We’ve warned about this all along.
Microsoft might be doing to Novell what it has been doing to VMware and to Yahoo. Speaking of which, earlier today it turned out that Microsoft had just nicked another Yahoo executive (head of Yahoo Korea).
Additionally, let us never forget about Corel, which Microsoft may have turned from a GNU/Linux vendor into a .NET workshop. Sounds familiar? How about Mono?
As for Novell, well… we warned about Microsoft’s influence in its management back in October. It goes in precisely the same direction that we had anticipated right from the start. Novell’s channel chief steps down (or up) only to be replaced by… a “Microsoft veteran”.
The Right Stuff?
Still, Colado’s short stint as channel chief raises some questions.
* Was Colado the right pick as channel chief back in September?
* Did Novell’s channel program move forward under his direction? Apparently yes, according to this insight from CRN. (UPDATE: Apparently, CRN took its story down because it lacked the fact that Colado had been promoted. Sorry about the dead CRN link, folks)
* Will Novell hire a new channel chief to report into Dragoon? It doesn’t sound like it.
But we’ve got an email into Novell requesting comment. (Update, Jan. 7, 2009: Novell says Dragoon is channel chief plus Novell hires Microsoft veteran.)
Yes, let Microsoft manage Novell’s channel. What does that make Novell? Part of Microsoft’s ecosystem? Prior to this, Colado only lasted a few months [1, 2, 3]. Pat Bernard too decided to step down (and quit) this role after a few months in the company [1, 2]. She does not seem to have responded to the Var Guy’s plea for an explanation, or maybe it just never got published. █
“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”
–Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO
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NOT me, but those other guys from Novell. They go home to ‘mother ship’ (yes, again).
Joseph, Chris and myself are visiting Microsoft this week to learn more about Silverlight 3.0
Novell’s focus on Microsoft technologies is early sign of what Microsoft did to Corel after the company ‘dared’ to explore (and succeed with) GNU/Linux. █
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The problems with inside intervention were mentioned before, along with some examples. Microsoft may be shedding off a lot of senior staff, but these people end up somewhere else where even greater damage to an already-unhealthy market can be caused.
According to the Financial Times, the Icahn-Microsoft-Yahoo saga is not over yet, which is hardly surprising.
Yahoo’s reconstituted board is expected to meet for the first time tomorrow, with activist member Carl Icahn committed to renewing the pressure for a deal with Microsoft.
Mr Icahn, the billionaire investor, and two allies were elected after Yahoo’s annual meeting on August 1 in a deal that ended a proxy fight he had led to unseat the board.
Kara is seeing what we wrote about before, namely the hiring of Microsoft executives who join Yahoo!
Jeff Dossett, a longtime Microsoft exec whose most current job has been as executive producer and general manager of MSN, is leaving the company, sources said, and is likely to land at Yahoo soon.
A longtime and experienced mountain climber, Dossett (pictured here) has been one of the more senior digital execs at Microsoft.
The reason given for Dossett’s departure from Microsoft (MSFT), announced internally this afternoon, was to “pursue other opportunities.”
While the hire is not yet complete, that apparently means that he is likely going to rival and onetime Microsoft quarry Yahoo as a senior exec.
Given that Carl Icahn is already on the board along with at least two ‘partners in crime’, in addition to Microsoft staff joining Yahoo, it seems likely that Microsoft is still hawking Yahoo, circling the company as its value drops. At the same time, it works hard to single-handedly intercept the company’s deal with Google. The New York Times (bias to be noted [1, 2]) reports.
One company has done more than any other to publicly disparage the Yahoo-Google deal: Microsoft, the same company that did not succeed in acquiring Yahoo earlier this year. Hell hath no fury like a suitor scorned.
We previously showed how viciously Microsoft was attacking this deal [1, 2], reaching as far as hiring of AstroTurfers. It’s ugly stuff, no matter one’s opinion on "guerrilla marketing" and "proxy fights".
In other news, Corel is adding a former Microsoft executive to its top ranks.
Corel Corporation (NASDAQ:CREL) (TSX:CRE), a leading developer of graphics, productivity and digital media software, today announced that Kazuo Sakai will join Corel as Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan Operations and President, Corel Japan effective immediately.
Corel may not survive, having surrendered to Microsoft's agenda, just like Novell. It probably won’t be long before Microsoft executives take positions of power inside Novell. No-one would be even shocked at this stage because the two companies show their affection in public. █
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Taking an alternative approach and perspective to handling of gradual migrations
An impulsive and immediate migration to Linux can sometimes lead to disappointment. Ambitious businesses are sometimes led to believe that their data can merely be be dumped from one platform onto another, but the reality is a little more complex than this. In order for a migration to be successful, one needs to be familiar with native Linux applications and the data needs to be stored in a format which is independent from just a single application.
Changing one’s favourite application can be hard. Everyone resists the introduction of new things, especially when they threaten and have direct impact on the force of habit. For a very long time, large and well-established software vendors have capitalized on people’s reluctance to learn new processes such as identification and menu items and familiarity with user interfaces. Some software vendors went further and defended these processes by introducing the notion of ownership, then essentially patenting behavior. Even more software vendors used the idea of obscurity to restrict (or altogether eliminate) people’s ability to change. This is known as lock-in.
Many of these issues can easily be addressed when transparency is embraced. Moreover, sharing of information facilitates more rapid development of knowledge. It speeds up improvement where all peers involved can move forward in harmony, without jeopardising unity and conformity.
“In a world of unified formats, different businesses are able to compete with one another not through restriction or punishment of rival developers and consumers, but rather through innovation, added value, reasonable cost, and a decent level of support.”A single unified format is the key with which various businesses can communicate conveniently. It is also highly essential for the enhancement of the existing formats, which should preferably remain party-neutral, backward compatible, complete, and elegant. In a world of unified formats, different businesses are able to compete with one another not through restriction or punishment of rival developers and consumers, but rather through innovation, added value, reasonable cost, and a decent level of support. To use an example, in the case of documents, one unified format is currently OpenDocument format and for static document, Portable Document Format has become the norm.
The dawn of the GNU/Linux operating system was a time when the software industry had already evolved (or devolved) into a predatory marketplace. This market was fragmented and isolated. Different software vendors strived to capture their costumers using proprietary formats. Corel, for example, was happy enough treating its popular word processor as though it did not need to interoperate seamlessly with rival software. IBM was no exception. In later years, especially in the United States, software vendors added extra protection to their offerings by making not only their application code a property, but also the ideas behind it. Ownership could then be associated even with mathematical notions. That is the effect of software patents. This shields vendors and yields nothing but nervousnous for competitors and customers. Perceived risk and dependency can be worrisome indeed.
To a software startup which wishes to compete or even to a customer, the marketplace appeared like a pseudo-ethical and pseudo-competitive playing field at the stage where monopolies prevailed. In the late 90s, the barrier to entry into the market was associated with the complexity of so-called standards. As far as documents are concerned, standards were chosen not by government bodies; instead, there were virtually no formal standards at all. Existing standards, which were simple, got abandoned or extended unilaterally. De facto standards, which were subjected to unpredictable and sudden changes, became ubiquitous enough to be perceived as the standard. People were no longer able to properly understand the meaning, purpose, and importance of standards, which gradually became more innately closed. These were neither free nor open.
Years passed on and people accumulated data. Inability to access older data, which is related but not identical to digital preservation, opened many people’s eyes. For example, consider the case where a person loses metadata that accompanies photos if moved from one application to another or one file system to another (a common scenario when changing or upgrading an operating system). Suddenly, people’s personal information — including memories with sentimental value — became obsolete and no longer accessible. In some cases, the effort required to regain access to information was just too great to be worth handling. People learned to accept losses, but they also realized that there was a different way — a better way even.
This awakening led to a reform, at least at a mental level. People began bothering to check which formats they can and cannot rely on. Formats were associated with trust and perceived as an important factor. Some people went further and demanded software for which all source code was available.
To enable wider access, various formats such as Portable Document Format (PDF) were formally standardized. Tight control of this these formats was conceded. In turn, new formats were created which also remained independent from applications and companies. One such format is OpenDocument Format (ODF), which is now widely recognized as an international (ISO-approved) standard for documents.
The introduction of a limited set of formats that multiple vendors can work with has resolved notorious and much-loathed (by the customer, not the vendor) issues, most notably lock-in. Backing from international organizations meant that these formats were by no means formalized to benefit one application or one operating system. No company was truly in control of the process. Portability was improved at the application level and the operating system level. People who prefer different platforms — whether an application or the underlying operating system — were able to exchange information at ease and also in a non-lossy fashion. This improved productivity for various reasons.
First among those reasons is personal convenience. There is no one piece of software that suits everyone. There is no mental parity due to level of experience and various backgrounds (including training, education, and skills). Different people think differently and thrive in individual strengths. A programmer, for example, might be able to handle technical complexity, whereas a writer can express himself or herself in a clear and eloquent fashion. Any technical peril you put in a writer’s face might simply become a distraction and obstruction. Contrariwise, simplification enables a writer to be more focused.
The second reason why a unified format solves and addresses many problems is to do with fact that it eliminates the need to transform and translate of data from one format to another. The data is contained in a form which is defined by one Gold Standard. It is a case of abstraction, or separation into layers. Data becomes entirely independent from the application that supports it.
Having identified reasons why no single application suits everyone, one can look at the needs of a business. Businesses must standardize on formats, not software. Formats are verbal and technical specifications, not code. As long as the specifications remain unchanged or evolve in an open, transparent, and carefully-doctored fashion, business information is secure. It preserves its integrity in the long term. The business, moreover, needn’t rely on one particular vendor anymore. It puts the business in charge of its financial destiny and its data in the hands of responsible, supervised, and peer-reviewing industry consortia.
With open standards comes choice. Change becomes easier. Suddenly, barriers that once hindered and hurt one’s mobility are no longer there. An enterprise that planned or endlessly procrastinated a migration to Free software, for instance, suddenly finds that its exit costs — the costs that are associated with escaping lock-in — are lowered significantly. Once lock-in is left behind, no longer need it be coped with ever again. It is a one-time investment in liberation of vital data.
The great attraction of an open standard is related to its ability to open doors to better, less expensive, and better-supported software. It is a strategy shift. Enterprises must realize that their new identity, wherein they are no longer dependent on a single supplier, comes through standards. Blaming the inability of an application to mimic the behavior of another is a classic case where an enterprises adopts the wrong route for its migration. It clings on to the past (legacy) rather than looking into a future where truly open and free standards are increasingly being accepted.
The attraction of open standards is at this point greater than ever. There is a meeting of the minds coming up and there is a crossroad to be reached. Microsoft Office 2007 comes to a larger market and the ISO will vote in favor or against the format that accompanies Office 2007. It is known as Office OpenXML. Its proponents boasts its size and function while opponents protest strongly using the arguments that it is inelegant and too tightly coupled with operating systems and a single application. A major standards group is about to meet and discuss this soon, so perhaps so should you.
There remains a conflict of interests and desire, wherein unified formats are thought to be replaceable by compatibility layers that enable access to data that is stored in proprietary formats. In the case of Linux, some judge its readiness by its ability to simulate non-Linux applications (or sometime virtualise them). This very well exemplifies the misconception about the value of a single standard which is here to stay. Choice of applications, digital preservation, backward compatibility, and sometimes full access to application source code are among the many benefits.
Admittedly, this way of thinking rarely seem to be natural to everyone. It is a paradigm-related and conceptual issue where specifications are confused with code, applications are confused with formats, and standards are taken for granted (or not taken at all). If you foresee your business, or your family, or your friend moving to Linux in years to come, the first step you ought to take is appreciate vendor-independent formats such as OpenDocument. Many companies and even governments are supporting and embracing OpenDocument format. The OpenDocument Alliance, which is an independent body, maintains a partial yet extensive list of its backers. Some are actively promoting OpenDocument while some passively accept or usher its arrival.
The next stage of a migration process should typically involve taking the existing data in a format that is recognised by the same application on different platforms or by different applications that understand (and thus perfectly interpret/parse) the data. This data can then be moved across partitions, across computers, or across operating systems. This is the stage where migrations to Linux can become seamless.
Migrations between platform — whether to Linux, or to any other platform for that matter — should always boil down to the information level, not the application level. Remember that a platform can support multiple applications that achieve the same thing. In turn, each application supports a set of formats, but ideally just one that is universal. Identify that universal format and make the first step towards choice of both an operating system and an application. Your data is your bread and butter. Don not give it away and do not invest in proprietary or
mysterious keys that unlock this data, especially if these keys you can never truly own or control. █
Originally published in Datamation in 2007
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The idea of a GNU/Linux- or BSD-based Windows replacement (think Winux) has been kicked around for a long time. This notion is not so far fetched, especially if Microsoft buys Novell. While it’s not worth repeating the possibilities (we did so several times in the past), it is definitely worth noticing that, over time, other Web sites form similar opinions. They are willing to acknowledge, especially now with Midori and “7″ vapourware afloat, that big changes might be ahead.
Yesterday we showed that Novell had begun spreading GNU/Linux FUD, no matter how implicitly. It views SUSE Enterprise Linux as a special breed. The following new comment from Linux Today points out the change in attitude:
This writeup made me see a simple public call-out that the press and open source community and end customers can all ask Novell.
Please explain how this works ?
1) Your CEO said “”Our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property.”
(I remember a public letter/posting on Novell’s website with a strong denial right after the first deal in 2006).
2) Now you say:
Bruce wrote me that customers wanted the Novell/Microsoft package, in part, because it “provides IP (intellectual property) peace of mind for organizations operating in mixed source environments.”
It’s worth repeating whatever was said yesterday. Maybe Ian Bruce does not know what Hovsepian and Novell said before. He is new at Novell and he does not realise that he must lie to the public about the meaning of the deal with Microsoft, which, in reality, is a software patents deal.
Microsoft might crave Novell's software patents. Moreover, we mustn’t forget that Novell owns UNIX and it could become a problem. This enables a continuation of an SCO-like indictment.
It’s no figment of imagination when one considers four possibilities:
- Microsoft buys Novell and sells an ‘enhanced’ GNU/Linux, which others cannot have.
- Microsoft continues to use Novell to pressure other GNU/Linux vendors until GNU/Linux is just one company that can be squashed.
- Microsoft borrows technology from Novell to build a Windows replacement on its own.
- Microsoft along with Novell (or with Novell acquired) launches a legal attack against GNU/Linux, probably with the exception of SUSE Enterprise Linux, which is an expensive Microsoft cash cow. It can be about patents or about copyrights (UNIX).
Here are a couple of interesting new articles:
Opinion: How much is that penguin in the Window?
How far this goes is anyone’s guess. Will Microsoft one day offer its very own Linux distro?
Microsoft and Novell: Buying In or Selling Out?
Microsoft could be investing in Novell for a complete buyout at some point in the future after Novell developers create the ultimate OS for them, using Microsoft’s money, of course. $300+ million buys you a lot of development.
If a worst-case scenario becomes a reality, then this site will cease to be targeted at a ‘Linux company’. As time goes on, Novell becomes more of a ‘Microsoft subsidiary’. Remember Corel. █
“If programmers deserve to be rewarded for creating innovative programs, by the same token they deserve to be punished if they restrict the use of these programs.”
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Corel used to be about GNU/Linux, but then Microsoft signed a deal with it
Corel was once a company boasting a GNU/Linux strategy. It was a promising leader with plenty of resources at its disposal. Then, a mysterious deal was signed with Microsoft and the company embraced things like .NET. Initially it had promised to keep its GNU/Linux direction alive, but the promise didn’t last. Over the years it become more and more of a Microsoft-oriented company. It spat out Xandros though.
Xandros later swallowed Linspire. We foresaw Linspire’s death several months [1, 2] before it actually happened [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]. Their deal with Microsoft ruined them on so many levels. We received information about these issues, albeit privately. Eventually it materialised and Linspire is no more.
Moral of the story: Microsoft deals kill. It’s a dance with the devil.
In this week’s news, one can now find that Corel trying to sell itself, just like Linspire.
Corel in Talks to Sell Itself After Vector Ends Buyout Offer
Corel, founded in 1985 by Michael Cowpland, earned acclaim for its CorelDraw graphics program in the 1990s. In 1996, the company paid $170 million to Novell Inc. for the WordPerfect word-processing software, which competes with Microsoft Corp.’s Word. Cowpland stepped down in 2000 after sales dropped.
Probably related to this: Corel withdrew a buybacks offer.
Corel Corp., the maker of WordPerfect and CorelDraw software, said Vector Capital Corp. is withdrawing its buyout offer so Corel can pursue alternatives to increasing shareholder value.
Corel, founded in 1985 by Michael Cowpland, won fame for its CorelDraw graphics program in the 1990s. In 1996, the company paid $170 million to Novell Inc. for the WordPerfect word- processing software, challenging Microsoft Corp.’s Word. Cowpland stepped down in 2000 after sales dropped.
There were some shuffles at the very top level of Corel recently and it’s never an encouraging sign of corporate health. For background on the history of Corel and Microsoft, consider [1, 2].
Eventually, just as Matt Asay speculated couple of days ago, Microsoft will throw Novell into the ashtray. Right now it only needs to get a job done. It exploits Novell in order to ruin other GNU/Linux vendors, as well as put software patents and Linux taxation in place. █
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Something that we had been looking for yesterday was finally found. It makes a pretty good description of a problem that will be discussed here briefly because it’s the nasty technique Microsoft used against Borland. It tries the same against Adobe. Possibly Novell, too.
Here is the article, which is just over a decade old.
Fierce competitors Microsoft Corp. and Borland International, Inc. have moved their battle from the networked desktop to the courtroom.
Borland last week filed suit against Microsoft, alleging that the Redmond, Wash., giant has been systematically recruiting Borland developers in an attempt to eliminate the company as a competitor. Microsoft and Borland are rivals in the budding Java and Internet tools markets.
The suit alleges that Microsoft’s Bill Gates himself sweetened the pot. Gross eventually accepted the offer, which included an additional half-million dollar bonus, last September.
A noticeably angry Borland CEO Del Yocam complained about the nerve of Microsoft. “How flagrant, driving limos up to the front of the company. That is what riles you,” Yocam complained. Yocam said his No. 1 goal is to get Microsoft to stop recruiting.
They seem to be trying the same thing with Adobe at the moment. India’s mainstream press reported on this issue a few weeks ago (previously covered here) and some months ago there were senior-level defections of this kind.
There are good reasons to suspect that the same thing happens at Novell [1, 2]. Martin Buckley and Dr. Crispin Cowan are better-known examples of this.
We recently wrote about staff intersections and warned about Ximian's influence on Novell. Novell is now recruiting .NET developers, so there’s increased convergence. IBM does not seem too happy about it and Bob Sutor is has become more vocal about it.
My one caveat with it is that it either requires .Net or Mono. I’ve removed the usual Mono applications from my Ubuntu Linux installation and am somewhat loathe to put anything requiring it on the machine. (This is a personal choice, as I’ve mentioned before.) Anyone doing a Java version or alternative implementation that is open source?
Having watched what happened to Corel and to Borland, it’s worth keeping an eye on the way Novell resembles Microsoft. It will probably become more noticeable over time. █
“Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand.”
–Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO
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‘Embrace’ (to Extend) versus Embrace for Promotion, Contribution
Leaving the spin from the press aside, it’s worth taking a close look at what Microsoft has done at OSCON.
Microsoft wants to blow FOSS developers a kiss while at the same time securing Microsoft’s income. Some innocent developers and passive Microsoft employees/recruits liaise with a company that, objectively speaking, has a criminal past and an appalling history. In fact, even recently it has proven that nothing whatsoever has changed. It is that same old spoiled brat that disregards the law, resorting to bribery, bullying, fraud, extortion, technical sabotage, and blackmail. It’s all well documented.
Bruce Perens and this Web site are far from the only sources that are critical of Microsoft’s latest moves. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, for instance, is not buying it, either.
You see some people still believe that Microsoft offering patented protocols under “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms,” or “for free for noncommercial use without fear of lawsuits” is somehow some kind of olive branch to the open-source community.
As Tiemann put it: “A free-of-cost license that prohibits commercial use is useless to open-source developers. And therefore I cannot understand why anybody would think that Microsoft is doing the open-source community any favors.”
He’s got that right.
There are some more details from Vaughan-Nichols in ComputerWorld
The first announcement, that Microsoft was contributing a patch to ADOdb, a PHP database access interface, wasn’t that big a deal. It is, after all, self-serving. Microsoft’s contribution will enable people to use its own SQL Server instead of MySQL or PostgreSQL with PHP programs. Yawn. Nothing new here.
Apache too was considered over the weekend [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft uses Apache for document lock-in, making its formats more prevalent than the real international standard [1, 2]. Apache might not mind this, but it’s being used against other groups of FOSS developers. Sean Michael Kerner had this to say, based on what he had seen at OSCON.
Ramji also said Microsoft has been working with the Apache POI project, which develops APIs for using pure Java to manipulate various file formats based upon Microsoft’s OLE 2 Compound Document format. Those include most Microsoft Office formats, except for the more recent Office Open XML formats, for which Microsoft has embarked on a massive campaign to see adopted as industry standards.
Overall, Ramji tried his best to ingratiate himself with the OSCON crowd — even wearing a Mozilla Firefox T-Shirt, and telling the audience that he wants to engage openly and honestly with the open source community. That’s a message that he’s been preaching for some time.
Steve Stites writes:
For several years the Microsoft astroturf has periodically reported on the activities of a pro open source faction within Microsoft. This factional fight is probably one of many within the Microsoft bureaucracy which apparently endures constant, intense infighting. But I don’t see what interest it is to anybody other than a Microsoft bureaucrat.
Another comment of interest:
Fourth, it means MS wants to seed the Apache Group with Code that they will attach their IP to. This way, they can extract funds from users in the future, with their contributions.
Is it a good deal for Apache? In the short term, it provides them with cash. Is it a good deal for MS? Of course, it gives them access to a code base and hopefully developers they desperately need. Is it good for the development and user community? NO!!! Why not? It means MS is once again employing their extend, embrace, and extinguish paradigm, which has worked so well for them in the past.
From Rex Ballard:
From: Rex Ballard <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Microsoft donate to Apache
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2008 23:08:59 -0700 (PDT)
> | Microsoft has bolstered its credentials with advocates of open source
> | software.
Microsoft’s credentials and “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” tactics are
well-known throughout the industry.
What’s surprising is that the Apache organization actually took the
> | It has given cash to the Apache organisation which oversees development
> | of open source web server software.
This may be yet another sign that Microsoft’s IIS is not doing what
Microsoft would like it to do. Furthermore, benchmarks between Apache
on Linux or Unix, and Apache on Windows Server NT, 2000, and 2003 have
always been disappointing. Normally, Microsoft sponsors it’s own
benchmarks, comparing ISAPI applications to Apache CGI applications
rather than Apache Plug-ins.
I would suspect that Microsoft is hoping for Apache’s blessings of
OpenXML, as well as the ability to shove Microsoft binary blobs
directly through Apache servers into PCs, where the embedded OLE
objects can run amok on any Windows PC capable of handling the OpenXML
Microsoft is also looking for ways to measure the Linux market more
accurately, because the usual methods used to measure Windows are just
not going to report Linux systems (unless the user has installed
special software to enable ActiveX controls.
Perhaps they are looking at ways to embed signed Java Applets, which
can also be used to install “snitch-ware” and other forms of malware
on Linux systems.
To Apache, this deal seemed harmless, but it may harm other groups of FOSS developers. Tomorrow, hypothetically speaking, another group might sell out to Microsoft and be happy with it while hurting Apache. In that respect, it is the almost same as the funneling of money into Novell’s bank account, which made some pointy-haired managers happy but almost everyone else in the FOSS world nervous.
Of course Apache will deny all of this because they want to believe, they are being defensive, they took the money and then encouraged to praise Microsoft, which is now their sponsor. Corel too thought it would enjoy its little deal with Microsoft while continuing its development of GNU/Linux. Where is it today? What about MySQL? Honeymoons rarely last forever. Sooner or later, it’s purely down to business, to shareholders. █
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