Bonum Certa Men Certa

Verdict on Microsoft's Linux Patch: Embrace, Extend, and Assimilate

Horse



Summary: Beyond the blatant PR efforts, assessments suggest the patch is a self-serving Trojan horse

MICROSOFT WORKS for Microsoft shareholders. Microsoft depends greatly on its bread and butter, Windows and Office. The purpose of this latest patch has been evident from the very start, but we waited for others to express their opinions and then show that it is not "zealotry" or "prejudice" that lead only us to this conclusion (stated in the title).



“Microsoft depends greatly on its bread and butter, Windows and Office.”Opinions we have gathered so far can be grossly classified as follows: there are those who consider the patch to be a Trojan horse, those who say it is a sign of victory for Linux, those who must be diplomatic due to their role/job and thus cautiously commend Microsoft, and then there are Microsoft employees and their easily-identifiable journalists who play along with the Microsoft press release and tell the world how wonderful and tolerant Microsoft has become (the "new Microsoft", which is still extorting companies like Melco [1, 2, 3, 4]).

We shall deal with those strands of analyses in turn and allow readers to judge and see if our independent assessment is reasonably backed by present and past evidence, of which there is plenty. Yesterday we echoed our response to the press (after an approach by journalists), but we did not go deep into details.

"Embrace and Extend"



That is the opinion held by quite a few sources, one of which is from IDG:

Embrace and extend: That has been Microsoft's competitive mantra for as long as I can remember. So it comes as no real surprise to me that the company would choose to release, via the GPL, device driver code that more closely integrates Linux into the Microsoft virtualization ecosystem. After all, it's not like Linux will be running the show in this relationship. Rather, it's making the FOSS (free open source software) community's fair-haired boy feel more comfortable as it settles into the warm, fatal embrace of Hyper-V that is the Redmond giant's ultimate goal.


Groklaw's headline warns: "Remember, folks, what comes after 'Embrace'"

Microsoft wants Linux to run on Windows, in short. So remember what comes after the 'Embrace' part.

In case you had any doubt about the true motive, please note that the Microsoft announcement offers a link to video of Microsoft's Tom Hanrahan discussing the move with Sam Ramji. But to view it, you have to have or install Microsoft's proprietary Silverlight. There is no Microsoft Silverlight for Linux.


Jason brings Novell into this because, as Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) puts it, "Microsoft's Linux driver offering [has been] planned for years." It's not about Novell, contrary to some reports, but there is this historical relationship, predating a Red Hat-Microsoft virtualisation deal, which we covered in:

  1. Novell the Biggest Loser in New Red Hat-Microsoft Virtual Agreement
  2. Red Hat-Microsoft Agreement Not Malicious, But Was It Smart?
  3. Red Hat-Microsoft: Take III
  4. Summary of the Red Hat-Microsoft Story


Jason writes:

Novell and Microsoft have long stated that virtualization is one of the goals they are working together on. Microsoft wants you to use Windows; but, if you must use Linux, at least run it on top of Windows. So, they are releasing this code to help make that happen.



Customers have told us that they would like to standardize on one virtualization platform, and the Linux device drivers will help customers who are running Linux to consolidate their Linux and Windows servers on a single virtualization platform.

Nothing altruistic here – if one must use Linux (or Open Source in general), Microsoft certainly wants it running on Windows. Of course, you can’t have a truly Free system running on top of Windows; but in general corporations are not interested in Freedom (until they are stormed by the BSA), so they aren’t looking at things that way.

Why they used the GPL

Because they had no option. If they hope to get it close to the kernel, it must be GPL. It’s not like Microsoft chose


Microsoft still hopes to make GNU/Linux just a 'Windows application' with Microsoft 'patent tax'. That vision with Novell goes a long way back, but now its applicability is extended beyond SUSE, provided the other vendors take the bait (bar patent extortion).

Sean Michael Kerner reminds his readers that Microsoft is still a foe of Linux, judging by its very own actions.

Microsoft's relationship with Linux has been a touchy one over the years. In the past, Microsoft has alleged that open source technology infringes on over 200 of its patents.

To date, Microsoft has signed a number of patent licensing agreements with Linux vendors and users including Novell and most recently Buffalo Technology.


Here is Microsoft speaking about the patent question; there is no word on anything other than its own self-serving patch. In other words, Microsoft racketeering against Linux will continue while the company puts code inside it.

Wonderful, no?

The Microsoft Spin Versus Skeptics



How often is it that Microsoft makes such a fuss about writing 20,000 lines of code? Well, this one is a public relations charade, which attempts to control the debate about Microsoft's true intentions.

“How often is it that Microsoft makes such a fuss about writing 20,000 lines of code?”The Microsoft-sponsored TechFlash released a huge load of posts about this development, all of which contain pro-Microsoft spin or appearance of sympathisers. It starts with a fairy tale about Microsoft and the GPL (Microsoft 'chose' the GPLv2 because they have no other choice), then proceeds to promotional videos and an interview with a Novell employee (yes, Microsoft's ally, Novell).

Over at The Register, the Microsoft-sympathetic (with track record) Gavin Clarke published not one but two articles about this. He uses some humour to characterise it as a positive thing we must all welcome with open arms. Mary Jo Foley, who runs an audiocast with Gavin Clarke, did the same, whereas Sam Dean at OStatic was a little more apprehensive if not rightly skeptical. Dean's friend, Matt Asay, was cited by him because he had spun it as great news for Linux.

Microsoft, in short, can't ignore open source, including Linux, without ignoring its own customers.


The Linux Foundation was a little more ambiguous about it, unlike others.

"Obviously we are tickled about it," said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. "Hell has frozen over, the seas have parted," he said with a chuckle.


Here is the sobering reality:

It’s clear that this is a business move. Microsoft will stand to profit from turning Windows into a hosting setting for IT shops that want to run both the Linux and Windows platforms.


Lastly, here are the opinions of two GNU/Linux users and advocates:



Based on what we've seen, Microsoft's move was openly endorsed (not just accepted) by Microsoft employees, a Novell-employed developer, and journalists who are always singing Microsoft's tune (and some of whom are paid by Microsoft). Check whose interpretation you find and question it. Microsoft is a true master of "perception management" [1, 2].

"People everywhere love Windows."

--Bill Gates



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