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11.12.09

The ‘Microsoft of Europe’ Instructs Oracle on Free Software

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Java, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, SLES/SLED, SUN at 6:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SAP logo for Microsoft business partner

Summary: Microsoft’s business partner and ally SAP lobbies against Oracle and then issues demands for Java, pretending to be a friend of the very same thing it is attacking

Microsoft and SAP have reasons to celebrate this week because their lobbying against Oracle and Sun [1, 2] has apparently paid off. Java would most likely suffer as a result and Microsoft’s partner in lobbying against Free software, against open standards, and for software patents [1, 2] is now hypocritically pressuring for Java to be liberated. As a reminder, SAP and Microsoft almost merged and the only GNU/Linux SAP seems to be touching these days is tainted by Microsoft tax, thanks to Novell.

Glyn Moody has written this response to SAP’s shameless request, which shows quite a nerve given that it’s coming from one of the most vehemently anti-Free software companies out there (the comments from Shai Agassi, for example, are almost impossible to forget).

The real reason SAP’s call is hypocritical is this document [.pdf], essentially a love-letter to software patents, submitted as an amicus curiae brief to the European Patent Office. Software patents are simply incompatible with free software, because they are government-granted monopolies designed to *stop* people sharing stuff. They also prevent hackers from writing new code because they represent an ever-present digital sword of Damocles hanging over them.

SAP simply cannot claim to be a true friend of openness while it also supports software patents in any jurisdiction, in any form – the same applies to other companies, too, I should note. They can share as much code as they like, but until they repudiate software patents – for example, by placing their patent portfolios in the public domain – that’s little more than window-dressing.

Moody has seen the leaked documents which reveal SAP lobbying for software patents, against standards, and against Free software in procurement. SAP is also working with Novell so that it can please Microsoft and pay ‘patent tax’ on GNU/Linux (unprecedented in many cases). Here is another analysis of what truly goes on in SAP’s mind.

SAP has been trying to get the influential SAP Mentor group onside with open source. That’s probably one of the easiest tasks it has. Geeks love open source and care little for commercial issues. And the Mentors are extremely good geek advocates for what SAP does. Marketing wise it’s an internal SAP community slam dunk for SAP. But…SAP has also made clear that IT doesn’t believe open source means ‘free.’ Mentors may not be concerned about that from a development viewpoint but I’m pretty darned sure they’d get antsy if the license bills came at deployment time.

As an aside, I have practical experience of running the SAP IP gauntlet. If SAP is truly committed to open source then this will relieve a lot of the pressure on developer groups. However, that’s not a certainty.

For the betterment of Free software, companies like SAP should really embrace Free software or simply cease to exist. Another proprietary software company that causes great trouble (although it opposes software patents) is Adobe, which has just laid off 10% of its staff.

The software firm, best known for Photoshop, Flash and Acrobat, said the cuts were necessary to cut costs.

We wrote about the problem with Adobe just a few weeks ago.

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