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Divide and Conquer: How Microsoft Fractures Free and Open Source Software, GNU/Linux

Beware the enemy within

Behind the wallSummary: Latest examples of Microsoft's strategy, wherein it sends out affiliates to pretend to be FOSS people and then promote software patent deals, separation between Open Source and Free software, departure from the GPL, promotion of 'open' core (proprietary) as "Open Source", and demotion of free/libre platforms like GNU/Linux along with free suites/formats like ODF

MICROSOFT has a lot of nerve. But hey, it's Microsoft!



For those who cannot recall, Microsoft was forced by the European Commission to comply with Samba's requests (or face extremely heavy fines), but that's not the story Microsoft wants to tell the world, so later it pretended to have done it all out of goodwill (utter lies stemming from need to spin). We covered this pattern of spin before and debunked it thoroughly; still, this FUD just won't die. Since when is the press just a facility for Microsoft revisionism? Oh, well, keep the up count then. Mea culpa.

A few months ago Microsoft had to comply with the Commission (or face maybe billions in fines), so it very reluctantly implemented browser ballots, which are a farce (Internet Explorer is a part of all options which are selectable) and one that Microsoft could never implement properly. See the following posts:

  1. Browser Ballot Critique
  2. Microsoft's Fake “Choice” Campaign is Back
  3. Microsoft Claimed to be Cheating in Web Browsers Ballot
  4. Microsoft Loses Impact in the Web Despite Unfair Ballot Placements
  5. Given Choice, Customers Reject Microsoft
  6. Microsoft is Still Cheating in Browser Ballot -- Claim
  7. Microsoft's Browser Ballot is Broken Again and Internet Explorer 8 is Critically Flawed
  8. The Microsoft Who Cried “Wolf!”


Now, here comes the key point; Microsoft used exactly the same spin that it used against Samba. Microsoft pretended that those ballots were an act of goodwill rather than obeying a law. Microsoft was also pretending that ballots are punishment enough, even though Internet Explorer remained obligatory.

“It seems like that old tactic which Microsoft calls or refers to as "infiltration"...”It's amazing, isn't it? Microsoft breaks the law, then it is punished for it (the punishment is so minor that it's meaningless), and Microsoft then spins this punishment as a self-imposed limitation that Microsoft has chosen because it loves competition so very much.

Well done, Microsoft. You're a master of spin.

Over in Budapest, Microsoft spent the beginning of the week bashing OpenOffice.org (in public), assuming the claims are correct. What a funny case of timing, eh? It happens to coincide with the OpenOffice.org event in Budapest. It turned out later, as IBM's Rob Weir told me, that Microsoft's Moritz Berger also decided to divide and conquer the OpenOffice.org event itself. It seems like that old tactic which Microsoft calls or refers to as "infiltration" (or "crashing" the event, as per this internal document [PDF]).

"You are totally wrong Both RDF and digital signatures are new to ODF 1.2"
      --Rob Weir to Microsoft infiltrator at OpenOffice.org event
Why does Oracle allow Microsoft to to this? Not surprisingly, some hours ago it turned out that Microsoft's Berger used the OpenOffice.org event to smear OpenOffice.org or ODF. "You are totally wrong Both RDF and digital signatures are new to ODF 1.2," hollered Weir at Berger during the event.

So let's repeat what was happening here: Microsoft staff moving on from an anti-OpenOffice.org event in Budapest to an OpenOffice.org event in Budapest where they spread FUD, as expected. Microsoft always comes to these events under pretenses of "we come in peace" (the title of the talk in this case was about "bridges", a mere euphemism) and anyone standing in their way will be painted an "irrational zealot" and separated from the rest, singled out as "poisonous" (that's where the "divide and conquer" approach applies). We wrote a lot more about these techniques (so do Microsoft's internal documents/presentations to newly-recruited AstroTurfers) when LinuxTag 2010 got the 'Microsoft treatment' [1, 2, 3]. It's truly distasteful and it's damaging.

Another thing we wish to draw attention to is IDG's fuaxpen source blog, which delivers more and more messages from Microsoft staff (here is another one from the Microsoft employee who compares/likens Free software to communism and says that "No one is working for free"). How did Microsoft's team end up writing in this blog? It's simple. Bort from the Microsoft Subnet now explains who brought him in (Walli), augmenting the Microsoft 'open source' think tank which they broadcast to the world via IDG Web sites:

So, I got a hold of Stephen Walli (pictured), who recently joined Network World's Open Source Subnet as a blogger. (He writes the Open Minded blog). Walli is Technical Director of the CodePlex Foundation.


Bort's colleague/co-writer, who works for a Microsoft partner, is currently trying to separate "Linux" from the rest (another common Microsoft tactic commonly seen in this Microsoft auditorium). When someone's colleagues work for a company that spreads proprietary software (there are more of them), it's likely that more will follow, gradually separating the platform from the notion of Freedom -- including the GPL -- which otherwise belonged under the "Open Source" badge/brand. Likewise, they are separating it from GNU/Linux.

Watch out for those who take Microsoft and "Open Source" and combine the two. IDG is marrying them quite a lot these days, occasionally taking input from Microsoft Florian (when it comes to patents). Another person who takes input from Microsoft Florian is ZDNet's Blankenhorn and he got some flak for it from Groklaw, which he once gave an award to.

"Entryism (or entrism or enterism) is a political tactic by which an organisation or state encourages its members or agents to infiltrate another organisation in an attempt to gain recruits, or take over entirely. In situations where the organisation being "entered" is hostile to entryism, the entryists may engage in a degree of subterfuge to hide the fact that they are, in fact, an organisation in their own right." --Wikipedia

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