Bonum Certa Men Certa

How Microsoft and Novell Make GNU/Linux More Expensive to Purchase Than Windows

Copyrights infringement and Novell as Microsoft's 'selling point' strategy

Novell's recent news about China [1, 2, 3] is pretty significant because this shows what tricks Microsoft and Novell hope to make more widespread and prevalent around the world, not just in Asia. It's a symbolic start that illustrates just why Novell has become dangerous to GNU/Linux adoption (contrary to common belief). Remember that SUSE adoption (Novell profit) and GNU/Linux adoption are not the same thing. What we present here is intended to raise awareness and not to incite fear or anger however.

“Freedom values aside, it's all just a question of price and any cost that gets assigned to Linux makes a tremendous difference.”Previously we warned that this was bound to become more serious an issue as the companies grow closer and closer. Bill Gates said last year that it's easier to compete against Linux in China when there is 'piracy' [sic], referring to copyrights infringement of Windows, which Microsoft is happy with, by its own low-key admissions.

Freedom values aside, it's all just a question of price and any cost that gets assigned to Linux makes a tremendous difference. This was said by Mark Shuttleworth last year and was also explained in the African press some months ago. In developing countries it's more expensive to buy GNU/Linux because it comes burned on several CDs and harder to obtain/find, whereas Windows comes as a single CD-ROM you can get for a buck out on the street. You can find out how Microsoft's former OEM chief perceived copyrights infringement in the following antitrust exhibit, which is a leaked document written by him [PDF].




PLAINTIFF’S EXHIBIT



FY98 - A Foundation Year Joachim Kempin Sr. Vice President, OEM Channel



[...]

4. Increase bootable OS penetration in key development countries

[...]




The scan is too challenging for OCR (it's tilted as well), but you can read and see it for yourself, or ideally extract the text and send it over for sharing in the public domain. This includes the mentioning of "Creating a grass roots movement" (think along the lines of astroturfing) and "We must continue to build competitive immunity" (think of chokehold on OEMs).

There are other recent stories that come to mind, such as Microsoft's intent to use the same tactics that were used in China but applying them to Russia amid FOSS growth (this one was posted just hours ago and comes in addition to a massive defection of schools across the country to GNU/Linux). But returning to Novell again, here is the snag.

As you may recall, Dell sells laptops with SLED 10 in China. Microsoft gets paid for these. On the other hand, most computers that run Windows in this large nation do not have it licensed. Where does that leave Linux in terms of relative cost? This question is rhetorical of course.

Now they try a similar stunt on the server side. Watch what Microsoft fan Paul Thurrott had to say about the latest announcement from Novell.

Changing deep-set behavior and habits is difficult. I was reminded of that fact this week while writing a news story about a joint Microsoft/Novell effort to convince businesses in China to switch from free versions of Linux to paid, supported copies of Novell's SUSE Enterprise Linux. At first blush, you might think that Microsoft's cooperation in promoting Linux is central to that particular story. And certainly, that's the tact I took in my own article (http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/98922/microsoft-novell-ply-paid-software-in-china.html ) about the event. But looking at it more deeply, what this is really about is changing behavior.

More specifically, Microsoft's efforts in China aren't really about promoting Linux, paid or otherwise. It's about getting the fastest growing market on the planet to start doing something it's never done--actually pay for software.


So, they rarely pay for Windows (and Microsoft is fine with that), but now Microsoft wants many of them to pay Microsoft... for GNU/Linux, not for Windows. How convenient -- making Linux 'more expensive' than Windows (mostly gratis in China). Can you see the plot or at least the possibilities? They choose to crack down on GNU/Linux. They put the heat up not on unlicensed use of Windows, but on what they call "unlicensed" users of GNU/Linux.

Head over to this other article which suggests that virtualisation is a major component of these recent moves in China.

The collaboration in China will focus on two emerging areas of interoperability: high-performance computing and virtualization. The cross-platform virtualization offerings include Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 with Xen technology.


Remember who practically owns Xen and also remind yourself of the fact that Hyper-V excludes every GNU/Linux distribution but Novell. Microsoft plans to preinstall Hyper-V on Windows and shut some doors this way.

The following article about Novell's affairs in China is equally unhelpful and it quotes Microsoft shill Al Gillen quite extensively (he speaks in favours of whoever pays him). It also states:

Microsoft has spent the past year and a half inking deals with a handful of Linux OS providers, promising not to sue them. Novell was the first company to sign such a deal, which was announced in November of 2006. Other Linux OS providers that joined Microsoft's licensing initiative include South Korea's LG Electronics and Xandros Inc.


Yesterday we wrote about rPath, which appears to have gotten cozy with Microsoft and Novell. Now comes the short post from CNET with the headline "rPath plays the sucker for Novell and Microsoft," which is probably right.

While I am not shocked that rPath is working with Novell instead of continuing with their own Linux flavor, I am completely shocked that Billy Marshall, rPath CEO and former Red Hat bigshot sales guy is citing the Microsoft patent protection as the reason why. Nothing is said about Suse being better in any way. Instead its about this unproven patent protection.


Novell needs to be stopped because Microsoft's ambition is to have Novell replace free GNU/Linux distributions -- not replace Windows -- and then charge, as in extract money from them. This not only makes another revenue stream for Microsoft, but it also gives the impression that GNU/Linux becomes expensive. If it's bad for Free software, which it is, Novell cannot care much less because it receives a form of compensation from Microsoft. They work together... for their shareholders, regardless of public opinion.

Novell error message

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