11.05.15

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More Information Emerges About the Microsoft-Red Hat Patent Agreement

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Red Hat at 7:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Good for Red Hat, not so much for anybody else…

Red Hat and Microsoft

Summary: Informed (GNU/Linux-centric) journalists who looked beyond the misleading press releases and the distracting marketing campaign have managed to find out and highlight the patent issues associated with the Red Hat-Microsoft deal

AS WE noted in our previous coverage, Red Hat does not want anyone to speak about — let alone know — the patent aspects of its deal with Microsoft. Most articles, following a dry (on facts, not on marketing) press release, say nothing about it. Here is one puff piece that plays along with the “Microsoft Loves Linux” narrative, which is extremely misleading (lulling us into dangerous optimism). The author writes: “It’s a long way from the days when the former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described Linux as a “cancer.” Last year his successor, Satya Nadella, proclaimed that “Microsoft Loves Linux” mainly because of its importance in the cloud.” No, Nadella is still attacking Linux and Android using patents. Consider the deals with Samsung, Kyocera, ASUS and Dell. Patent extortion in action!

“Microsoft Loves Linux” hype… is just not true… covertly spread open-source-related FUD…”
      –Simon Phipps
We quite liked Simon Phipps’ take on this (without IDG’s editorial shadow). He is the former head of the OSI, so this matters a lot. He wrote:

All the same, let’s be clear that all the “Microsoft Loves Linux” hype I saw at SUSECon in Amsterdam yesterday and at other events earlier this year is just not true. Microsoft Azure loves Linux, there is no doubt; it is a basic requirement for them to become relevant on a cloud market dominated by AWS and Linux. They have been out in force at every commercially-oriented open source I have attended this year and have a full-scale charm offensive in place.

But the rest of the company still does not. They still seem to covertly spread open-source-related FUD about LibreOffice here in Europe. They haven’t foresworn making embedded Linux vendors pay for patent licenses of dubious necessity. The Azure business unit is certainly embracing the ecosystem the same as many before them have done so in their steps towards open source. But the Windows and Office business units show no signs of “loving” Linux and only modest signs of co-existing with open source.

[...]

If they want to signal the end of hostilities, step one is to sign the Mozilla Open Software Patent License Agreement or join OIN. Until one of those happens, I remain sceptical of Microsoft’s love for Linux.

“Microsoft” and “Love” don’t belong in the same sentence. These sociopaths, as I only recently found out, tried to get me fired from my job. Microsoft hardly even behaves like a normal company. It’s more like an informant (of the NSA among others) and a cult, led by a fake ‘philanthropist’ egoistic thug.

Writing for IDG, Phipps softened his words somewhat and wrote: “Software patents have also been a sticking point. Red Hat made clear that it does not acknowledge the validity or enforceability of Microsoft’s patents, but all the same has demanded a stand-still agreement guaranteeing neither company will pursue patent claims against the other or its customers. There’s no indication whether this extends to partner ecosystems.

“As opposed to the Novell SUSE patent covenant, the Red Hat Microsoft partnership now provides for what Red Hat is referring to as a patent standstill in the FAQ.”
      –Sean Michael Kerner
“That is a key issue for the open source community. While its Azure business unit has been professing love for Linux and smothering everything in penguins, the rest of Microsoft has carried on attacking the Linux ecosystem with patent claims and showing little accommodation for open source in its cash cow Windows and Office endeavors. Azure may be desperate for validation in a tough an competitive market, but the rest of Microsoft still needs to change more than going silent on its antipathy for open source.”

Writing for another big publisher (but not IDG), Sean Michael Kerner shed some light on the patent situation:

The path to the Microsoft Red Hat partnership has followed a long and winding road over a decade of mistrust and competition. In 2007, Microsoft alleged that open-source software infringes on more than 200 of its patents. Previous Microsoft partnerships with Linux vendors, including SUSE (formerly part of Novell), involved a patent covenant to deal with intellectual property issues. At the time of the Novell deal, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was very clear on his views about Linux patents; he noted that Microsoft’s deal was only with Novell SUSE Linux, and others still have an issue with infringing on Microsoft’s intellectual property.

In an FAQ posted by Red Hat, the company states, “Red Hat and Microsoft have agreed to a limited patent arrangement in connection with the commercial partnership for the benefit of mutual customers.” As opposed to the Novell SUSE patent covenant, the Red Hat Microsoft partnership now provides for what Red Hat is referring to as a patent standstill in the FAQ.

In response to a question from eWEEK, Cormier strongly emphasized that Red Hat remains true to its core open-source principles and is not compromising on them in the Microsoft partnership.

“Red Hat and Microsoft did not acknowledge the validity or value of each other’s patents,” Cormier said. “This is a commercial deal spurred by strong customer demand for our solutions to work together.”

“In order for the deal to work, Scott [Guthrie] and I agreed early on that it would only work if neither of us compromised our core business principles, and we did not,” Cormier said.

Senior Red Hat employees who have spoken to me about this have done effectively nothing to refute what I wrote. One of them falsely claimed that I compared this to the Novell deal (I didn’t, it would make no sense).

Not many people have noticed the part about patents because Red Hat did a fine job hiding it. Phoronix just said that “Microsoft and Red Hat have jointly announced a partnership today to “deliver more flexibility and choice” in the cloud.”

That sounds a little bit like Novell and Microsoft trying to characterise their patent deal (colluding against GNU/Linux vendors other than Novell) as “collaboration”, “interoperability”, and so on. Tim Anderson, a Microsoft booster from The Register, did not mention anything about patents.

“Due to layoffs there are limited resources and Microsoft is now counting on patents as a strategy against GNU/Linux. “As other articles from The Register serve to remind us, Vista 10 has been a catastrophe (The Register, to its credit, wrote a great deal about this). Its latest article makes is apparent that OEMs too — not just useds [sic] — will be force-fed Vista 10 pretty soon. As it was put two days ago, “Satya Nadella’s firm has quietly let slip that October 31, 2016, will be the final day for PC makers to buy copies of the operating system for pre-install.”

Microsoft cannot maintain Windows like it did back in the days of Windows XP. Due to layoffs there are limited resources and Microsoft is now counting on patents as a strategy against GNU/Linux. It promotes people accordingly. Let’s not forget other assaults on GNU/Linux, such as UEFI restricted boot, which complicates and at times makes impossible installation of GNU/Linux on whiteboxes.

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3 Comments

  1. luvr said,

    November 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Gravatar

    In the “I can dream, can’t I?” department, perhaps Red Hat management decided, “We have to smile at Microsoft while we pull the trigger…”?

  2. brentrbrian said,

    November 6, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Gravatar

    Microsoft’s customers FORCED them into this deal. In an article, a few years back, Ballmer was leading the press through the data center of Microsoft’s largest customer. When asked if the customer was planning to use Azure, the reply was:

    When AZURE runs on LINUX, and LINUX runs on AZURE, we will consider it.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Whether it’s Red Hat’s customers wanting Azure or Microsoft’s customers wanting RHEL, the fact remains that the patents part (underplayed or omitted by the media) stinks. It helps legitimise Microsoft’s attacks on other companies, using patents, and it doesn’t protect Red Hat from satellites of Microsoft, e.g. patent trolls.

    As I wrote last night, the media says nothing about the patents. Here is yet another shallow article with nothing but Microsoft quotes and nothing about patents. I’m not disputing the motivation for this deal. I just think that the self-acclaimed ‘open’ organisation needs to explain what it has done with those patents and what the implications for other companies may be. The secrecy discredits Red Hat’s ‘open’ self-portrayal.

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