05.15.08

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Microsoft’s Quiet War Against GNU/Linux on Motherboards

Posted in Antitrust, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Open XML at 9:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Predatory EULA on chip

One exciting recent bit of news is all about Asustek extending the reach of Splashtop and putting it on pretty much every motherboard. This means that tens of millions of PCs are expected to have Linux installed down at the core, essentially (yet arguably) running it as the ‘default’ operating system.

As rudimentary as Splashtop may be at the moment, this could be the start of something greater that will be extended and improved over time. Splashtop also had its kernel patches released to the public (according to Phoronix), so other hardware makers are likely to follow suit. Phoenix has already found itself on a similar boat and Phoenix’ ubiquity is nothing to sneeze at.

In yesterday’s news, The Inquirer made the following important observation:

Asus to ship all motherboards with Linux

[...]

And, for many casual computer users who make use of web-based applications exclusively, Splashtop Linux might be all the operating system they ever need.

This becomes truer as time goes by. An increasing number of applications become Web-based. Not everyone would use them, but some might. Some will.

Splashtop receives a lot of publicity at the moment, but it’s arguably small potatoes compared to Phoenix HyperSpace, which was described here:

Phoenix Technologies’ new HyperSpace is an instant-on environment for laptops, letting users launch a browser or other apps with booting into the OS.

Today, Phoenix Technologies introduced a firmware product called HyperSpace, which allows PCs to run a number of applications separate from the operating system. What that means is that if you use a PC equipped with HyperSpace, you will be able to quick-boot your notebook into a secure Linux environment, where you can use Web browsers like FireFox and pre-loaded Web-aware apps like Google Earth, Picasa, and the like.

[...]

Also, since HyperSpace is a Linux-based platform, Windows viruses won’t affect it.

As Beta News put it at the time, “New Phoenix BIOS will run Linux apps when Windows fails.”

The basic concept is that an embedded Linux OS will accompany the core system firmware or BIOS, allowing instant-on applications to be run from it at any time.

Even Dell expressed some optimism and showed its enthusiasm about such disruptive technologies at the time, but let’s quickly look at Microsoft’s apparent reaction.

BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies Ltd.’s plans to market a new application platform the company claims will solve a number of problems endemic to Microsoft’s Windows platform might be taken as a provocative gesture at their longtime partner. But Redmond’s immediate reaction was nonchalant.

On Monday, the Milpitas, Calif. software maker announced Hyperspace, a Linux-based virtualization platform that will let OEMs bundle cut-down versions of popular open-source software that end users will be able to access instantly, even without booting Windows.

Based on such report you would think that Microsoft does not care, wouldn’t you? However, this new article brings back memories:

Splashtop is not the only such product on the market. A year ago, BIOS vendor Phoenix Technology launched HyperSpace, an equivalent that has yet to turn up on PCs in any numbers. Microsoft’s view on the movement to embed cut-down operating systems is not known, but Phoenix did launch a pre-emptive strike against it to stop it blocking HyperSpace using restrictive Vista end-user license agreements (EULAs). Microsoft relented.

An antitrust complaint from Phoenix Technology, an eternal Microsoft partner (or so it thought) forced the monopoly to fix the anti-competitive EULA of Windows Vista. Microsoft tried to characterise this change as goodwill and a nice gesture, essentially changing the story which was originally told and claiming credit (even glory) for being abusive. The press underplayed this fiasco, but Mary Jo Foley was rather disgusted.

But the real reason for Microsoft’s capitulation became clear on March 7 via a new joint-status report in the Microsoft-Department of Justice case. It turns out BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies (a long-time Microsoft partner) filed a complaint with antitrust regulators about Microsoft’s virtualization restrictions.

Microsoft has tried to manipulate the virtualisation market in a variety of ways [1, 2, 3] because it had fallen so far behind. Microsoft insulted many people’s intelligence when it claimed that a EULA could or could not define the level of security of the O/S, limited by editions of Windows, i.e. featureset being b/locked.

This wasn’t the first time that Microsoft lied or twisted excuses about ‘security’ in order to be anti-competitive. Recall the OOXML/file types incident for example.

Speaking of which, OOXML is still a secret as Microsoft continues to disobey rules. Charles complaint about this only a couple of days ago and now he’s now joined by Bob Sutor, not just Rob Weir, among others.

Will it [OOXML] ever be available? Does anyone care? Do any rules apply to this at all? What are the excuses for this? Just like almost ever other aspect of this particular process, dangerous exceptions and precedents are being set.

To sum up, here we have another case study exemplifying total disregard, market abuse, distortion of stories and a strategic fight against Linux, which escapes the media’s attention.

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22 Comments

  1. whatever said,

    May 16, 2008 at 12:26 am

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    What a bullshit story. There’s nothing here saying anything about microsoft do anything anti-linux. Fuck off, loser

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 16, 2008 at 12:49 am

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    http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-276429.html

    Maybe this just wasn’t stressed clearly enough or maybe it’s a case of deficient reading comprehension skills. Either way, this was reversed only after pressure.

  3. Alex H. said,

    May 16, 2008 at 7:16 am

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    Just out of interest, why is it supposedly up to Microsoft to publish the final OOXML text?

  4. Victor Soliz said,

    May 16, 2008 at 7:33 am

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    It should be up to someone.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 16, 2008 at 7:45 am

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    It should be up to someone.

    Microsoft proxies or parties that it hires (ECMA has Microsoft as a customer for example).

    Microsoft has spent a lot of money trying to buy this standard. Can it not afford to bribe a little more to make the process quicker? Oh, well… I guess hurrying up _at this stage_ isn’t actually serving its needs. Now it can just urinate on all the formalities.

    And that’s just why everyone loves Microsoft. :-)

  6. Nikolas Koswinkle said,

    May 16, 2008 at 8:09 am

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    Slander-mouth.

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a possible incarnation of a known (eet), pseudonymous, forever-nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  7. AlexH said,

    May 16, 2008 at 8:33 am

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    @Victor: obviously, it’s up to _someone_ – my point is, it’s not up to Microsoft.

    The output of the BRM is instructions to the editor on how to change the text. The editor puts the final text today, and JTC1 is supposed to distribute it.

    It seems a little bit churlish to blame Microsoft for that, unless anyone has evidence that they’re holding the process up?

    It’s not really in their interest to hold it up whichever side you butter your toast.

  8. Alex G said,

    May 16, 2008 at 12:03 pm

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    Poor Microsoft. They should have known Phoenix will come up with this BIOS, when they were writing the EULA. Shame on them for not owning the crystal ball. And shame on them for yeilding to Phoenix pressure. If they didn’t, it would have made much better blog article.

  9. Maarten said,

    May 16, 2008 at 3:35 pm

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    Don’t bother Microsoft. More and more evidence is coming in that Linux cannot be stopped and is breaking through on many different devices…..

  10. Don said,

    May 16, 2008 at 3:48 pm

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    @whatever:

    You seem to be unable to read or understand English. Try carefully reading this story again. There are people here who can help you to understand some of the big words, and also help you to learn how to expand your vocabulary to include more than four-letter words. If you are in fact a kindergarten student, please disregard this comment and enjoy your nap-time this afternoon. Have fun playing your Windows games!

  11. nix said,

    May 16, 2008 at 3:53 pm

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    to the fuck off guy you sound like a microslop loser to me YOU FUCK OFF !!!!!!! JUST SAY NO TO MICROSLOP !!!!!!!!!

  12. Jose_X said,

    May 16, 2008 at 4:08 pm

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    >> It seems a little bit churlish to blame Microsoft for that, unless anyone has evidence that they’re holding the process up?

    UhOhXML is dog poo. He said ..She said.. The standard is full of problems. There will be no interoperability. Monopolysoft poo-poo’d all over the place, and people will never regard it as anything but another gross example of Monopolysoft lack of ethics (I know, “ethics” is a word that doesn’t exist in some people’s mind when it comes to $$$). Well, actually, it won’t be like just any other such example. Monopolysoft went too far this time.

    What’s this I hear? Another drop falling into the Monopolysoft expense bucket? Why yes, yes it is. http://www.digistan.org/hague-declaration Just a few more days left to sign up.

  13. Penguin Pete said,

    May 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm

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    Just wanted to drop by and say “thanks for keeping us informed.” I learn about all kinds of behind-the-scenes activity on this site, which I am glad to see is branching out to “the big picture” beyond merely focusing on one distro (inexcusable as their partnership with MS might be).

    Keep up the good work, and never mind the asstroturfers! Many of us are counting on you!

  14. rob enderle said,

    May 16, 2008 at 8:06 pm

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    I just found about this right now.
    Asus will be shipping millions of these motherboards every month?
    Yeah, Id say Microsoft has to worry. A browser and IM client like Skype is what people use the majority of the time, so I can see this really taking the web based OS in a direction Microsoft doesnt want it to go.

    This would have been ideal for my mom but she’s running an EEE with Linux Mint now.

  15. zack said,

    May 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm

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    it looks like microsoft is going to win the race…

    http://www.finedigg.com/computer/

  16. nerdd.net | news and opinion said,

    May 17, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Microsofts Quiet War Against GNU/Linux on Motherboards | nerdd.net…

    \r\nTo sum up, here we have another case study exemplifying total disregard, market abuse, distortio…

  17. LinuxIsFun said,

    May 17, 2008 at 6:54 am

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    And novell is helping MS fight GNU ???

  18. T Patterson said,

    May 17, 2008 at 3:29 pm

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    Today on ZDNet there is a comment to Dana Blankenhorn story posted by Brian Goldfarb of Microsoft directly implying the Mono specifically infringes MS patents. He posts under the alias bgoldy.

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=2445

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 17, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Gravatar

    Thanks for that. I’ve also just found:

    “See? You can have most of .Net … but you can’t write a GUI because Windows Forms is held back. If you try to port Windows forms to another platform, so that a program originally written in .Net using Windows forms can be easily ported to that other platform … Microsoft would certainly sue.

    Absolutely classic Microsoft behaviour, that.

    For Silverlight … the piece of that that Microsoft have held back for themselves exclusively is the content creation part.

    You can only create Silverlight content on a Windows platform. “

    http://www.osnews.com/comments/19745

  20. Victor Soliz said,

    May 17, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Gravatar

    It seems a little bit churlish to blame Microsoft for that, unless anyone has evidence that they’re holding the process up?

    It is their fault anyway, isn’t it? We wouldn’t be having this ghost standard if they didn’t push it…

    implying the Mono specifically infringes MS patents

    Well, of course mono infringes MS patents, whether intentionally or not. It is meant as a project to replicate MS’ code instead of innovate, nevertheless MS probably has made its patent ambiguous enough so that any implementation of .net infringes patents.

    But let’s stop talking about software patents here, they are after all mythical everywhere, and if MS began trying toget Linux users to pay them, I would still use Linux and not pay them.

    The real problem, and that’s were your link is soo right is the whole “follow the leather” philosophy that has plagued Novell and is clear in Miguel Icaza’s blog. For some reason they are pushing so hard for Linux to become an imitator of MS technologies, instead of making actual innovation, whether intentionally or not, this will render Linux a second class citizen.

  21. Victor Soliz said,

    May 17, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Gravatar

    man, that’s messed up , I intended to say, “mythical everywhere but in few countries”

  22. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 17, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Gravatar

    From what I could gather in my readings yesterday, Novell wouldn’t hesitate to adopt WPF for the GNOME desktop. Let’s wait and see. All I know is that Microsoft calls many shots at Novell these days.

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