically identical box at a lower cost. Now I know that there are some things that you can only do with a PC-like server running a full OS, but honestly, what are they? I mean, do most people, even die-hard server-needers, give a crap? I want to know from you folks: Why bother with Windows Home Server when the Linux-based alternatives are on the surface equally friendly, equally powerful and—oh yeah—half the cost?

We wrote about so-called 'home servers' last month in order to show the advantages of GNU/Linux in this domain.

H-P is also said to be working on low-cost laptops which come with the option of Linux preinstalled. Articles include this early one from The Register and here are a couple more:

1. HP preps sexy new ‘Eee PC killer’

Now HP is coming to the party, and it’s dressed to steal all the attention away from Asus. There’s no doubt that the Compaq 2133 (which distinctly needs a catchy consumer-friendly brand name rather than Yet Another Model Number) will be aimed at a more professional slice of the consumer and perhaps even business market when it lands in the US sometime in April.

[...]

Which will it be? This is where things get interesting, because HP’s advance spec sheet notes the Compaq 2133 will be offered with a choice of Windows Vista and Linux. There’s no word on which flavour of the Penguin OS gets the gong, but on its business PC line HP already supports Asianux, Debian, Mandriva, Novell SUSE and Red Hat.

2. HP’s new OmniBook?

Of course, the Compaq 2133 will be 15 years better than the OmniBook, with USB support, Wi-Fi, built-in webcam and other goodies. Sadly, the OS probably won’t execute in ROM and the mouse probably won’t pop out. Sadder still is that the Compaq 2133 is rumored to come with either Windows Vista or Linux, not Windows XP. Windows Vista is only slightly better than the OmniBook’s Windows 3.1. Hopefully HP will offer a good flavor of Linux.

Other articles from the past year which speak about H-P and Linux:

1. The Penguin comes in from the cold

In fact, three months ago, Hewlett-Packard and Red Hat launched a pre-installed Linux desktop, the HP Compaq dx2250, in Australia.

Aimed at small to medium businesses, the dx2250 comes pre-loaded with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 desktop operating system.

The desktop comes in myriad forms including AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core, AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Sempron processors, and prices start at $600.

The machine is sold through HP’s reseller network and Red Hat offers technical support.

2. HP To Expand Effort On Linux PCs

Hewlett-Packard, the world’s Number 1 PC maker, will try selling pre-loaded Linux on PCs in several countries as it expands a test program — evaluating a market that some competitors have already entered — as it moves its personal computer business into a new generation of form factors and functionality.

3. HP offers peek at next-gen gadgets

HP has unveiled some of the gadgets it is working on in its worldwide laboratories.

[...]

The e-book attracted most interest from delegates at the HP Mobility Summit in Shanghai. It uses touch sensitive strips on the base of the rectangular unit to select books and turn pages, runs a Linux OS and has a USB port to install new titles.

4. Q&A: HP exec says Linux Foundation wants to push OS toward common ground

You didn’t hear much about it in North America, but over the last six months or so, I’m personally hearing a lot more interest in Linux on the desktop. It’s definitely a focus for the foundation. I think it’s an area that is kind of a “watch this space” for the next couple [of] years.

5. Orbiting Debian: Interview with Bdale Garbee

It’s a really exciting time to be in this industry. With the kinds of phenomenal growth rates we’re seeing, Linux and the whole of open source is one of the brighter stars in the IT sky right now.

6. Big Debian Linux Payday For HP

In fiscal 2006, $25 million in hardware sales in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) were directly related to HP’s Debian support.

“I was pretty shocked when I found out about this,” Jeffrey Wade, worldwide marketing manager of open source and Linux at HP, told internetnews.com.

To conclude, H-P should be ashamed of itself for politically helping Microsoft get this mess called OOXML approved as a standard. On the other hand, while H-P may be inherently selfish like many other companies, its efforts on Linux are commendable and we should encourage rather than just scold. Remember that H-P competes against IBM and Sun Microsystems, who have a lot to lose from OOXML. When it comes to those large companies, there are many agendas to weigh (some of which are conflicting). It’s a shame that H-P fights for its wallet yet again, rather than for justice, for science, for development, for fair competition.

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