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Open Tech Exchange Explains How Microsoft Derailed GNU/Linux in Governments, Using “Corruption”

Under NO circumstances lose against Linux before ensuring we have used this program [EDGI] actively and in a smart way.”

--Orlando Ayala, Microsoft



Summary: Some very revealing details from people who are close to bad Microsoft affairs and speak about it in audio rather than dare publish it in writing (in blunt form)

Last week we learned that "Open source adoption lags" in South Africa. To quote the report:

Although SA is still lagging behind when it comes to embracing open source software, the increase in adoption has been growing at a steady pace.

This is according to Linux Warehouse, a distributor of enterprise open source software for Southern Africa

However, SA has seen an increase because companies have been facing financial pressures, says general manager of Linux Warehouse Shannon Moodley. “The open source market is quite mature; most of the large banks and telcos use open source in some way or form and many do so in mission critical environments.”

In line with this, ITWeb and The Linux Warehouse have collaborated to carry out an Open Source Software Survey to ascertain the level of use of open source and vendor-supported software, as well as identifying potential areas where marketing and education could add value back into the market on the solutions available.


As a little recap on what Microsoft was doing to free/open source software in South Africa around 2008 (loads of examples were given at the time):



There is this good show called "Open Tech Exchange" (an audiocast) from South Africa (and occasionally elsewhere) in which Microsoft's assault on Free software in South Africa was described earlier this year. A newer episode of the show helps shed light on the dirty Microsoft tactics which Microsoft used not only in South Africa but also in other countries. The episode's summary does not mention this part, but our loyal contributor gnufreex transcribed it for future use because it's rather revealing and another reader politely asked us for it.

In this episode Darlene and I chat about Crisis Commons, the dangers of cloud computing and the behaviour of corporates.


The part that's relevant to us starts around 14 minutes from the start. The two hosts (a man and a woman called Mark and Darlene, whose voice/gender makes it simplest to distinguish, hence the omission of name from here onwards) first talk about South Africa moving to Free software and putting all the policies in place to develop many things locally.

The lady says that she came across an interesting Microsoft document about their plan not to let GNU/Linux win, no matter the cost. "For example," she says "we've talked about Brazil several times... and how the government is committed... [but] Microsoft... went into provinces... and used provinces... where the leaders [aligned with the opposition]... signed deals... they are going province by province...

"How do you win against those tactics," she asked. "Even in South Africa... they [Microsoft] announce they are going to build a laboratory..." (for an accurate transcription see below; the text here is messy because we try to succinctly encompass key points)

The South African guy in this show says (not accurate wording) that they "lost their moral dimensions to everything... it's basically breaking the rules... it's not really philanthropic or humanitarian... if you have people... sociopaths... they get put in institutions... I don't know, especially in countries that aren't in North America.. these things sound.. unethical... [people call it corruption... not euphemism, they] call it what it us... call it bribery rather than euphemistic names and stuff like that... the way they have been brought up... you play by the rules and that's OK"

The lady says "they'll take any of the royalties... they'll take them and [send] them back to incentives funds"

Looking at the documents, she explains: "how do we change the tide?" She mentions the Gates Foundation and she is very cynical about it, philanthropy being part of it while there isn't any of it (see transcript or listen to the show).

Some of the later parts are also interesting. There is an explanation of how Canonical managed to approach parts of Spain.

Later on they start talking about patents more generally. The lady says that "there is a company out there called Monsanto... this is just a small example [of patents]... so, [in] this company they have genetically-engineered their seeds... they made it into this terminator gene so that it cannot reproduce... here in Canada this corporation affected us... [tells a local story] went all the way to the Supreme Court..." (the Gates-Monsanto links are not mentioned here unfortunately).

She talks about farmers in India committing suicide over Monsanto-imposed debt. Then she explains how in Germany they patent the breeding of pigs (for pork) and mentions transplants for humans from pigs.

As this discussion about patents carries on the guy says that "Microsoft [is] becoming [like] more of a patent troll... making money from Linux"

He explains that "SCO [...] when the revenue stream dries up [...] then they'll start to thrashing around... to continue to make a profit..."

He gives HTC as an example, explaining that Apple just wants HTC to stop making Android phones and won't accept money, so HTC counter-sues. Microsoft goes to them not asking them to pay, or just tells them to say that "you are paying us a lot" in order to create a fake case against Linux and the perception that Linux owes Microsoft.

It's "the same thing as having a nuclear weapons," he argues, when you actually have no nuclear weapons at all. They won't go to Google asking for a patent deal as "they only go to companies they know they can negotiate a deal with"

Then they both mention Microsoft pressure over Dell's 10 seasons to go with GNU/Linux. The man calls it "strong-arming" and we covered this in [1, 2, 3].

The guy explains that Microsoft need only pretend to be doing "open source" in order to block genuine Free software from being adopted in the short term. It's a long-term investment for Microsoft which substituted what we once knew as Free software, instead promoting Microsoft stack-only 'open source' (marketed by Microsoft boosters like Marius Oiaga in this case).

This helps justify our attempt to dissociate Microsoft's embrace-and-extend moves from real Free software which annuls monopolies and lock-in, instead promoting standards, as well as a truly free/libre stack.

We found it rather amazing that Matt Asay, who almost took a job at Microsoft some years ago, defends Windows monopoly and other monopolies by just assuming they are a natural phenomenon. He did not accept the point that "monopoly for an open standard is a great thing, monopoly for a product is not."

Apology for Microsoft's bad behaviour is part of the problem and Asay has a history in that regard (inviting Microsoft to "Open Source" events, to OSI, and more). Yes, he almost went working for Microsoft and unlike the good guy from South Africa he doesn't call corruption "corruption"; rather, he almost defends it because it's more convenient for someone in his position who is business oriented and perhaps less ethics oriented. His role in Canonical is still worrisome given the opinions he expressed and continues to express.




Transcribed text of audiocast "Open Tech Exchange" - Episode 22



[15:00]

“And you know... Microsoft against open source, their plan is not to let Linux win at any cost, at any cost.”[Darlene:] I came across interesting documents... it was result of a court case, so this documents become public. And you know... Microsoft against open source, their plan is not to let Linux win at any cost, at any cost. So the projects I have been involved at large scale... and so for example I was talking about Brazil several times on our discussions on the show, and how government is committed to open source solutions for education. But now Microsoft is... they go in, and what they've done you see... we saw them in South Africa, but in a way... so but they go into provinces that aren't governor, or sets are not held by governing party, so the opposition party is in control of those provinces, and they go in those provinces and approached them and got them to sign deals with Microsoft and kinda undermine what the ruling party is doing... and the rest of the country. So they go province by province and manipulating the system... man... how one wins against those tactics? How do you win against those tactics? It is discouraging sometimes. Even is South Africa when there was a commitment, and we thought we might see a change here in 2010... but Microsoft just comes in and announces they are going to build huge lab. There is benefit to it, in the end. The development lab, the training lab, they promised billion rands... what are thoughts Mark?

[17:00]

“At least... in South Africa there is corruption but people still know it is corruption and call it corruption [...] While [in the west] they try to call it something, give it euphemistic name, like lobbying... they don't call it what it is.”[Mark:] I think part of the problem we have with they way companies run today... is generally why we end where we are. It is all about profits. And what is bizarre, lost all moral dimension of everything. Everything is okay as long it's within rules you're not technically breaking the rules. But they set aside all moral aspect of what you are doing. So with the [case of Microsoft] “we are giving people free software [as in piracy] just they can make sure we don't lose market-share so we can sell more software later”. There are no any philanthropic, humanitarian principle. So the whole humanism side of things is gone. That is problem with corporate this days, they are simply legal entities. If you have person without any social conscience, no empathy and no sympathy, act purely in self interest... we have word for that kind of people, they are called sociopaths. And they get put away in institutions. And yet companies can behave like sociopaths, it seen as good thing and encouraged. Legally they have better odds than a person: If something goes wrong, they just close company and start new one. Whereas if you commit a crime you got to jail, you don't get to start a new life. Especially for people that aren't in North America and developed world, those things just sound so bizarre and underhanded and unethical. I don't know how people get away with it. But it seems to be normal part of life [in developed world]. At least... in South Africa there is corruption but people still know it is corruption and call it corruption. We try and fight it, if you talk with average person on the street they will be against corruption. While [in the west] they try to call it something, give it euphemistic name, like lobbying... they don't call it what it is. People might say: in Africa corruption is endemic and it is hard to function without having to bribe somebody. That's true, but at least people know it is bribery and call it what it is, instead of making euphemistic names and stuff like that.

[20:00]

“That's true, but at least people know it is bribery and call it what it is, instead of making euphemistic names and stuff like that.”Darlene: So Microsoft does things like: They won't take any of royalties from their sales as long it doesn't affect OEMs, like the cost OEMs have to pay to put license on a machines. But then they take all of the royalties and revert them in incentive funds for all those countries. I guess after reading those document I thought “How do we change the tide”. But we are doing good. I think about my friend in Montreal, who recently left from canonical. How he worked the deal in Spain to get those large deployments of Ubuntu out there.

[25:30]

[Mark:] Microsoft is more and more becoming basically a patent troll. […]

HTC Desire, every time when you buy android phone, money goes to Microsoft. […]



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