Bonum Certa Men Certa

Is Moblin a Microsoft-taxed Linux in the Making?

Intel Pentium CPU



Summary: Moblin is a step forward for GNU/Linux, but software patents do not appear to be off the table

YESTERDAY we wrote about Moblin eschewing Silverlight, noting that it was (sometimes still is) based on SUSE [1, 2]. There is a complex history to it, which continues to present day.



As we explained two days ago, Intel is not a friend of GNU/Linux, but it must keep up with the competition, so Linux is not a platform that Intel can afford to ignore. Intel and Novell are quite close, as this very recent video of Guy Lunardi shows. Likewise, Intel is close to Microsoft, whose operating system it is constantly promoting these days; there is even collusion with Microsoft [1, 2, 3].

As we repeatedly showed, Dell had mysteriously joined the Microsoft/Novell deal very shortly before Microsoft's patent attack began [1, 2]. Now we find this in The Inquirer:

Dell and Microsoft back Moblin



[...]

During her keynote at the show, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of Software and Services Group Renee James was joined by Ian Ellison-Taylor, Microsoft's general manager for Client Platforms and Tools to announce the collaboration.

This partnership is expected to help developers write applications once and have them run across Windows and Moblin devices, expanding the reach of Silverlight from the desktop and into mobile consumer electronic devices.

"We see this as a clear extension of our current efforts with Novell where we are building an open source implementation of Silverlight called Moonlight that is targeted at the broad range of Linux–based PCs," said Ellison-Taylor.


Heise has some more details and Turbolinux, which also joined Microsoft's Linux racket, is mentioned in various places. This does not necessarily suggest that there is consistency here when it comes to "Linux tax" in Moblin.

Throughout its lifetime, Moblin swapped desktop environments and distributions several times. After the Ubuntu shuffle came OpenSUSE, but also Fedora was put at the centre about a year ago, before Moblin was passed over to the Linux Foundation. According to this, Fedora is still at the centre, which is somewhat baffling and the information may be out of date.

Atom-based devices can run Windows but also Moblin, an open source custom Fedora-based Linux operating system targeted at netbooks, handhelds, smart phones and car computers. Intel started the Moblin project in 2007 then passed it over to the Linux Foundation.


Then there is this press release, which suggests that Ubuntu is somehow magically back under the name "Ubuntu Moblin Remix". Are there now variants of Moblin, too?

Sam Dean argues about the effect of Moblin on 'fragmentation', further adding or at least showing that Moblin targets device types that are almost dominated by ARM.

If Moblin becomes a serious player in open source mobile operating systems, it will contribute to a great deal of fragmentation. Android is just gaining its stride, and heading beyond just smartphones, while Google is likely to put big marketing dollars behind Chrome OS. It's already announced that it is talking to hardware partners.


 

At IDF today, the first edition of Moblin Linux for smartphones were demonstrated. They could lead to Intel chip-based smartphones.


There is more information about the smartphones outreach of Moblin, which confirms that to Intel it is mostly about expanding to more hardware, not necessarily replacing Windows. Intel also intends to offer software shops and there is nothing wrong with that. The most interesting report speaks about Moblin coming to full-blown desktops.

Intel has expanded the scope of Linux-based Moblin by porting the OS from netbooks to mobile devices and desktops, where it could compete with Microsoft's Windows OS.


In its latest filing, Microsoft told its investors that it worried about Hewlett-Packard and Intel turning to Windows alternatives, namely GNU/Linux in this case. It sure looks like it is happening. So to characterise Intel's work on Moblin as beneficial to Microsoft would be absurd. But that's not the point; the question is, will Intel bend GNU/Linux in the direction of becoming Microsoft-taxed, just like SUSE? This is hopefully preventable as that would spell a defeat to the freedom of Free software in the mass market.

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