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Open Source Subsumed by Microsoft and Blackboard

Darth Vader Microsoft
Picture by SubSonica



Summary: A not-so-alarmist post pointing to news about attempts to embrace and extend "Open Source" (mostly by Microsoft)

HARDCORE proprietary software companies like Microsoft and its educational pet Blackboard want to defend their proprietary dominance while pretending to be everything and everyone in every simple camp. This also means pretending to be players in "Open Source", in ODF, and in social causes.



Dana Blankenhorn correctly points out what we warned about twice in recent days not because Blackboard is suing competitors using software patents [1, 2, 3] but because it is trying to embrace and extend its Free software rivals, just as Microsoft does.

Anyone seeking a case study of how a proprietary software company can “embrace and extend” itself into the open source world should stop thinking Microsoft and start thinking Blackboard.


Blankenhorn does not make the financial and strategic links between Blackboard and Microsoft visible [1, 2, 3, 4].

Here in a new press release we find out how SharePoint, which is losing some of its luster [1, 2], tries to portray itself as "open" in the form of plugins (that's what the CodePlex joke is all about -- extensions to Microsoft cash cows). The press release describes a product as "a free and open-source component for Microsoft's SharePoint Enterprise Collaboration Platform." The dash in "open-source" is probably deliberate and "free" would almost certainly not refer to the 4 freedoms. Only yesterday we showed an example in OpenX. It signed a deal with Microsoft -- a deal which is exploited using deceiving headlines which do not reflect on the nature of this relationship at all. It only glorifies Microsoft and misrepresents where it's possible.

“It's akin to situations where AstroTurf/lobbying groups manage to receive "fair coverage" and interject their masters' views into the press in order to pollute messages and misrepresent public opinion.”Speaking of spin or deception, we have just found CodePlex described as "Microsoft-backed open source group"; well, it is just a Microsoft drone funded by Microsoft alone in order to serve Microsoft. This report is being spread around various IDG Web sites, permitting Microsoft to do its PR. It's akin to situations where AstroTurf/lobbying groups manage to receive "fair coverage" and interject their masters' views into the press in order to pollute messages and misrepresent public opinion.

Microsoft is trying to emulate and confuse, mixing up terminology and putting out there well-groomed marketing symbols like Sam Ramji [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12] (he claims to have quit).

All of this PR is intended to help Microsoft embrace and extend "Open Source" a lot more rapidly. Here is Microsoft speaking the language of money to buy influence in Apache again. This week's Apache payola is merely continuation of a tactic which we wrote about in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17].

Part of Microsoft's fake affairs with "open source" is to do with Novell. Following the layoffs yesterday (Microsoft had some too), Novell does not receive sympathy from the GNU/Linux community. From the newer comments in Matt Asay's seminal post:

As for their [Novell's] Linux business. Because of their partnership with Microsoft I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole. I'm guessing that anyone else that doesn't want to have anything to do with Microsoft feels the same way. If not, why would they not just stick with Windows? Yes I know a few reasons by that would be the only people I know that would go with Novell. Everyone else that wants to use Linux and not Microsoft is steering clear of Novell.


CIOL wrote some more about Novell's layoffs.

WALTHAM, USA: Novell, Inc., which delivers interoperable Linux platform and a portfolio of integrated IT management software, has recently laid off over 100 people, said a Cnet report.

Citing "several sources within the company", the report said that Novell has offered several months of severance pay, apparently based on the number of years with the company, among other factors.


In ComputerWorld UK, Tom Callway expresses concerns that with the examples given above there is clearly an attempt to dilute, diffuse, and deform "open source", which means that a triumph of "open source" may actually mean victory for another form of non-Free, proprietary software like Novell's [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

The 21st century witnessed the phenomenal growth of a new movement, the free, open source software (FOSS) movement.

All of the developments described above over the last thirty years were the result of a paradigm elaborated by the twin drivers of business applying the 'patents are profits' model or doing things and Governments pursuing their defence and public control objectives.

The FOSS models offered something quite different - development by the community, for the community. However, what seems to be happening is that FOSS is simply becoming a cheaper and easier to develop stuff than previously done by proprietary-patented products.

In other words, bit by bit FOSS is being 'proprietarised' as it gets incorporated into situations and devices which exist solely to keep the current paradigm going. A open source smart phone is as boring as a proprietary one. A Linux embedded Cruise missile is a destructive as one would be with a Microsoft OS (but maybe more reliable).


It's time to remember what the goals of Free software actually are. Too big a compromise means ending up right where you started, only pretending to have won an elusive battle with forever-moving goalposts.

"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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