Bonum Certa Men Certa

The GNU/Linux Kidnap Theory (Microsoft, 2005)

Old tricks, different execution?

Two and a half weeks ago, Microsoft invested a lot of money in what was back then referred to as "Microsoft SUSE". Having already seen Microsoft sneaking its way into "cancer" the OSI, nothing seems impossible anymore.



Microsoft has invested large sums of money in SUSE as a server platform simply because SUSE can replace Red Hat and Microsoft has control over SUSE. It's merely a substitution of GNUs/Linuxes. Based on observations that Shane and I repeatedly made over a year ago, many of those coupons that Microsoft and Novell had distributed were actually handed out to existing GNU/Linux users, some of whom Red Hat users.

Back in 2005, roughly one year before Novell and Microsoft began to negotiate their software patents deal, PC World (IDG) published the following article.

While chatting over dinner with the executives of a middleware company during the recent RSA conference for encryption and security in San Francisco, I heard about a secret project. It concerned the development of a version of Linux that runs smoothly as a task under Windows. The project was completed and then shelved. Whether it will ever reemerge is doubtful, but it does offer some interesting possibilities and hints as to what Microsoft may be up to with MS-Linux.

[...]

If Microsoft actually produced an MS-Linux that was the standard Linux attached to the driver layer of Windows, giving users full Plug and Play (PnP) support of all their peripherals, nobody would buy any other Linux on the market. Well, except for the fact that Microsoft would be unable to produce such a product without allowing the other vendors access to the driver code as part of the open-source Linux license arrangement (GPL). You can be sure that Microsoft lawyers are studying this as closely as possible to see if there is any way they could market a dominant Linux distribution without killing themselves. So how could they do this?

Open-source law is new and not completely tested. I'm certain that Microsoft got involved with the SCO versus Linux lawsuit partly to reach a better understanding of how to proceed.


What if Microsoft has since then chosen virtualisation rather than middleware as a penetration/intervention vector? While virtualisation has not much effect on the desktop (not yet anyway), we already know that, according to Novell's CEO Ron Hovsepian, Novell will not be pursuing the desktop. Earlier in the week John Dragoon said that they still lose money on the desktop. So instead, Novell goes for Red Hat's jugular: the server room. It's all about harming true GNU/Linux vendors one by one (Novell is still a proprietary software company).

“...there was a coordinated exclusion of virtualisation drivers and 'shims' by Microsoft and Novell.”In virtualisation, Novell gets exclusivity from Microsoft. With VMware under Microsoft's 'puppet regime', there remains room for reliance, but that could change in the future. Red Hat and Ubuntu have meanwhile moved to KVM.

As Shane wrote over a year ago, there was a coordinated exclusion of virtualisation drivers and 'shims' by Microsoft and Novell. They ensure that only SUSE and Windows will play 'nice' with each another, which relates to the Op-Ed piece at the top (device layer as a differentiator).

That brings us back to the supposition that Microsoft indeed had such a plot. Does the above have much substance to it? Well, Maureen O'Gara, a Microsoft talking point [1, 2], had its 'home base' trying to ridicule this article anonymously (Maureen was publishing anonymously before). Why attack it? It's the same 'home base' that supposes Microsoft might buy Novell and already covers a lot of Novell and SCO news, always in SCO's favour. Could the story above be so much on the right topic that a story needed to be written just to attack its author?

"As discussed in our PR meeting this morning. David & I have spoken with Maureen O'Gara (based on go ahead from BrianV) and planted the story. She has agreed to not attribute the story to us....

"[...] Inform Maureen O' Gara (Senior Editor Client Server News/LinuxGram) or John Markoff (NYT) of announcement on Aug 28, 2000. Owner dougmil (Approval received from BrianV to proceed)

"Contact Eric Raymond, Tim O'Reilly or Bruce Perrins to solicit support for this going against the objectives of the Open Source movement. Owner: dougmil [Doug Miller]. Note that I will not be doing this. Maureen O'Gara said she was going to call them so it looks better coming from her."

(From Microsoft's smoking guns)



"That would be because we believe in Free Software and doing the right thing (a practice you appear to have given up on). Maybe it is time the term 'open source' also did the decent thing and died out with you."

--Alan Cox to Eric Raymond

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