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Dark Day for HP: Microsoft Ally Becomes Its New CEO

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, HP, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 9:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Open source is great for debugging, but it’s crucial not to touch [the code...] Intellectual property [IP] socialism is the worst that can happen to any IP-based society. And we are an IP-based society. If there is no way to protect IP, there is no reason to invest in IP.”

Shai Agassi, SAP president

Summary: A SAP CEO becomes the CEO of HP after HP began to explore Linux very seriously, just like Nokia had its CEO canned to give way to a Microsoft President after it had moved aggressively and strongly in MeeGo’s (Linux/LSB) direction

WHAT WE dreaded the most is becoming a reality. One of the biggest OEMs in the world — just like the world’s biggest mobile phones manufacturer — seems to have become somewhat of a victim of Microsoft entryism and assimilation after supporting Linux ‘too much’. The CEOs got thrown out under mysterious circumstances. The subject was discussed in IRC a few hours ago, but here is just a preliminary summary (more information to come later).

For those who know not so much about Hurd’s departure, it turns out not to have been caused by sexual harassment at all [1, 2, 3, 4] (and it’s not surprising that Oracle immediately hired him after he had been ousted). The CEO who replaces him will be far less sympathetic towards Linux at HP because it is a SAP CEO, Leo Apotheker:

Today was the day eh? HP has chose Leo Apotheker as CEO and President. Who is Leo? Well, for the last 20 years he has been the CEO of a tiny little company called SAP.

HP has already hired some top guns from Microsoft, even a ~20-year veteran who became a Vice President at HP earlier this year. Microsoft must not have liked seeing Hurd drop Vista 7 like a rock Slate, putting instead on his tablets a nice touch of Linux, which performed a lot better (Vista 7 on the Slate is a subject of ridicule at the moment). When Hurd got canned Microsoft seemed to have managed to reverse Hurd’s judgment. And who exactly is this new CEO? It’s the top man from SAP (see our Wiki page about SAP). Microsoft wanted to buy SAP some years ago because it’s Microsoft’s #1 ally in Europe, perhaps if only large companies are accounted for. SAP is also the major party among the few lobbyists for software patents in Europe. As for its relationship with Microsoft at present, they recently signed yet another partnership (right after lobbying together against SUN), building upon other relationships that they had (there are many past deals between this pair). They are close to Novell because Microsoft-taxed SUSE is the main GNU/Linux distribution SAP would dare to touch these days (it was solidified last week). It’s all rather telling and there is a lot more ugly stuff about SAP (see the Wiki and today’s IRC logs).

“Imagine what they can do with their own as well as acquired IP, including Palm. WebOS will pay the MS. tax?”
To quote Ziomatrix about SAP: “They seem like MS’s minime concerning European lobbying. What’s their market cap? [...] Hurd was no saint but who knows what this CEO may unleash onto HP. He could be their Nero. [...] either that or HP will gain abundant market share by becoming a key patent hoarder. Imagine what they can do with their own as well as acquired IP, including Palm. WebOS will pay the MS. tax? [...] you think Nokia’s fate is as much sealed?”

Well, that’s the thing though, there are similarities there too. Nokia was assimilated to Microsoft right after it had moved a little ‘too close’ to Linux (MeeGo) and declared its intent to put Linux on the future crown jewel handsets (N series phones). In Nokia too the CEO got ousted, as if putting a Microsoft President instead of him and then exploring Vista Phone 7 [sic] would provide a lifeline somehow. For background see:

Getting back to HP, Hurd was canned (some would say “framed”) not so long after Microsoft had identified HP as a “risk” and its executives said this to their investors; HP was labelled a threat specifically for ‘daring’ to support GNU/Linux on sun-notebooks/netbooks (see the SEC filing for MSFT) and so was Intel, which built Moblin at the time (now it’s merged with Nokia’s Maemo and Microsoft has influence inside Nokia, the more dominant steward of MeeGo).

“Microsoft’s Elop does not even come from a mobile background, he comes from the Microsoft Movement and Steve Ballmer’s announcement of Elop’s departure seemed so optimistic that it aroused suspicion of it being arranged.”What are we trying to suggest here? In order to counter Android/Linux Microsoft seems to be invading companies which very much promote Linux and develop for Linux. In some cases, Microsoft signs Linux-hostile patent deals with those companies (e.g. HTC, Samsung, and LG), so Microsoft seems to have achieved a lot with this distasteful strategy. Just days ago it seemed like HP put Vista 7 on the HP Slate, even though Hurd had decided to call off this project (or focus a lot more on the Linux-based WebOS, which he bought along with Palm, expending billions). And then there’s the recent news about Vista Phone 7 on Nokia phones. Seriously, how much more evidence does one need to say that the Microsoft Movement is dealing some tricks? Companies don’t just reverse their strategies and return to old, discarded strategies overnight. Management can change in all sorts of ways and just as cats can be shaved in all sorts of ways, CEOs too can be disgraced and canned in many different ways. There was no reason for Nokia, for example (a longtime Microsoft sceptic/foe) to appoint a Microsoft President to become CEO. Microsoft’s mobile business is an utter disgrace and sheer failure, despite huge spendings on it. Microsoft’s Elop does not even come from a mobile background, he comes from the Microsoft Movement and Steve Ballmer’s announcement of Elop’s departure seemed so optimistic that it aroused suspicion of it being arranged.

The following timely links from Pogson may help explain why Microsoft had to prevent HP and Nokia/Intel (MeeGo) from releasing Linux-based products. Published today:

  • Tablets vs Netbooks

    The OEMs are seeing that that other OS is holding them back. They can make more money by cutting prices and selling machines without that other OS but with no OS or GNU/Linux.

  • Taiwan market: Vendors cutting older netbook models to below NT$10,000
  • China white-box tablet PC rush may fail like netbooks; white-box makers disagree

    White-box players also believe that even though they have inferior quality over hardware and software, with the addition of GPS, WiDi, micro projector and e-book reading capabilities, as well as a price point of half the mainstream tablet PC’s price, their products can still attract consumers from emerging markets such as China, India and the Middle-East.

  • Netbooks will not die, says Acer Taiwan president

    As for Intel’s new Atom N550 processor, based on Acer’s internal testing, the new processor performs 50% faster than the previous generation model, but the price is at about the same range. Since new netbooks are priced at US$300-400, about the same as previous models, while having better performance, Lin believes the price/performance ratio should help attract consumers.

  • Volume shipments of tablet PCs to not start until 2011, says CPT executive

    While a number of IT companies and handset vendors have unveiled tablet PC products, volume shipments are unlikely to hit the market until 2011 as most of the newly developed tablet PC products are still in sampling or small volume production, as well as low yields in lamination of medium-size touch panels, according to Lin Sheng-chang, president of Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT).

  • Netbooks are Doing Well

Microsoft is left out of these market segments.

Another question worth asking is, what will happen to HP’s role in GNOME (Stormy Peters et al.) and Free software? Why would a SAP guy be committed to it? SAP hates GNU/Linux (not Ballnux), it loves Microsoft, and it loves software patents (it still lobbies for them in Europe). SAP has a very Free software-hostile history, with notable remarks that include some from Shai Agassi (see the top of this post).

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  1. Agent_Smith said,

    September 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm


    What is holding back Linux in more devices/gadgets in US is the fear for patent trolling. Salesforce already felt the wrath of the deadly troll.
    But, one question remains: What if the manufacturers of devices(netbooks, laptops, desktops, cellphones) sell their products without an OS ??? And then, the buyer would provide one. So, M$ could not tax these machines, IF they were to boot Linux, M$ could not sue anyone, since there would be no OS to sue. What gives ? Can it be a solution ?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Microsoft (and others) may offer kickbacks to preload with a particular OS. There need to be laws if you want to prevent this bundling strategy/landscape (like “vendor neutrality”).

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