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10.29.08

Use of False Promises to Attract Free Software Developers

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 6:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought.”

George Orwell

Further to a couple of previous posts about MicroFOSS [1, 2], it seemed important to provide evidence of Microsoft’s plan to imprison FOSS developers inside its proprietary stack, whose direction and cost it always controls. Over the past decade (or more), Microsoft has exploited control of its stack to discriminate against hospitable rivals like Netscape. FOSS developers who refuse to recognise this are doing so at their own peril.

According to Linux Magazine, Microsoft is so serious about pulling FOSS developers away from GNU/Linux that it now dedicates a whole technology centre to the task. It’s located in Europe.

Microsoft Corporation has opened an Open Source Interop Technology Center near Munich, Germany that should promote open source software on Windows and improve the relationship of its products with the free software community.

There is some more information about this general theme with focus on content management systems.

Surprisingly, Microsoft is aiding administrators with installing popular open source software packages — including WordPress, Drupal, DotNetNuke, phpBB and Graffiti CMS.

This is not a victory for FOSS projects. It’s merely part of a strategy that Microsoft unveiled (or let leak) a year ago. Alastair at Tectonic has surprisingly, once again, helped promote this notion that Microsoft wants open source developers… merely to enrich lock-in like Silverlight (XAML) and cloud computing.

Microsoft has announced its cloud computing initiative and it’s called Azure. The company also says that Azure will include support for open source web development tools.

Open development tools for proprietary clouds? Spin, spin, spin. They tried the same thing with Silverlight [1, 2]. They cast this as something that’s open source-oriented when it fact it is very much the opposite because it strives to replace or destroy open and free alternatives. It wrecks a commodity.

Compatibility with Microsoft’s #1 rival is another important factor. Yes, GNU/Linux is #1 rival, according to a recent admission from Microsoft’s CEO, who complements the spin with lies that are repeated over and over again.

“There’s a lot of Linux out there — much more than Microsoft generally signals publicly — and their customers are using it…”

Paul DeGroot, a Directions On Microsoft analyst

It was roughly 6 months ago that Microsoft’s intent to leave GNU/Linux out of its cloud became visible. Robert Scoble, formerly of Microsoft, pointed this out.

There is another certain item that stood out in yesterday’s open source news. It’s about Blackboard [1, 2, 3], a Microsoft-funded patent-loving attacker, which is facing a battle against attractive Free software competitors like Moodle and Sakai. Blackboard seems to be trying to embrace and envelope these competitors, making them part of itself. From a new press release:

Blackboard Inc., a leading provider of educational enterprise technology, announced today that it has partnered with Iowa State University to develop software that will allow institutions to connect their Blackboard(R) learning environment with the open source Moodle course management system.

In July, Blackboard announced a similar partnership with Syracuse University to develop an integration for the open source Sakai course management system. Both efforts — which will be made available at no cost to institutions in the Blackboard community — are part of Project NG, Blackboard’s multi-year, multi-release effort to deliver a next generation teaching and learning

Are they trying to lump FOSS in just so that it becomes part of a Blackboard ‘prerequisite’? Like Microsoft wants to put GNU/Linux applications on top of Windows to leave Linux dried up? Here is another new article about it.

While open source advocates tend to view Blackboard’s for-profit, license-based model with disdain, the company has responded with a public commitment to embrace free sharing of code when possible. Its first effort to that end, earlier this year, was a partnership with Syracuse University to develop a free software plug-in that would bridge the divide between the Blackboard interface and data from Sakai, one of the main open-source course management packages.

Today, at the annual conference of Educause, the higher education information technology group, Blackboard is announcing a similar project to integrate with Moodle, the other primary open source alternative. Although it was previously known that Moodle would be next, the announcement revealed that Iowa State University would develop the plug-in with support from Blackboard.

As noted in the news several hours ago, Blackboard is dropping in terms of market share, much like Microsoft still loses to Apache (in the month of October).

Meanwhile, although enterprise, license-based learning management platforms continue to dominate the higher education landscape (56.8 percent use Blackboard, down from 66.3 percent last year), the potential for increasing open source adoption remains.

I ought to admit that I am not intimately familiar with the diplomatic affairs of educational software, so maybe this is all benign. It does, however, resemble Microsoft’s attempts to devour Free sofwtare projects.

“Forty percent of servers run Windows, 60 percent run Linux…”

Steve Ballmer (September 2008)

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